ROME (JTA) – The Vatican significantly sharpened its condemnation of the violent attack in Libya that killed the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. State Department personnel.
The comments came as Pope Benedict XVI began a two-day visit to Lebanon on Friday.
“The very serious attack organized against the United States diplomatic mission in Libya, which led to the death of the ambassador and of other functionaries, calls for the firmest possible condemnation on the part of the Holy See,” said a statement Thursday by Vatican chief spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
“Nothing, in fact, can justify the activity of terrorist organizations and homicidal violence. Along with our sadness, mourning and prayers for the victims, we again express the hope that, despite this latest tragedy, the international community may discover the most favorable ways to continue its commitment in favor of peace in Libya and the entire Middle East,” the statement added.
The remarks update a Vatican statement that had not mentioned the murders of the diplomats and had come under criticism for not having condemned the violence in firm enough terms.
The violence broke out in Libya and other countries after reports of an American-made anti-Islam film trailer on YouTube. The Libyan attack was likely a spontaneous one followed by an organized attack a few hours later that was possibly led by anti-American infiltrators into the country, the New York Times reported on Friday.
In the Vatican’s initial statement, Lombardi had decried the “tragic results” of “unjustified offense and provocations” against Muslim sensitivities.
The Pope’s visit is aimed at promoting dialogue and peace in the region. Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a particular concern of the Vatican.