Sunday, after leading the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for victims of two recent attacks in Afghanistan, holding a moment of silent prayer for the more than 100 people who lost their lives, the more than 200 injured, and their families.
“Yesterday from Afghanistan arrived the painful news of the terrible terrorist massacre carried out in the capital Kabul, with almost a hundred dead and numerous wounded,” the Pope said Jan. 28.
“A few days ago another serious attack, still in Kabul, had sowed terror and death in a large hotel.”
“How long will the Afghan people have to endure this inhumane violence? We pray in silence for all the victims and their families; and we pray for those in that country who continue to work to build peace.”
More than 100 people were killed, and over 200 wounded, by an explosion Jan. 27 in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. Attackers drove an ambulance rigged with a bomb into a crowded street, in an area of the city full of government buildings and embassies.
It was the deadliest attack the country has experienced in recent months, and follows just one week after an attack by gunmen on a hotel, also in Kabul.
Jan. 20 a group of gunmen entered the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, shooting at guests and detonating grenades, the BBC reports. The battle between gunmen and special forces lasted 12 hours. At least 18 people were killed, including the four gunmen.
The fundamentalist Islamist group known as the Taliban has claimed responsibility for both attacks this week.
Pope Francis’ appeal for peace in Afghanistan was made after leading the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in Casa Santa Marta. In his message before the prayer, he reflected on the day’s reading from the Gospel of Mark.
In the passage, Jesus preaches in the temple, “with authority,” and performs an exorcism, driving an unclean spirit from a man with the words: “Quiet! Come out of him!”
Here we see Jesus manifest “God's plan with words and with the power of works,” Francis said.
“In fact, in the Gospel, we see that Jesus, in his earthly mission, reveals the love of God both through preaching and with countless gestures of attention and assistance to the sick, the needy, children and sinners.”
From it we also learn how to overcome our own struggles and temptations with the grace of God. “Think of what great grace it is for us to have known this God so powerful and so good! A teacher and a friend, who shows us the way and takes care of us, especially when we are in need,” he said.
At the end of the Angelus, the Pope also referenced the day's commemoration of the World Day for Leprosy Patients.
“Unfortunately, this disease still affects the most disadvantaged and poorest people. To these brothers and sisters, we assure our closeness and solidarity; and we also pray for those who assist them and work for their reintegration into society,” he said.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, also released a message for the day. In it he wrote that it is worrying that despite intense efforts, humanity has not been able to definitively eradicate the "ancient" disease of leprosy.
Leprosy, also called Hansen's Disease, continues to be a significant health problem, he stated, primarily affecting people in precarious socio-economic conditions.
In 2017, the World Health Organization found a high concentration of the disease in just 14 countries, which alone account for 95 percent of new cases. India, Brazil and Indonesia have some of the highest rates.
The social stigma surrounding the disease remains one of the difficulties, Turkson wrote, quoting Pope Francis' words at an Angelus in January 2017, to "fight against this disease, but also against the discrimination that it generates."
"I thank all those who, for various reasons, are committed to the sick with Hansen's disease. May you assist and protect the Good Lord through the intercession of the numerous saints who have made the service of these sick people the reason for their life," the message concluded.