VATICAN CITY — Four leading French imams and the Vatican have issued a joint statement denouncing the Paris newspaper massacre, warning that the world is a dangerous place without freedom of expression but urging the media to be respectful of religion.
The Muslim spiritual leaders were visiting the Vatican this week along with French Catholic bishops. The Vatican’s office for interreligious dialogue on Thursday said the four joined Pope Francis in condemning the cruelty of the attack and urging all believers to show solidarity with its the victims. They stressed that dialogue among different faiths is the only way to eliminate prejudice.
In addition to the pope, the signatories were Djelloul Seddiki, head of the great mosque of Paris; Tareq Oubrou, director of the Bordeaux mosque; Azzedine Gaci of the Villeurbanne mosque; and Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the Union of Mosques in France.
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Pope Francis has celebrated a Mass in memory of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, decrying the “human cruelty” that people are capable of.
Francis asked for prayers for the victims at the start of Mass and said “we also ask for those who are cruel so that the Lord may change their heart.”
Francis also sent a one-line tweet from his @Pontifex handle: #PrayersforParis.
The Vatican has sought to mend relations with Islam that were initially strained under Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has a long history of promoting interfaith dialogue.
During Thursday’s Mass, Francis said: “The attack yesterday in Paris makes us think about so much cruelty — human cruelty. … Let us pray, in this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty.”