The Pope dedicated the September 12 general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, to the previous day's tragedy in the United States, expressing his very great condemnation and his assurance of spiritual closeness to the families of the dead and the injured.
Following is a large part of the text read by the Holy Father, which replaced the traditional catechesis of the general audience:
"I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people. To the President of the United States and to all American citizens, I express my heartfelt sorrow. In the face of such unspeakable horror we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity's problems.
"Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge; capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ's word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say.
"Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.
"With deeply felt sympathy I address myself to the beloved people of the United States in this moment of distress and consternation, when the courage of so many men and women is being sorely tested."
Before the conclusion of the audience, the Pope and the faithful prayed for the Churches of the East and the West, and, in particular, for the Church in the United States and for heads of state "in order that, not allowing themselves to be dominated by hatred and the spirit of retaliation, they do everything possible to keep weapons of destruction from sowing new hatred and new death and strive to bring light to the darkness of human affairs with works of peace."
Bishops' Statement on American Tragedy
President's Address to Congress, September 20, 2001
Commentary by Fr. Frank: We Will Not Live in Fear