Pope Francis Appeals for “respect for sacred places” after Attacks in Burkina Faso

Pope Francis prays on St. Peter's Square, Oct. 5, 2022 | Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Pope Francis is appealing for “respect” for places of worship and a continued “fight against violence” so that peace is established across the globe.

The Monday, February 26 appeal for “respect for sacred places and the fight against violence to promote the values of peace” of the Holy Father follows attacks on worshippers in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

In a February 26 report, local and security sources told the AFP news agency about an attack on a mosque in Eastern Burkina Faso that resulted in the death of dozens of Muslims, the same day Catholics attending Mass at Essakane village in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Dori were attacked.

“Armed individuals attacked a mosque in Natiaboani on Sunday around 5am, resulting in several dozen being killed,” a security source has been quoted as telling the AFP on February 26 about the previous day’s incident.

In the report, a local resident is quoted as saying that “the victims were all Muslims, most of them men”, who were at the mosque for morning prayers.


The attack on Essakane village that is in what is described as “three borders” zone near the borders of Burkina Faso with Mali and Niger was confirmed by the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Dori, Fr. Jean-Pierre Sawadogo.

In a statement availed to the media, Fr. Sawadogo confirmed the killing of 15 Catholic worshippers and the injury of two others; he appealed for prayers for the souls of those who, he said, “died in faith”. He also appealed for spiritual solidarity with all those in need of healing and consolation.

In his February 26 telegram of condolences addressed to the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN), Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori Diocese, the Holy Father expresses his closeness and pain with the victims of the attack.

“Pope Francis has learned with deep affliction the tragic terrorist attack that happened in a Catholic church in Essakane on February 25, 2024, and the loss of human lives that it caused,” the telegram that was signed by the Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, reads in part.

The telegram message continues, “His holiness also expresses his sadness to the Muslim community for the attack on a mosque in Natiaboani. He prays for the rest of the deceased people, trusting them to the mercy of God, as well as for the healing of the wounded.”

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The Holy Father expresses his solidarity “with the mourning of the families, showing them his closeness and his pain”, and goes on to ask “the lord to bring strength and consolation to all the people affected by these damages. He invokes on the daughters and sons of Burkina Faso, as well as on the entire nation, the abundance of divine blessings.”

He cautions against vengeful thoughts, saying “that hatred is not the solution to conflicts.”

Last year, Bishop Dabiré of Dori Diocese said that in Burkina Faso, terror is directed against all residents of the country “who do not profess the same Islam as the jihadists, including Muslims.”

In an interview with the Pontifical charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Bishop Birfuoré expressed his solidarity with the people of God in the country, who no longer attend Holy Mass for fear of jihadist attacks.

The Burkinabe Catholic Bishop confirmed reports that 50 percent of Burkina Faso is occupied by terrorists, and many Catholic Parishes have been left abandoned as their members stay away for fear of attacks. 


In his Episcopal See, three of the six Parishes had to be abandoned for security reasons, the Local Ordinary of Dori Diocese told ACN in July 2023.

The CEBN President identified the jihadist group dubbed “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” as the most notorious in the West African country, adding that the group’s “actual goal is to oppress today's society, which is a multi-religious society of dialogue and coexistence.”

The security situation in Burkina Faso has become drastic over the past few years, with Christians being particularly targeted by terrorist groups inspired by Islamic extremism.

The violence in the country can be seen as part of a wider conflict that involves several countries in the Sahel region, including Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

The February 25 attacks were the latest in a series of the Sahel atrocities blamed on Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, reportedly active in the region, having taken over long strips of land and contributed to the displacement of millions of people in the region.

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Authorities in the Sahel region have been battling against the Islamist terrorist groups since Libya’s civil war in 2011, followed by an Islamist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012. The jihadist insurgency reportedly spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger from 2015.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.