In a Jan. 26 press conference, García also revealed that Bishop Rafael Zornoza of the Cádiz Diocese was making a pastoral visit in Algeciras “and was not in that church but was a few meters away.”
Although the Zornoza was not in direct danger, this circumstance “allowed him to immediately be present at the scene and receive firsthand information.”
The secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference acknowledged that “in this case there was a religious motivation of hatred of the faith” but stressed that “we cannot and should not demonize groups in general.”
The prelate expressed in any case the “most absolute and total condemnation” of the attacks “with a special gravity, which is when this violence is wrongly tried to be justified in the name of God. That is taking the name of God in vain, whatever the name of that one true God may be called.”
García also recalled that “as St. John Paul II said, revalidated by Benedict XVI and confirmed by Pope Francis, the name of God can never, ever, ever be used for any act of violence.”
The Spanish Bishops’ Conference expressed in a statement their “closeness and heartfelt sentiments and the consolation of faith to the families of the victims, to the Diocese of Cádiz, and to the people of Gibraltar County.”
“We also express our strongest condemnation of all forms of violence, which can have no place in the society in which we live,” the prelates stressed.
“As believers, we ask the God of mercy and peace to fill the hearts of the victims with hope and heal the wounded, accompany the Church and society in the search for peace, and to convert the hearts of violent people,” the bishops concluded.
Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference and archbishop of Barcelona, said he was “shocked by the armed attack that took place in two parishes in Algeciras, which caused the death of the sacristan of one of them and seriously injured the pastor of another as well as at least two other people.”
“I pray for the victims of this atrocity and for their relatives,” the cardinal assured.
The Diocese of Cádiz-Ceuta released a statement from Bishop Rafael Zornoza calling on the faithful to “be bearers of peace and mercy.”
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The prelate said that the diocese is “still in shock and pained by the murder of the sacristan and this good Salesian priest who was wounded.”
At the same time, he emphasized that “we want, however, to be bearers of peace and mercy in the midst of this world where we live, which has so many tensions and so many manifestations of inhuman violence.”
The bishop said that although the attacks hit them “very hard,” at the same time “they are uniting people more in prayer and faith.”
He has also stressed his firm condemnation, although he was cautious about assuming what happened: “Of course we strongly condemn these incidents, although we are really awaiting clarification from the law enforcement authorities.”
Zornoza said he was grateful for “all the expressions of condolences, solidarity, and love” that they are receiving “from near and far, from the entire Church.”
“The truth is that we feel the strength of the prayer of the entire Church and its closeness, its encouragement and its testimony strengthen us a lot,” he said.