Pope Francis gives his blessing in St. Peter's Square during the recitation of the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, Feb. 18, 2024. CNS photo/Vatican Media

After Burkina Faso attacks, pope calls for respect of places of worship

By  Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
  • February 27, 2024

After deadly attacks killed 15 people at a Catholic church and dozens more at a mosque in Burkina Faso, Pope Francis said places of worship must be respected.

"Recalling that hatred is not the solution to conflicts, the pope invites (people) to respect sacred places and to fight against violence with the aim of promoting the values of peace," said a telegram sent Feb. 26 to the president of the bishops' conference of Burkina Faso, Bishop Laurent Dabiré of Dori.

The telegram, written on the pope's behalf, was signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Speaking to Fides, a Vatican news agency, Bishop Dabiré reported that jihadists broke into the chapel in the small village of Essakane during a prayer service the morning of Feb. 25 and began shooting at men present but spared the women.

Twelve people were killed during the attack; three died later from their wounds and two others were injured, he said.

Since 2018 most Catholics have been forced to flee the area due to the violence of jihadist groups, the bishop said. "Only a few people remain who, in the absence of a permanent priest, gather on Sundays for a communal prayer led by a catechist," he said. Islamist military groups are estimated to control more than one-third of the country's territory

Pope Francis was "deeply saddened" to learn of the attack and "joins the families in mourning, expressing his closeness and sorrow," the telegram said. "His Holiness also expresses his sorrow to the Muslim community for the attack on a mosque in Natiaboani."

AFP reported that several dozen Muslims were killed in a Feb. 25 attack on a mosque in Natiaboani, where Islamist militants opened fire on people gathering for morning prayer.

The pope "prays for the repose of the deceased, entrusting them to God's mercy and for the healing of the wounded," the Vatican telegram said. "He asks the Lord to bring strength and consolation to all those affected by these tragedies."

Pope Francis invoked abundant blessings "on the sons and daughters of Burkina Faso, and on the nation as a whole," the telegram said.

Human Rights Watch reported a surge of religiously motivated attacks against Christians in the country in 2019. Father Joël Yougbaré, a Catholic priest, has been missing in Burkina Faso since March of that year.

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