ROME — Pope Francis has condemned the “blind violence” which “causes so much suffering,” after five coordinated, rush-hour bombings rocked Brussels early Tuesday morning, leaving as many as 31 dead and scores injured.
A telegram sent this morning on behalf of the Holy Father to the Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, His Excellency Jozef De Kesel, reads:
“Learning of the attacks in Brussels, which have affected many people, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to God’s mercy those who died, and he prays for those who have lost relatives. He expresses his deepest sympathy to the injured and their families and all those who contribute to relief efforts, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in this ordeal. The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence that causes so much suffering and imploring from God the gift of peace, he entrusts on the bereaved families and the Belgians the benefit of divine blessings.”
The five explosions hit Brussels this morning at 8 a.m. at two separate locations. Two explosions occurred at the Zaventem International Airport, while three hit the metro stops of the Molenbeek and the Shuman subway station, home of the European Union headquarters.
Brussels is considered the “hub of Europe” in terms of trade, with the European Commission; politics in terms of the European Parliament; and military and NATO. All of these institutions are headquartered in Brussels, making it a prime terror target.
According to reports, at least one of the explosions at the airport was caused by a suicide bomber. Belgian authorities have put the city on lockdown and have officially labeled the bombings terror attacks. Paris and London have also put their cities on maximum alert.
The attacks come just four days after the arrest of Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam, and one day after a new Paris terrorist attack suspect was identified. Abdeslam crossed over into Europe, hidden among refugees forced to flee their homeland.
But experts say the idea of a revenge attack is unlikely. Dr. Sebastian Gorka said this morning it is more likely an attack was scheduled months in the future, and the arrest “brought the clock forward.”
Europol has said that 5,000 terrorists who have gone from the European countries to the ISIS training camps and now back in Europe, many of them in Brussels.
Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, and president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), also expressed his sympathy in the wake of the attacks, saying:
“Having heard this morning the news about the attacks carried out at Brussels Airport and on the Belgian city’s underground, in the face of this callous act, I assure the victims of my prayers and express my closeness to their families. At this time of anguish, I call on people not to allow themselves to be overcome by fear and to pray for peace in Europe, in the Middle East and throughout the world.”
The Bishops of Belgium have also issued a statement, saying they “are appalled to learn of the attack at Zaventem Airport and in the center of Brussels.”
The Belgian bishops continued, saying:
“They share the anguish of thousands of travelers and their families, aviation professionals and the first responders who are once again called to service. They entrust the victims to the prayers of all in this new dramatic situation. Airport chaplains are every day at the service of all and provide the necessary spiritual support. May the whole country live these days with a great sense of civic responsibility.”
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.