Pope calls Moscow airport attack 'grave act of violence'

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday condemned as a "grave act of violence" the suicide bombing which left 35 people dead and over 100 wounded at Moscow airport .

The pope expressed his "profound sadness and strong reprobation for the grave act of violence," in an open letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Benedict said he also offered "spiritual support and condolences to the relatives of the victims" and would not forget the wounded in his prayers.

The pope's words come a day after a suspected suicide bombing in the packed arrivals hall of Moscow's largest airport.

The attack, slammed by the Kremlin as an act of terror, was the deadliest to hit the capital after the metro bombings in March.

The suicide bomber may have been part of a group dispatched by militants in the Northern Caucasus to bomb the capital, reports said Tuesday.

The Russian capital has been repeatedly rocked by attacks over the last years blamed on militants from the region, where Russia has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency.

In March 2010 the pope had condemned the "brutal acts of violence" in Moscow that left 39 dead as two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in the metro.

Relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church have been tense for centuries, and were again strained in recent years by Orthodox accusations of Catholics proselytizing in post-Soviet Russia.

Historically, the split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches dates back centuries to 1054 and has been aggravated by disputes over property.

But the Russian Church has recently moved to soften its stance and diplomatic relations between the two Churches improved when the Metropolitan Kirill took over as the new leader of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2008.

A historic meeting between the pope and Medvedev in 2009 led to Russia and the Vatican establishing full diplomatic relations.

© 2011 AFP

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