Friday, at the end of the spiritual exercises and just before returning to Rome from Ariccia, Pope Francis thanked retreat master, Italian Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, saying, “I was struck by your work to make us enter, as the Word did, into humanity; and understand that God always makes himself present in the human. He did it the first time in the Incarnation of the Word, but He is also present in the traces He leaves in the human. Equal to the incarnation of the Word – undivided and inconfused – He is there. And our job is maybe to go on …

Francis continued, “Thank you so much for this job. I thank you for having spoken to us of memory: this ‘deuteronomic’ dimension that we forget; of having spoken to us of hope, of work, of patience, as if pointing out the way to have that ‘memory of the future’ that always brings us forward. Thank you! And it made me laugh when you said that someone, reading the titles of the meditations, maybe didn’t understand what the Curia did: maybe they rented a tourist guide that would lead them to know Florence and its poets … !

The Holy Father admitted, “in the first meditation I was a bit disoriented, then I understood the message. Thank you. I thought a lot about a conciliar document – Gaudium et spes – perhaps it is the document that has found more resistance, even today. And at some point I saw you in this way: with the courage of the Council Fathers when they signed that document. I thank you so much. Pray for us that we are all sinners, all of us, but we want to go on like this, serving the Lord. Thank you very much and greet the monks from me and from us. Thank you!”


Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent the following telegram in Pope Francis’ name for the victims of the attack in New Zealand on Friday, March 15.

The recipient of the telegram was not named but telegrams are normally sent to the bishop/archbishop of the local diocese and, when necessary or opportune, are addressed to leaders of other faith or religious communities.

“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. Pietro Parolin Secretary of State”

Following the attack, the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand addressed a message to members of the Muslim community in New Zealand:

“We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims in 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 concludes, “Peace, Salaam,” and is signed by all five Catholic Bishops of New Zealand.


At least 40 people have died in separate attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the wake of the attacks, the nation’s Catholic Bishops have expressed their solidarity with the Muslim community.
By Vatican News

Reporting from New Zealand, Nicky Webber says, “Our entire country is absolutely devastated by the 49 confirmed deaths in New Zealand’s first terrorist attack”. She described “the massacre of innocent people, at prayer, in their place of worship” as “shocking and heartbreaking”.

The attacks began in the early afternoon on Friday, when at least one person entered the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch and began firing on worshippers. Early reports suggested that there may have been multiple attackers. The attack on the second mosque began a short time later. “Many Muslims attending the lunchtime service at the two Mosques in Christchurch were immigrants and refugees, from war torn countries, seeking peace, safety and solace, for their families,” Webber said. “They are Kiwis too, part of our community and we mourn with them too”.

Police also found IEDs (improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs), attached to cars near the site of the attacks. UPDATE: Authorities later clarified that two bombs had been found in a single car.

“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement following the attacks. Although she was unable to confirm the number of casualties, local media reported that at least 40 people were killed, and at least 50 people wounded. “Clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”, the Prime Minister said.

Authorities said that four people – three men and one woman – were in custody in connection with the shooting. One person, a 28-year-old man, has already been charged with murder; while police are continuing to investigate whether the other people arrested were in fact involved. The Australian man, whose name has not been released, had posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media prior to the shootings, and afterwards apparently posted video footage of the attack. Police have urged people not to share the violent and disturbing footage, and Facebook and other social media companies have been working to remove the videos, as well as any comments in support of the attacks.

“New Zealand is an ethnically diverse country”, Webber said, “which has always practised tolerance for all races, cultures and religions. We are a welcoming, peaceful and compassionate nation who today have been shocked to our very core that such hatred has come to our shores”. She said, “Every Kiwi is offering their compassion, support and love to those suffering from this horrific crime”.