ROME (AP) — Pope Francis prays that Japan will strengthen its commitment to peace and nonviolence despite the “senseless” assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Vatican said Saturday.
In a telegram, Francis said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the assassination and offered his condolences to Abe’s family and the people of Japan.
Abe was fatally shot during a campaign speech Friday in the city of Nara. Japanese media reported that the gunman, who was apprehended, had developed hatred toward a religious group to which his mother was devoted.
The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, signed the telegram, which said of the pope: “In the wake of this senseless act, he prays that Japanese society will be strengthened in its historic commitment to peace and nonviolence.”
Francis last met with Abe during a 2019 trip to Japan. He visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where two U.S. atomic bombs were dropped in World War II, and declared the mere possession of nuclear weapons was “immoral.”
Abe was airlifted to a local hospital in western Japan after Friday’s attack but died of blood loss despite emergency treatment including massive blood transfusions. His body was returned to Tokyo on Saturday.
In May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Francis held a meeting at the Vatican as Russia pressed its war in Ukraine and after North Korea vowed to speed up the development of its own nuclear arsenal. They vowed to work together to try to rid the world of nuclear weapons, according to Vatican and Japanese officials.