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Pope Strongly Condemns Attacks - 2001-09-12

Shock, indignation and anger were just some of the reactions in Italy to the horrific sequence of death and destruction in the United States Tuesday. Pope John Paul II and Italian government officials strongly condemned the terrorist attacks. The day after the terrorist attacks in the United States, Pope John Paul's words were focused on the terrible tragedy that befell the American nation.

Speaking at the start of the customary Wednesday meeting with the faithful in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope asked in a somber tone: "How can episodes of such savage cruelty happen?" Referring to Tuesday as "a dark day in the history of humanity," the Pope added, "My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the American people, subject to inhuman terrorist attacks which have taken the lives of thousands of innocent human beings and caused unspeakable sorrow."

"I ask God," the Pope continued, "to grant the American people the strength and courage they need in this time of sorrow." The pope also expressed the hope that the attacks may not be the start of more violence. "Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence may not prevail," he said.

Italian government leaders spoke of their feelings of horror. Italian President Carlo Ciampi made a rare television address when he learned of the events saying Italy, too, was in mourning.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed Italy's loyalty to the United States declaring that "with the United States, all democratic countries have been attacked." The government assured the United States of Italy's "unconditional support" in finding those responsible. Security measures were stepped up at U.S. bases in Italy and the U.S. embassy and its consulates. Many American schools remained closed Wednesday.

The Italian authorities also increased security at diplomatic buildings, military and commercial infrastructures considered sensitive, as well as at airports and train stations. Flights by the Italian airline Alitalia from Italy to the United States were canceled. While newspapers reported the indignation of Italians and their solidarity with the American people, one comment stood out in the Italian daily La Repubblica. A spokesman for the International Islamic Front, Omar Bakri, declared that: "Only Osama bin Laden has the firepower to hit America and only the Islamic movement that believes in the Jihad, the holy war, can have carried out that unprecedented attack thanks to the faith of its martyrs." Mr. Bakri added in La Repubblica that for the Islamic world, it is "a day to celebrate."