Pope Francis on Sunday called a deadly attack on a synagogue in the United States “an inhuman act of violence,” expressing his “closeness to the Jewish community.”
Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday during worship services before a tactical police team tracked him down, shot him and arrested him.
“We are all, in truth, wounded by this inhuman act of violence,” Francis said at the end of the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square.
“May the Lord help us put out the flames of hate that develop in our societies, strengthening the sense of humanity, respect for life, moral and civil values and holy fear of God,” he said.
Francis has frequently spoken out against religiously inspired violence and has denounced the easy availability of guns, calling arms manufacturers the “merchants of death.”
According to an affidavit released Sunday, Bowers told an officer while he was being treated for his injuries “that he wanted all Jews to die and also that they (Jews) were committing genocide to his people.”
The United States is witnessing a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents, surging 57 percent from 2016 to 2017, to 1,986 from 1,267, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL called Saturday’s massacre the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.
Saturday’s attack came at a time of heightened tensions — a day after a supporter of US President Donald Trump was arrested for mailing explosive devices to Democrats and liberals, including prominent Jewish philanthropist George Soros, setting the country on edge ahead of close-fought midterm elections.
On Saturday, he denounced the “evil anti-Semitic attack,” and expressed sorrow, saying he would travel to Pittsburgh.
Trump has been accused of fueling hate with divisive rhetoric, using the term “globalist,” which some on the alt-right use as a euphemism for Jews, to describe his critics.