July 14, 2017


Pope Francis condemns ‘hatred and homicidal madness’

Pope Francis prayed for the victims of recent attacks, and also called for the conversion of terrorists: “May the Lord free us from hatred and homicidal madness. In addition to condemning such acts of violence, I pray for the deceased, the wounded and their family members. We ask the Lord to convert the hearts of the terrorists and to free the world from hatred and homicidal madness that abuses the name of God in order to sow death.”

Here we go again. At least 26 people killed and 20 wounded at a mass shooting in Texas on Nov. 5. As in too many recent incidents, the gunman has committed an act of vicious, senseless violence against innocent people as the world watches—apparently helpless to stop what Pope Francis calls “hatred and homicidal madness.”

In the face of this madness, we are tempted to give up all hope of ending the violence. But Pope Francis urges us to do the opposite. He wants us to redouble our efforts to pray for peace and for the conversion of those who would do us radical harm. Hope, not despair, is the solution to terrorism. Jesus, the source of all our hope, commands us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

The understandable reaction of political leaders and law enforcement is to search for motives. But it makes no difference whether the madmen who commit these unspeakable crimes are religious fanatics who share a terrorist ideology or deeply disturbed individuals acting alone. In all cases, the pope tells us, the ultimate solution is to ask the Lord to convert the hearts of these madmen and free the world from hatred and homicidal madness that abuses the name of God in order to sow death.

It’s bad enough that evil people kill men, women and children randomly and without regard to their innocence. But to do so in God’s name—or in his house—makes the homicidal madness blasphemous, a mortal sin against God as well as humanity. Our response cannot be more bloodshed, which is why Pope Francis vigorously opposes capital punishment. Even the heinous acts of terrorists do not justify an equally violent response. Even evil men and women are subject to God’s mercy and the profound hope that they will one day experience conversion from a belief in the God of vengeance to a personal encounter with the God of Love.

Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? Even deranged madmen who take innocent lives by opening fire in a church or by turning ordinary vehicles into weapons of mass destruction as was the case in New York City recently?

Yes. We must ask the Lord to convert the hearts of all who would harm us, and free the world from violent acts that abuse the name of God.

It is equally important to pray for the victims, their families, the first responders and caregivers. These suffer the immediate effects of the hatred and homicidal madness that terrorism spawns. These women and men cry out to us for our prayerful support in their hours of anguish and need. Not to pray for them would mean succumbing to the “sin of indifference” that Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned. We dare not let the increasing frequency of violent attacks here at home and abroad blind us to the suffering of victims and their families, or to the heroism of those who are called to protect us and care for us even in the most horrific circumstances.

The parable of The Good Samaritan is a vivid reminder that we are all called to respond to the suffering of those who have been brutally attacked by others. Recall that the parable is Jesus’ response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” And the fact that it is the foreigner, rather than the “socially acceptable” people, who responds with compassion makes the point quite emphatically: Everyone is my neighbor regardless of his or her race, religion, economic or social standing. And yes, even my enemy is my neighbor and, therefore, deserving of my prayers and compassion.

These are hard teachings. They challenge the common experience of weak human beings like us. In some instances, hate is more “natural” (in the sense of instinctual) than love. And revenge comes much more easily than forgiveness.

Since God’s holy name is abused in many of these senseless acts of destruction, let’s look to him for direction.

On the Cross, our Lord prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies. He showed his unconditional love for the sinful women and men (all of us) who caused him such mental, physical and spiritual anguish.

God, you know how hard this is for us. Please grant us some small share in your boundless love and mercy.

—Daniel Conway

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