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Leaders express grief and solidarity after Quebec mosque attack

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Faith and political leaders have expressed condolences and solidarity in prayer with Canadian Muslims after a shooting at a Quebec mosque Jan. 29 that killed six and injured many more.

“It was with horror and shock that we were all made aware of the violent and senseless attack carried out at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec yesterday evening,” said the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton in a Jan. 30 statement.

“Such murderous violence is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

“It is a violation of the sanctity of human life; an assault on the right and freedom of the members of all religions to gather and pray in the name of their deepest beliefs; a wound to the peace, order and tranquility of our nation and its communities; and the desecration of a house of prayer and worship,” he said.

“Together with Pope Francis, His Eminence Gérald Cyprien Cardinal Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec and Primate of Canada, I extend condolences and prayers from my brother bishops as well as from Catholics across Canada to the victims, their families and friends,” he said.

“Muslims are our brothers and sisters, condolences and prayers,” tweeted Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, who was in Rome when he heard the news of the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec in the suburb of Sainte-Foy.

On Jan. 30 Pope Francis personally expressed his condolences and assurances of prayers to Cardinal Lacroix, who then immediately departed for Quebec.

In a telegram to the cardinal, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis formally expressed his condolences for the victims.

“Having learned of the attack which occurred in Quebec in a prayer room of the Islamic Cultural Centre, which claimed many victims, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to the mercy of God the persons who lost their lives and he associates himself through prayer with the pain of their relatives,” said the telegram, translated into English by Vatican Radio. “He expresses his profound sympathy for the wounded and their families, and to all who contributed to their aid, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in the ordeal.”

“The Holy Father again strongly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering; and, imploring God for the gift of mutual respect and peace, he invokes upon the sorely tried families, and upon all persons touched by this tragedy, as well as upon all Quebecers, the benefits of the divine Blessing,” the telegram said.

On Jan. 30 the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue released a statement saying “this senseless gesture violated the sacredness of human life and the respect due a place of worship.”

“The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue strongly condemns this act of unprecedented violence and wishes to send its full solidarity to the Muslims of Canada, assuring them of its fervent prayer for the victims and their families,” said the communiqué from the Council’s chair Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

“Nothing can justify acts of murder against innocent people,” said Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine in a message of condolence to Lacroix. “We are called to reaffirm continuously, whatever our beliefs, that as human beings we are all brothers and sisters, and we are all equal in dignity.”

“Taking a moment of silence, we ask God to keep us ever respectful with hearts set firmly on peace,” he said.

Gatineau Bishop Paul-André Durocher tweeted regarding the attack in Quebec City: “Deep sadness in my heart, solidarity with the Muslim community, prayer for humanity.”

The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) issued a statement expressing its “deep sorrow and indignation at the recent tragic terrorist attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.”

“Members of the CRC remain in solidarity through prayer with the Muslim community in Quebec City,” the statement said.

“We extend our condolences to the families bereaved by this terrorist act, which we strongly condemn,” said Sister Michelle Payette, MIC, President of the CRC. “We are all created by the same God, sisters and brothers here on earth. In these moments of pain, we must redouble our efforts in favour of inter-religious dialogue in which several religious communities are involved throughout Quebec and Canada,” she said.

The Anglican bishops of Quebec City and Montreal were in Canterbury, England, when the attack occurred.

In a joint statement on the shooting, Coadjutor Bishop Bruce Myers of Quebec and Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson of Montreal said: “Along with our grief and prayers we are called as disciples of Jesus to express our solidarity with our neighbours who are Muslim.”

“We wish to express directly to our Muslim neighbours in Quebec our grief and repugnance at this brutal act of violence against another community of faith, and one in the midst of prayer. When one is attacked, we are all attacked, and our whole society is diminished,” they insisted.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian social justice think-tank in Ottawa, also condemned the attack.

“Our members are dedicated to the work of building an inclusive, generous and fair society,” said CPJ executive director Joe Gunn. “Last night’s shooting, targeting people of faith during their worship and prayer, is a deplorable attack on all Canadians and our most deeply held values.” 

“Muslim Canadians are a critical part of the fabric of Canadian life and the global community,” said Gunn. “Policies rooted in fear and isolation, like Donald Trump’s ban on immigration of persons from seven nations, will only lead to greater division and violence.”

On Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other party leaders offered their condolences and solidarity with the victims and their families and with Canadian Muslims in general.

Trudeau described the shooting as a “terrorist attack” on “a group of people practising their faith.”

He offered assurances to the “more than one million Canadians who practice the Muslim faith” of their welcome in Canada. “This was an act of terror committed against Canada and against all Canadians,” he said.

Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose told the House the terrorist attack struck at the heart of religious freedom, a fundamental Canadian value. 

“This is a sad reminder our country is not immune to terrorism,” Ambrose said. “We stand united with the victims and their loved ones.”

“We stand united against hate and Islamophobia,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

“Today people do not feel safe in their own community,” he said. “This is not the Canada we believe in.”

Canada will not tolerate hate or violence, he said.

Over the years, the mosque had been targeted by hate crimes. A few months ago, a pig’s head was left at the front door, sparking indignation throughout the city.

Quebec City is the capital of the province and its second-biggest city, with more than 500,000 people. It has 6,100 Muslims.

With files from Philippe Vaillancourt

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