01/12/2006, 00.00
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Churches express solidarity to Jewish worshippers stabbed in Moscow synagogue

by Viktor Khrul
A Neo-Nazi is suspected in the wounding of eight worshipers at prayer. Catholic Metropolitan Kondrusewicz and Orthodox Patriarch Aleksij II send messages of solidarity.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusewicz, Moscow's Catholic Bishop, said that the stabbing of eight worshipers in a Moscow synagogue, including an American, an Israeli and a Tajik, was "terrible, inhuman, full of blind hatred for our fellow man". The act was the work of a young man who is apparently a member of a neo-Nazi group.

In a message released today, Archbishop Kondrusewicz offered his prayers to the Lord so that "the victims in the synagogue attack in Moscow may promptly heal and that the person who carried it out convert to better intentions."

"Let us pray," he added, "that all those who have violent thoughts may be enlightened and repent so that their souls may grow and bear fruit."

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksij also expressed sympathy for the victims of the attack.

Around 5 pm local time, someone burst into the Hassidic synagogue on Bolshaya Bronnaya Street in downtown Moscow where he wildly struck out at worshippers at prayer stabbing eight of them, among those rushed to hospital was Rabbi Itzak Kogan who is in charge of the synagogue.

The attacker is Aleksandr Koptsev, a 20-year-old unemployed Moscow resident. The police who took the young man into custody and brought him to Police Station Nº 83 are still piecing together the elements to understand his motives.

Moscow Prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said prosecution has no evidence suggesting that Koptsev is a member of an extremist group, but he did tell the press that items bearing Nazi insignia, nationalist literature and ammunition, including gunpowder and hunting cartridges, were found in the young Muscovite's apartment.

Upon hearing the news Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar decided to return to Moscow right away from Israel where he is on a visit.

"I am really upset by the armed aggression against worshippers in the synagogue. There are Nazis all over Russia. We must join forces to fight this insidious phenomenon," he said.

The rabbi urged Russia authorities to quickly act to nip this plague in the bud. "Wherever Nazism spreads, its ideas are put in practice like today in Moscow".

Archbishop Kondrusewicz echoed Rabbi Lazar's words. "Violence," he said in his message, "does not have religious or ethnical motives. Like any other evil, it is the consequence of the lack of goodness, tolerance and love. . . . The seeds of evil scattered with evil intent in men's souls, amongst our compatriots, can only be stopped in an atmosphere of cooperation in the understanding that all men are brothers".

In a letter to Rabbi Lazar, Patriarch Aleksij wrote: "I was deeply saddened by the news concerning the cruel incident that occurred in the Moscow Synagogue". Expressing the solidarity of the entire Russian Orthodox Church, he added that "the authorities, law enforcement agencies, and religious figures should do all they can to prevent such expressions of ethnic and religious intolerance."

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