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New Zealand’s bishops issue message of solidarity after mosque attacks

Security officials guards one the mosque Masjif Al-Noor after a gunman filmed himself firing at worshippers inside (Getty)

At least 49 people have died while attending Friday prayers at mosques in Christchurch

New Zealand’s bishops have issued a message of solidarity with the country’s Muslims after mosque attacks in Christchurch that left at least 49 people dead.

In the message, they wrote: “We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch. We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.

“We are deeply saddened that people have been killed and injured, and our hearts go out to them, their families and wider community. We wish you to be aware of our solidarity with you in the face of such violence.”

The message was signed by Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland, the bishops’ conference president, Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North, Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, Bishop Paul Martin of Christchurch, Bishop Steve Lowe of Hamilton and Bishop Michael Dooley of Dunedin.

Pope Francis expressed his condolences in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence at two Mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks.

“Mindful of the efforts of the security and emergency personnel in this difficult situation, His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy. Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength upon the nation.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, offered prayers for the victims of the attack.

He said: “The news of the massacre in the New Zealand mosques is deeply shocking and has caused us all great pain. We pray for the many victims, for the wounded and for the whole community, which has been severely affected by this act of terrorism. May God free us from these tragedies and sustain the efforts of all those who work for peace, harmony and coexistence.”