Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians to intensify their prayer, penance, and fasting for the situation in Afghanistan, as he entrusted the souls of those who have died to God’s mercy.
“In historical moments like this we cannot remain indifferent, the history of the Church teaches us this,” the pope said Aug. 29, after leading the Angelus, a Marian prayer.
“As Christians, this situation commits us,” he continued. “That is why I appeal to everyone to intensify their prayer and to practice fasting. Prayer and fasting, prayer and penance.”
“This is the time to do it. I am speaking seriously: intensify prayer and practice fasting, asking the Lord for mercy and forgiveness,” Francis underlined.
Militants with the Taliban, an Islamic extremist group, seized control of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Aug. 15. The group’s rapid advance came as many Afghan civilians and U.S. citizens sought to leave the country before the complete withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.
At least tens of thousands of people are still reportedly looking to leave Kabul in the coming days.
Pope Francis said he is following the situation “with great concern” and he participates “in the suffering of those mourning for the people who lost their lives in the suicide attacks.”
He also said he is praying for those seeking help and protection.
Amid the chaos, 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans have been killed in two suicide bombings carried out by ISIS in Khorasan outside Kabul’s airport, the Pentagon confirmed. The death toll of the bombings according to the Afghan health ministry is at least 170 people, CBS News reported.
“I entrust the dead to the mercy of Almighty God and I thank those who are working to help that people so tested, especially the women and children,” the pope said.
“I ask everyone to continue to assist the needy and to pray that dialogue and solidarity will lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence and offer hope for the future of the country.”
Pope Francis spoke after leading the traditional Angelus prayer from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, as he does every Sunday.
He also said he is close to the people of Mérida, in Venezuela, who were hit in recent days by floods and landslides. At least 20 people have died in the disaster. “I pray for the deceased and for their families and for those who suffer from this calamity,” Francis said.