After multiple bombings at churches in Indonesia left 11 dead dozens more injured, Pope Francis prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died and asked God to bring an end to hatred and violence.
“I am particularly close to the dear people of Indonesia, in a special way to the Christian communities of the city of Surabaya who have been strongly hit by the serious attack against places of worship,” the pope said May 13.
He offered his prayer for the victims and their relatives, and asked pilgrims to pray with him for “the God of peace to stop these violent acts, and that in the heart of all may be found space not for hatred or violence, but for reconciliation and fraternity.”
The pope's appeal came after 11 people were killed and at least 40 injured in three separate May 13 suicide bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, which took place at churches as worshipers were gathered for Sunday services.
According to BBC News, the first explosion took place between services at Santa Maria Catholic Church around 7:30a.m. local time and involved a motorbike. The second blast took place at a Pentecostal church, and at a third location, witnesses say the attack was carried out by one or more veiled women who came into a church with children.
Sunday's attacks were the deadliest the country has seen since 2005, when suicide bombings in Bali killed 20 people.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which took place within minutes of each other, however, according to ABC News, police have determined that the attacks were each carried out by members of the same family who had been radicalized by ISIS in Syria before moving to Indonesia.
More than 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslim, however, there are a large number of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in the country.
In his reflection on the day's readings, which spoke of Jesus' ascension into heaven, Pope Francis noted how on one hand the text directs the reader to heaven, while on the other it reminds Catholics of the Church's mission on earth.
Jesus' ascension, then, serves as a reminder to both look to heaven, and also to be attentive to the task the Risen Lord has entrusted to his disciples.
This mission, Francis said, is “a boundless mission — that is, literally without limits — which overcomes human strength.”
“It really seems too daring that Jesus entrusts the task to a small group of simple men without great intellectual abilities!” he said, noting that despite this fact and despite the powers of the world, they were able to bring Jesus' message to “every corner of the world.”
However, this task “can only be realized with the strength that God himself grants to the apostles,” the pope said, adding that light of this, Jesus in the Gospel assures them that their mission will be sustained by the Holy Spirit, telling them that they will receive the “strength of the Holy Spirit” and will bear witness to him throughout the world.
This mission was passed on and continues to this day, Francis said, explaining that each person, by virtue of their baptism, has the ability to announce the Gospel.
“The Ascension of the Lord into heaven, while inaugurating a new form of the presence of Jesus in the midst of us, asks us to have open eyes and open hearts to encounter him, to serve him and to bear witness to others.
And to do this means being men and women of the ascension, who look for Christ in the signs of modern times and who bring his message of salvation to everyone, above all the poor, Francis said.
Just as the Risen Christ sent his apostles out with the strength of the Holy Spirit, “today he is also sending us, with the same strength, to propose concrete and visible signs of hope,” he said.
After his address, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims present from different countries and associations. He also noted how Sunday marked the World Day of Social Communications, and prayed that journalists and those who work in media would “seek the truth of the news, contributing to a more peaceful and just society.”