Munich, Germany, Jul 23, 2016 / 08:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The archbishop of Munich has called for prayers for the victims of Friday’s deadly shooting at a shopping mall, and condemned acts of violence which “poison” society with fear.
"This horrific crime deeply affects me and fills me with profound grief," Cardinal Reinhard Marx is quoted as saying in a July 23 statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
"My prayers are with the victims and their families,” said the head of the German Bishops' Conference said, adding: “I hope that the many injured can return home soon."
At least nine people were killed and nearly 30 injured on Friday evening after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich. The German teenager of Iranian descent, who The Independent identifies as Ali David Sonboly, was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police believe the teenager had no known ties to the Islamic State, but the BBC reports he may have been inspired by Anders Behring Breivik, the mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. Friday's shooting spree came on the five year anniversary of Breivik's massacre.
Friday’s incident also follows closely on the heels of two other attacks: a teenage Afghan Islamist went on an axe rampage in Würzburg, Germany, on Monday night, leaving several passengers severely wounded. And the previous week, 84 people were killed in Nice, France when a Tunisian man intentionally drove a large truck through a crowded beach street at high speed during a Bastille Day celebration. Both of these attacks are believed to have been inspired by ISIS.
Cardinal Marx decried how "on an almost daily basis, we are witness to an unprecedented unleashing of violence and hate.” “In many places, acts of violence poison our society's climate with fear and terror," he said. The German cardinal has called on people to pray with him for those affected by violence and terror.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who had served as archbishop of Munich and Freising as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1977-1982, has reportedly also responded to the attacks, via the prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein. Having been informed about the incident, Benedict XVI “prays for the innocent victims, and expresses condolences and closeness to the families,” the Vatican Insider reports.
The head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, has also offered his condolences and prayers for those affected by the tragedy in the Bavarian capital. “Our resolve turns toward an unwavering desire to be witnesses of love alive in the world,” the Louisville archbishop said in a July 22 statement.
“Against this resolve the forces of hatred and division cannot prevail.” “Let us draw strength from the courage of the victims and first responders in Munich so that we may continue down the path of peace, rejecting violence and that which seeks to divide us.”
Shortly after Friday’s attack, which reportedly began just before 6 p.m. local time, the local Church stepped up to help, with 10 emergency pastoral care workers caring for those affected by the massacre. After the shooting, many people were trapped for hours as central Munich was placed on lock-down, and found refuge in one of the many Catholic churches in the vicinity. In Saint Michael's Church, located in the heart of Munich, the local Jesuits organized for 40 people — mostly tourists — to spend the night in temporary rooms.
Additional prayers will be held on Saturday at the church, which will offer pastoral conversations and reflections for those affected — as will most parishes in the archdiocese, especially in and around the Bavarian capital. On Sunday, special prayers are planned during Mass at the Munich Cathedral.
Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this story.