The Vatican voiced its “firmest possible condemnation” of the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans including the ambassador to the country.
“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence,” read the statement issued by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. Sept. 13.
“Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express the hope that, despite this latest tragedy, the international community may discover the most favorable ways to continue its commitment in favor of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East.”
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed Tuesday Sept. 11 in a fire started after the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was stormed by violent mobs.
The 52-year-old, who was a native of California, had been a career diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service since 1991. United States officials are now investigating whether the attack was planned by militant jihadist groups.
The violence was sparked by the posting on YouTube of extracts of a low-budget U.S. film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, the 6-7th century founder of Islam.
Similar scenes of unrest have now been witnessed across North Africa and the Middle East, most notably in Yemen and Egypt. In the Yemeni capital of Sanaa Sept.13 demonstrators stormed the grounds of the US embassy and burned the American flag before being driven back by security forces. Reports of protests are also emerging from Tunisia, Sudan and Morocco.
Fr. Lombardi’s comments come on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Visit to the Middle East. The Pontiff is making a 3-day trip to Lebanon Sept.14 – 16 to sign his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the region.
Yesterday at the conclusion of his weekly General Audience, the Pope called upon the Christians in the Middle East to help create peace in their often troubled countries.
“I exhort all Christians of the Middle East, both those born there and the newly arrived, to be builders of peace and architects of reconciliation,” said the Pope at the Vatican Sept. 12.
“Let us pray to God that he may fortify the faith of Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East, and fill them with hope.”