Pope Francis, Patriarch Kirill pray for victims of Moscow attack

Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass of Palm Sunday in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City on March 24, 2024. Photo by Riccardo Antimiani/EPA-EFE
Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass of Palm Sunday in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City on March 24, 2024. Photo by Riccardo Antimiani/EPA-EFE

March 24 (UPI) -- Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, have blasted the "cowardly terrorist attack" in Moscow that has killed at least 133 people and prayed for the victims, finding common ground between the two faiths.

Francis, speaking to a crowd gathered in Saint Peter's Square for Palm Sunday, said he prayed that families of those who lost loved ones may be consoled as he blasted the "inhuman actions" of the terror attack.


His comments come amid some tension between the pontiff and Kirill, the head of the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The Eastern Orthodox churches are led spiritually by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who also expressed "disgust" at the attack.

But Francis and Kirill made history in 2016 when they became the first leaders of their respective churches to meet since the Great Schism in 1054 A.D. cleaved the Eastern Orthodox Churches from Roman Catholicism.

Since 2016, Francis and Kirill have found a lot of common ground on most global issues -- apart from the war in Ukraine. Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has supported the war, as Francis vehemently opposes it. But the pair again found some common ground in condemning the Moscow attack.


"A terrible criminal atrocity took place on Moscow soil," Kirill said in a statement. "Innocent people were insanely and brutally killed."

The Russian primate said he intends to prepare an official document of the church's stance "related to this criminal event" after first leading followers in prayer. He later led funeral service for those killed in the attack.

"There is nothing more terrible than the death of an innocent person. And when a large number of innocent people are killed, this crime remains in the people's memory for a long time," Kirill said.

"But we, as Christians, must respond to such terrible events in accordance with our calling, and our first calling is to pray."

Despite his calls for prayer for Russia and common ground with Kirill, Francis expressed support for the "tormented" country just weeks after he faced some criticism for seemingly suggesting Ukraine should surrender to end the war.

Putin suggested that the gunmen behind the attack at the Crocus City Hall music venue tried to escape to Ukraine but ISIS-K has taken credit and Ukraine has denied involvement, backed by U.S. officials. Francis' comments appeared cognizant of that.

"I think of tormented Ukraine, where so many people find themselves without electricity because of the intense attacks against infrastructure, which, besides causing death and suffering, bring the risk of an even greater humanitarian catastrophe," Francis said.


"Please, let us not forget tormented Ukraine! And let us think of Gaza, which is suffering a great deal, and so many other places of war."

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