Pope Francis expresses sorrow as Sydney knife attack shocks Australia

ChrismMass3 Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican's Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. | Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis has reacted with deep sorrow at news on Saturday from Australia, where a 40-year-old man armed with a large knife killed six people in a Sydney shopping center and injured several others, including a 9-month-old child. 

“Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the violent attack in Sydney, and he sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by this senseless tragedy, especially those who are now mourning the loss of a loved one,” read a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, on behalf of the pope. 

The Holy Father offered prayers for the deceased, the wounded, and the first responders, invoking divine blessings of consolation and strength for the nation.

Daniel Ang, director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelization at the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, reached out via X (formerly Twitter) to express solidarity and announce spiritual support: “We join in prayer for the victims and families affected by the horrific events at Bondi Junction today. The three Sunday Masses at the Catholic Parish of Bondi tomorrow will be offered for the repose of the souls that have passed away and all those others affected by these events.”

The bloody attack occurred in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center on April 13, the first day of the school holidays — a time when many families were out, adding to the shock and impact of the event. 

Five victims died at the scene, while another person succumbed to their injuries in the hospital. Eight others remain hospitalized, some in critical condition, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The attacker, who was known to the police but remains unidentified, was shot and killed by a policewoman at the scene. According to police, the man allegedly lunged at the officer before he was fatally shot.

Authorities have cautioned against speculation about the attacker’s motives, emphasizing that early indications suggest the incident was not terrorism-related. Police Commissioner Karen Webb said while the motive was unclear, evidence indicated the attack was not related to terrorism: “There’s no suggestion anyone was targeted but that could change.”

The incident has shocked the nation. The acting premier of New South Wales, Penny Sharpe, told journalists the attack was “beyond distressing” and vowed as much information as possible would be shared with the public.

Investigations are ongoing, with the Australian Federal Police collaborating with local authorities to unravel the full circumstances of the attack.

Australia was previously rocked by a terror attack in Sydney almost 10 years ago. The 2014 Lindt Café siege saw a lone jihadist gunman hold 18 hostages, leading to three deaths, including the gunman.

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