Moscow Catholics Terrorized

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -— Catholics in Moscow were “shocked and terrorized” after two suicide bomb attacks on the Moscow Metro, said the secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference.

“Our own church of St Louis is at the Lubyanka (station), so we were close to the scene and very emotionally affected,” said Father Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference.

“Our parishioners use the Metro every day to get to morning Mass and could easily have been caught up in the blasts. Thank God, this doesn’t appear to have happened — all those who usually come to Mass were there again today,” he told Catholic News Service March 30, an official day of mourning for victims of the March 29 rush-hour explosions that left 39 dead and at least 70 seriously injured.

Father Kovalevsky said prayers for those affected would be said March 30 in the country’s 430 Catholic parishes.

“The first reactions are of shock and terror. I personally traveled on the Metro yesterday and saw fear and apprehension on the faces of people,” said Father Kovalevsky. “All we can do in these circumstances is pray for the dead and injured and call for peace in Russia. This is the Catholic Church’s mission.”

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev vowed to “find and destroy” perpetrators of the attacks, in which two suspected women suicide bombers blew themselves up at Moscow’s Lubyanka and Park Kultury stations. Russia’s Federal Security Service blamed “terrorist groups related to the North Caucasus” in a March 30 statement, while U.S. President Barack Obama pledged help in bringing the plotters to justice. No one claimed responsibility for the bombings, which followed Russian security forces killings of several Islamic militant leaders in the North Caucasus region.

Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of Moscow sent condolence letters to Medvedev and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luskov and deplored the targeting of “innocent and simple people.”

Russia’s Council of Muftis denounced the attacks and insisted “extremism and terrorism” found no support in the Quran and Islamic teaching.

The Coordination Center of Northern Caucasus Muslims also denied the outrage had “any relation to the ideology of Islam” and urged Russians not to “associate such things with Islam.”

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow instructed priests to visit victims in hospitals and requested a list of dead and injured in order to “pray personally for each person,” according to patriarchate officials. The patriarch also urged Russians “to respond to the danger not with fear, panic or exasperation.”

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first terrorist act committed in Russia in the recent months. We see quite clearly the danger is lurking around each of us every minute,” Patriarch Kirill said in a March 29 statement.

“Let us respond with unity among our people and with a firm will to stop terrorists and those who back, finance or justify them,” he added. “God’s punishment will extend to them, I believe, as will human justice.”

The attacks were the deadliest in Moscow since 2004, when 50 people were killed in two Metro attacks blamed on Chechen rebels.

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