Pope Francis celebrated mass for the victims of the attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Thursday, praying for all those affected by an Islamist assault which left 12 people dead.
“The terror attack in Paris brings to mind so much cruelty, human cruelty, so much terrorism, both isolated terrorism and of state terrorism,” the 78-year-old pontiff said according to Vatican radio.
“We pray for the victims of this cruelty, so many of them. And we pray also for the perpetrators of such cruelty, that the Lord might change their hearts,” he said.
A telegram in the pope’s name was sent by the Vatican to the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, in which Francis said he was “united in prayer (with)… the sadness of all French people.”
Following the early morning prayers in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, where the pope lives, Francis posted the #PrayersForParis hashtag on Twitter.
The pontiff had earlier issued a strong condemnation of the “horrible attack” against the weekly, with a plea “to oppose, by all means, hatred and all forms of physical or moral violence that destroy human life or violate a person’s dignity.”
Four French imams visiting the Vatican on Thursday met with the state’s “minister” for interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, to sign a joint declaration.
“Without liberty of expression, the world is in danger,” it said.
“It is imperative to oppose hate and every form of violence which destroys human life, violates people’s dignity, (and) radically threatens the fundamental good of peaceful coexistence beyond the differences of nationality, religion and culture,” it added.
Imams Tareq Oubrou, Azzedine Gaci, Mohammed Moussaoui and Djelloul Seddiki signed the declaration.
Shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest”) two heavily-armed men stormed the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly on Wednesday, killing some of the country’s most loved cartoonists in cold blood in the worst attack on French soil in decades.
The weekly received numerous threats for publishing cartoons of the Muslim prophet but was also a constant critic of the Roman Catholic Church and its leaders.