Barcelona terror attack: No priest came to comfort wounded, but Cardinal declared all religions peaceful

I received this most interesting email yesterday from Daniel Sexton, an American who was an eyewitness of the recent Barcelona jihad attack. Mr. Sexton is a Catholic, and he wrote an open letter to Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, lamenting Omella’s statements after the massacre, as well as the lack of any response from the Church at the scene. Whether or not you share Mr. Sexton’s faith, the import of this is clear: in Spain, jihadis are aggressively advancing, and in response, the Catholic Church is not only not being true to itself, but is actively aiding and abetting the conquest of the continent: “No priest came to give Last Rites to the dying or comfort the wounded and terrorized. But the Cardinal went to the hospital in the evening and said all religions are religions of peace.”

I have a background in Latin and ancient Greek and found your book Did Muhammad Exist?  to be revelatory. How is it that the scholarly consensus that Islam was a post conquest creation of Arabs and that the Koran is actually a Nestorian liturgical book written in Syriac, not known in our universities? I tend to view you and other such as Elena Chudinova to be our Cassandras, issuing true prophecies that no one will believe.

Yet I spent ten days in Europe this summer with my sons. Europe was as I remember her from my youth when I had lived there for a year — steeped in a Christian past and lost in an epicurean present. We traveled through Catalonia, Languedoc, and Provence and the Islamic presence, from the perspective of someone who lives in Jersey City, to be almost negligible. On the last day, I was walking on Las Ramblas at 5:00 PM, reveling in my last few hours in this paradise and going over in my mind our visit. I thought perhaps Islam was not such a threat — that I should limit my exposure to Breitbart and Jihad Watch — and not be, as my newly minted Princeton politics grad says, such a hater. I saw a woman in a Burqa with a baby and pitied her for being so out of place. In the next moment, I saw the white van plowing through the crowd. I was ten yards from the Joan Miró mosaic where it came to rest. The dead and dying were all around me. I stayed and helped a grievously injured 16-year-old German girl who had been visiting with her parish. No priest came to give Last Rites to the dying or comfort the wounded and terrorized. But the Cardinal went to the hospital in the evening and said all religions are religions of peace. I wrote an open letter to the newspapers in Barcelona but no one bothered to call me back.

Here is Mr. Sexton’s open letter:

c/o La Vanguardia, elPeriodico, el PuntAvio

Cardinal Juan Jose Omella
Archbishop of Barcelona

Your Eminence:

Please accept this open letter to you and the Church in Barcelona.  I, myself, probably because of my sins, happened to be at the Rambla de Sant Josep  at the corner at Carrer de L’Hospital at the moment the van driven by young Islamic terrorists passed by coming to rest at the Juan Miro mosaic  last Thursday. I was unable to comprehend what was happening as the idyllic scene was replaced by a nightmare. The van with its human detritus sped by and a wave of terrified citizens and tourists overwhelmed. All around me was blood, and bodies and  people in torment and terror — babies, children, the old and the young.

The police and the security forces arrived almost instantaneously and were fierce and courageous and non-stinting as they sought to secure the area even while the perpetrators escaped back over their victims. Strangers offered aid to the wounded. Terrified children and babies were corralled into the adjacent stores. I saw one young guy jumping from body to body — giving CPR here,  making a tourniquet there. (I have read that Lucas Digne, the fullback for Barça, had run from the safety of his luxury  apartment with water and towels, and I believe that he is the guy I saw). At last, the ambulances began to arrive with medics, one by one. They addressed those in extremis first while those who were conscious had to wait. In the 45 minutes I was at the scene, several persons there on the pavement were pronounced dead as resuscitation efforts by just regular people were abandoned when the medics said there was no hope.

Yet one thing was conspicuously absent: not a single priest appeared in my sight to give Extreme Unction to the dying, to comfort those in agony, to give witness to those in shock that Christ is with us — that he has overcome the world and that we must be willing to undergo any and every trial for the sake of the kingdom. Even if he did nothing, a priest in his cassock would have born witness. Maybe a priest was there and I missed him in his jeans or shorts, and if so, then I apologize for my accusation. But the dead I saw had no minister of God to assist them. To me, this is inexplicable. There were four churches within a stone’s  throw — including the Basilica of St. Maria, the parish of St. Augustin, the parish of St. Philip Neri, and your very own Cathedral. If any of the deaths on the Rambla of Sant Josep were happy, it is no thanks to the Church.

I was in Barcelona with my sons for a  holiday and  I wanted more than anything for them to experience the glories of a civilization built on Christ and his love — but also his judgment. My mantra was the line from Hilaire Belloc, that “the Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.” In this vein, we marveled at Sagrada Familia and even more of the fanatical faith of Gaudi, which seems to embarrass or at least befuddle his current admirers. We made a pilgrimage to Monteserrat and ardently kissed the orb which the Black Madonna holds in her extended right hand — the world redeemed by Christ whom she had borne without corruption. We venerated the sarcophagus and the relics of the Virgin Martyr St. Eulalia in your own Cathedral.

Yet you said, after visiting the injured in the Hospital del Mar only hours after the attack, that  “God is the God of life and love in all religions….”

This is false, Your Eminence! There is only one true religion and, if you, a Prince of the Church cannot say that it is the Catholic and orthodox faith that comes to us from the apostles, who can? Moreover, it is demonstrably not true that the Allah of  Islam engenders life and love. Having read your comments yesterday and being familiar with Pope Francis’ denial of these truths, I was not surprised to read this morning that “at least 10,000 Catalans with links to the separatist movement have actually converted to Islam in recent years [and that] [i]t is believed that two out of every ten Catalan radicals who belong to the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), a far-left political party, are converts to Islam. The ERC, which now governs Catalonia, has  vehemently refused to sign a cooperation agreement with the central government in Madrid to fight jihadist terrorism.”[1] How anomalous is this that a movement that seeks to preserve and cultivate Catalonian culture morphs into the modern-day descendant of its ancient foe? Something happens to radical movements. The IRA in the 1960s, one recalls, became hardline Marxist-Leninists trained and armed by the Soviets.

Barcelona does not need minutes of silence or shouts of  “we are not afraid.” She and all of us need shepherds with testicular fortitude and faith to lead men to embrace with all of their hearts and all their minds the salvation which is from Christ alone and none other. No political movement or primitive cult of violence can compete with such a vision.

Sant Jordi pray to God to send us shepherds who will teach the truth! Santa Eulalia pray to God for us that we may not fail at the time of trial! La Morenata pray to God for us who mourn and weep!

[1] Barcelona Attack Was Preventable, Soeren Kern,  Gatestone Institute, August 22, 2017

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Cardenal Joan Josep Omella 21.06.2017 Fotografia Pere Virgili

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