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Pope Francis praises Japan for its commitment to peace in wake of Shinzo Abe assassination

Pope Francis praises Japan for its commitment to peace in wake of Shinzo Abe assassination
Security police tackle a suspect believed to have shot former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outside Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, Japan, on Friday. The suspect identified as Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested and taken into custody. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/EPA-EFE

July 9 (UPI) -- Pope Francis on Saturday praised Japan for its commitment to peace in the wake of the assassination of Shinzo Abe as details for the funeral of Japan's longest-serving prime minister were revealed.

Abe, who retired from the office in 2020 after suffering from health problems, was shot dead Friday at a train station in the city of Nara while making a campaign speech for a parliamentary candidate.

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"His holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the assassination of Mr. Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan, and he offers heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and the people of Japan," a telegram from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin reads.

"In the wake of this senseless act, he prays that Japanese society will be strengthened in its historic commitment to peace and nonviolence."

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Francis last met with Abe in 2019 when the pontiff traveled to Japan, visiting the sites where the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Abe's body returned home to Tokyo on Saturday, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported. His office told CNN that his wake will be held Monday and his memorial service will be held Tuesday at a temple in Tokyo.

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Meanwhile, Abe's security team has faced criticism for being "inadequate" after video footage showed the shooter walking directly up to the former Japanese leader before shooting him with a makeshift weapon.

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Nara Prefectural Police Chief Tomoaki Onizuka told a news conference Saturday that Abe's security team followed a plan he had approved and that he took "responsibility" for the security failure.

"It was the height of the guilt and regret I've felt in my 27 years in law enforcement," Onizuka said.

Shootings in Japan are extremely rare, as the country has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. According to the Japanese government, possession of firearms and swords are prohibited.

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