Pope Francis has expressed the “deepest feelings of horror and condemnation” over a massacre at a Florida nightclub that killed at least 50 people and injured 53 more.
Vatican spokesman the Jesuit Federico Lombardi said in a statement that the Pontiff denounces the “senseless hatred” of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred,” the statement said.
“Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort.”
He added: “We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.”
Omar Mateen, 29, has been named as the perpetrator of the attack on the gay nightclub. He was killed by members of the police SWAT team that entered the building.
Police said Mateen, a private security guard, legally purchased the two guns he used in the shooting, which is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
His father, Seddique Mateen, has said his son recently became “very angry” after seeing two men kissing in Miami.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, however its level of involvement has not been confirmed.
According to the FBI, Mateen phoned 911 shortly before the attack and pledged allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston marathon bombers. Mateen was previously investigated by the FBI over his links to extremism but the case was closed.
In response to the massacre, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Catholic bishops conference, said: “Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is.”
He added: “Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All Ireland, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the shootings today in Orlando.
“Many Irish families enjoy visits to this beautiful and friendly place, and it is heartbreaking to hear about such a high number of people killed in violent circumstances,” the archbishop said.
“On behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference I wish to express my profound condolences and I offer prayers of solidarity from Ireland to those who have been touched by this tragedy in the United States.”
He asked the faithful to remember in their prayers those injured or killed, and their families.
US President Barack Obama US described Sunday’s attack as “an act of terror and an act of hate” and “a sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is an attack on all of us.”
He added: “No act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.”
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, described him as “disturbed” and said that he regularly beat her during their short marriage.