Catholic leaders voiced prayers for victims after a van sped into a crowd of people in the Las Ramblas tourist area of Barcelona on Thursday, killing at least 13 and injuring dozens more.
“The Holy Father has learned with great concern what is happening in Barcelona,” said a statement from the Holy See press office. “The Pope prays for victims of this attack and wishes to express his closeness to all the Spanish people, particularly the injured and families of the victims.”
Bishop José Gil Tamayo, secretary general of the Spanish Bishops Conference, also released a statement, saying on Twitter, “We follow with concern and prayers the situation of victims of the mass trampling in Las Ramblas. Our solidarity with the victims and Barcelona.”
Witnesses reported that the van appeared to move deliberately as it mowed down people in the crowded pedestrian zone, according to the BBC. Local media reported that the driver fled on foot, and police are searching for the suspect.
Police confirmed that at least 13 people were killed in the attack and more than 100 injured, some very seriously. They declared the incident a terrorist attack. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack, although the extent of the group’s involvement is currently uncertain.
Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chairman of the international justice and peace committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the attack on innocent victims “utterly reprehensible.”
“Once again, an act of terror has taken more than a dozen lives and injured scores of others,” he said, adding that the U.S. bishops’ conference “unequivocally condemns this morally heinous act and places itself in solidarity with the people of the Archdiocese of Barcelona and Spain at this terrible time of loss and grief.”
“Our prayers are with the families of those slain and injured in a particular way as we also pray for an end to terrorism,” Bishop Cantu continued. “May God comfort the afflicted and convert the hearts of those who would perpetrate such acts. May our Lord bless both our world and those suffering today from this attack with the gift of peace.”