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This is a view of the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand, taken in 2014. The mosque was one of two attacked March 15, 2019; at least 49 people were killed. (CNS photo/Martin Hunter, Reuters) 

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNS) — New Zealand's Catholic bishops have expressed their horror and distress at a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch which saw at least 49 people killed.

The shootings took place at or near the Al Noor Mosque, where 41 people were killed, and at the Linwood Mosque, where 7 were killed. One more person subsequently died at Christchurch Hospital. Muslims had gathered at the mosques for Friday prayers. Some of those killed were children, it has been reported.

The terror attack started at around 1:40 p.m. local time, sparking a massive mobilization by police. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced at 9 p.m. that a man in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in the Christchurch District Court the next day.

Some three-and-a-half hours after the attacks began, the New Zealand bishops released a message, addressed to the nation's Muslim community, via social media.

The shootings took place at or near the Al Noor Mosque, where 41 people were killed, and at the Linwood Mosque, where 7 were killed.

"We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch," the bishops wrote.

"We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.

"We are deeply saddened that people have been killed and injured, and our hearts go out to them, their families and wider community. We wish you to be aware of our solidarity with you in the face of such violence."

The bishops signed off their message "Peace, Salaam."

A message sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, on behalf of Pope Francis said the pope was "deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence" at the mosques.

“We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch,” the bishops wrote.

"He assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks." He also offered prayers and blessings to those injured, those grieving, those who died and emergency personnel.

Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin released his own message on social media.

"We are horrified at the violence that has been inflicted on people of our city this afternoon," Bishop Martin wrote.

"Words cannot convey our distress. Our prayers are with those who are suffering. I invite you now, wherever you are, alone or with family, workmates or friends, to pray together in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: Lord make me an instrument of your peace...."

Bishop Martin planned to celebrate a Mass of prayer for peace, "remembering those who have died in the mosques tragedy and praying for those who are suffering," at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral March 16.

Pope Francis “assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks.”

This is the second major tragedy involving significant loss of life in Christchurch in the last decade. On Feb. 22, 2011, an earthquake struck the city, killing 185 people. The Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament suffered severe damage, as did the nearby Anglican Cathedral.

Anglican Bishop Peter Carrell of Christchurch issued a statement on behalf of all church leaders in the city in early evening.

"Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon, and our hearts and prayers go to all involved. No religious organization or group deserves to be the target of someone's hate -- regardless of beliefs. We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand, which will never condone such violence. So, across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event. We are upholding you all in our prayers. We pray, too, for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch."

“Across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Five Catholic high schools and about a dozen elementary schools in Christchurch city were among many schools that went into lockdown in mid-afternoon as news of the terror attacks spread. Children and staff were unable to leave the schools until 5:30 p.m., when enough police personnel had been deployed to ensure a safe passage home.

When the lifting of the lockdown, one Catholic high school, the all-girls Villa Maria College, stated on Facebook announced that rolls would be taken in the school gym and that students would be "debriefed with pastoral care on hand." After this, students were released.

The March 15 attack is the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand's history. The gunman reportedly live-streamed video of the attack using a helmet-camera. New Zealand police asked people not to share this on social media. The shooter also posted a 73-page manifesto.

Facebook and Twitter reportedly removed the gunman's pages.

The March 15 attack is the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand's history.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack." She said the thoughts and prayers of the nation were with "those who have been impacted today."

"Christchurch was their home," Ms. Ardern said. "For many, this may not have been the place they were born, in fact for many, New Zealand was their choice. The place they actively came to and committed to. The place they were raising their families. Where they were parts of communities that they loved and who loved them in return. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion."

The prime minister added: "For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here. We, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are a safe harbor for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of those things."

Mosques across the country closed on Friday at the urgings of police. Vigils sprang up throughout New Zealand as people gathered to mourn and grieve.

A meme on Facebook shared by many showed a sobbing kiwi.

More: Terrorism / Guns / Islam
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JR Cosgrove
5 years 1 month ago

I lived in Christchurch for a year. The Kiwis are really nice and extremely warm people. Christchurch was described as the most British city in the world at the time and there is even a little river winding through the town called the Thames. My guess is that the warm people is still true but a few crazies can do anything anywhere in today's world. Hopefully, this will lead to more safeguards against this happening again.

Tim Donovan
5 years 1 month ago

I can only think of three " safeguards" to hopefully help prevent such killings. First, more stringent gun control laws. Even though such laws aren't foolproof in terms of preventing deliberate shootings, I believe laws can help reduce the number of deaths from guns. Also, increased funding for more police officers seems useful to me. Finally, although most people who are mentally ill don't become violent, I support expanded mental health services to help reduce deaths from guns.

rose-ellen caminer
5 years 1 month ago

Tucker Carlson, who is on main stream cable media must be very pleased today.It was recently made public that some years ago he said he wanted to kill as many Muslims as he could .He has refused to take back his statements, has doubled down ; saying that he is willing to discuss anything he has said; advocating genocide, dehumanizing people based on their ethnicity[Iraqis he and his radio host specifically labeled animals] is a perfectly acceptable position to take ,he apparently believes .If you don't think so you are a snow flake!And the media station he still has his show on, apparently agrees. He has guests going on his show saying it is "an honor to be talking to him"; wink wink.

Glenn Beck and Savage's latest podcasts and radio shows were pure anti Muslim hateful propaganda; :"even when they are nice people they are just fooling you" was actually said[ paraphrasing, by Savage's Christian "expert on Islam" and Muslims.!The most pernicious anti- Semitism of the 21st century in the US, is directed at Semitic Islam and its adherent. It is all over the internet, on blogs even reputable blogs. Trump ran and got elected saying he wanted to ban all Muslims; and won at the Supreme Court[ only Muslims from countries where there are no refugees escaping wars and persecutions are allowed here.Those who are war refugees can all languish is camps in deplorable living conditions for them and their kids.Their suffering does not matter to us]. Muslim elected representatives are being labeled terrorists ,and every anti Muslim Trope is being leveled at them.Omar was depicted as a terrorist behind 9-11 in a state capital building and the federal government , the media did not protest this. Much of radio talk shows are barely covering this terrorist attack. When they do it is perfunctory and it is labeled anti immigrant; and the anti Semitic aspect; directed at Semitic Islam and Muslim people is being down played as secondary.

Trump so far has said that said we stand with the people of NZ; That is what you say after an earth quake. He said nothing about the Muslim community who were the targets of the Islamophobic hateful attack.

As the comment above expresses; anti- Semitic hate directed at Muslims is not recognized for the pernicious reality it is, but will be supported by silence or disguising it; deflecting as the work of "some crazies"!That the attacker has a political manifesto expressing anti Muslim bigotry,as well as racism and that you would call it the work of "some crazies" shows dishonesty , and complicity with 21st century anti Semitism directed at Muslims! Both are sins and both are unchristian.Like I said this 21st century anti- Semitism pervades the landscape even on respectable main stream Christian blogs!

Vincent Gaglione
5 years 1 month ago

You write: "this 21st century anti- Semitism pervades the landscape even on respectable main stream Christian blogs!" May I suggest that the blogs are neither Christian nor Catholic, but the perverse inventions of people whose minds are living in the Middle Ages, often as the product of parental and religious instruction and training that bears no relation to the Christ. The Man who spoke to the Samaritan woman with much obvious respect and affection defied the conventions against speaking to a woman, a foreigner and a person of a different faith. I don't think He would trade in the hatred spewed on so many alleged Catholic and/or Christian blogs. While we may want to convince each other of the validity of our beliefs, it is not accomplished by inculcating hatred of others.

Sha'Pearl Jones
5 years 1 month ago

120 Christians mercilessly and savagely slaughtered by filthy Muslim terrorists in Nigeria over the last three weeks and silence from the MSM, which I expected. What I didn't expect was silence from this publication. Christian lives matter!

JR Cosgrove
5 years 1 month ago

The New York Times not only did not place this story on the front page, they did not feature it at all. Apparently, the massacre of African Christians is not newsworthy. Neither did the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the LA Times, and every other major paper in the United States nor the news shows from the three major television channels nor CNN nor MSNBC. Any guesses why?

Lisa M
5 years 1 month ago

J Cosgrove- Quite simply because they are not white.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 1 month ago

Quite simply because they are not white? Hardly! That has nothing to do with it!

You just accused all these news organizations of being racist!!! That's true. They are racists but mainly it does not fit their agenda. Blacks being harmed are a major focus of their reporting. But not when it’s done by other blacks and especially when the blacks being harmed are Christians.

Lisa M
5 years 1 month ago

J Cosgrove- The very fact that you felt the need to highlight and increase your font size in your response suggests your unwillingness to be open to the possibility that this is the case. It saddens me greatly that so many Catholics prefer to take this position rather than reflect on history, and own what continues to happen in our society. Did you not see the extensive coverage of the attacks in Christian countries like Spain, England, France and Germany? The issue is being white. If the Christians being slaughtered in Africa were white, the main stream media would be covering it. I'm sorry if that doesn't fit your narrative, and you prefer to see it as ignoring Christianity. That said, there is no question that attacks from far right terrorists in western countries are going to get a great deal of coverage in the main stream media. That does not take away from the reality of news coverage in general.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 1 month ago

I have not a clue what you are trying to say. Are you saying that it is because they are black they are not covered? Then you just accused the US news media of being racist. And I am agreeing with you. What does bolding the type do but emphasize that most of the US news media is racist which is what you said above?

Lisa M
5 years 1 month ago

J Cosgrove-Sorry if I haven't been clear. My point is I am aware that because the attack in New Zealand was committed by a white Supremacist, yes, the media jumped on it, BUT, coverage of radical Islamist attacks are also extensively covered, IF, and ONLY if, the victims are white. The issue is not Muslim vs Christianity (although people are more careful what they say regarding any minority) Blacks are not treated equally, no matter what some choose to believe, and black on black crime is only an example of what poverty and despair breed. Black on black crime is not an issue among the middle classes, and as far as I am concerned is a white man's cop out, like the "white lives matter too" bs spewed by those who refuse to acknowledge the inequities around them.

JR Cosgrove
5 years 1 month ago

And what caused the inequities? I suggest you read Thomas Sowell. He has published several books on the topic and may be one of the two or three brightest people in the US. Or you can watch a video of him recently. He is in his late 80's and will soon be lost to us but enjoy him while we can. https://hvr.co/2ugDAAk You might also want to look at Candace Owens who was mentioned by the shooter as his influence to see some absurdity in all this http://bit.ly/2ThMo2H I am on record as having these two people (Sowell and Owens) as heros.

Lisa M
5 years 1 month ago

J Cosgrove- I am familiar with both, and agree with some of the things they say. I do not, however believe that just because a person is of the same religious or ethnic background as the disenfranchised group, they are somehow not in error, or their arguments hold greater weight. Catholics most certainly have shown that, with the diversity of beliefs within our own faith, despite clear moral and social teachings.
As an example, an unchallenged, free pass vote for the democrats has not served the black community well, and should be challenged, but that does not in any way mean that I think we do not have a responsibility to demand change. Blaming a few policies on the problem ignores our role in a much deeper problem with race relations . Assigning fault to the left is far too convenient, and may serve to ease some consciences, but does nothing to resolve it. It only puts blame on someone else. Not a practice I'm willing to accept as a member of a privileged group who has never had to face such struggles as my black neighbours.

Laura Gonzalez
5 years 1 month ago

It's not that simple. Breitbart, where you likely heard this, has stressed hte religious affiliation of the parties. But if you read this, you'll see that Muslim herders are attacking other Muslim herders in a different area. Religion is not the cause. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/nigeria-christians-muslims/

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