“Let us pray for the victims”: Pope Francis on Attacks on Worshippers in Burkina Faso

Pope Francis presided over Mass at the Rome War Cemetery for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls' Day, on Nov. 2, 2023. | Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN/Vatican Pool

Pope Francis has appealed for spiritual solidarity with victims of “recent” attacks that have targeted worshippers in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

Speaking at the end of his weekly Wednesday General Audienceon February 28,the Holy Father continued his appeals on behalf of Catholics and Muslims attacked on February 25 in the Northern and Eastern regions of Burkina Faso respectively.

“Dear brothers and sisters … let us pray for the victims of the recent attacks on places of worship in Burkina Faso,” Pope Francis said, referring to the two separate attacks in Burkina Faso, one on Catholics attending Holy Mass at Essakane village in Northern part of the country under the Catholic Diocese of Dori in which at least15 worshippers were killed, the other on Muslims at a mosque in Eastern Burkina Faso, resulting in the death of dozens.

According to a security source, who spoke to AFP, “Armed individuals attacked a mosque in Natiaboani on Sunday (February 25) around 5am, resulting in several dozen being killed.”

The February 26 AFP report has quoted a local resident 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.

Fr. Sawadogo confirmed the killing of 15 Catholic worshippers and the injury of two others in a February 25 statement he availed to the media, in which he appealed for prayers for the souls of those who had “died in faith”; he also appealed for spiritual solidarity with all those in need of healing and consolation.

Pope Francis’ February 28 appeal for spiritual solidarity with victims of the dual attacks comes two days after he appealed for “respect for sacred places and the fight against violence to promote the values of peace.”

In his February 26 telegram of condolences addressed to the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN), Bishop Laurent BirfuoréDabiré of Dori Diocese, the Holy Father expressed 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,” read in part the telegram message that the Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, signed.

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Cardinal Parolin added, “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.”

The February 25 attacks are 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. The groups have reportedly taken over long strips of land and contributed to the displacement of millions of people in the region.

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.

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