"Shocked by the unspeakable horror of today's inhuman terrorist attacks against innocent people in different parts of the United States, I hurry to express to you and your fellow citizens my profound sorrow and my closeness in prayer for the nation at this dark and tragic moment," Pope John Paul II said in a telegram to President Bush.
Similar sentiments were voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Archbishop of South Africa, among others.
John Paul was told of the attacks on New York and Washington by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. After being told, the 81-year-old pontiff sent the telegram to Bush and then withdrew to pray in the chapel of his summer residence in the hill town of Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, where he is still in residence.
The pope, who held a cordial meeting with Bush at Castelgandolfo last month, said he is praying also for the victims of the attacks in New York and Washington and the plane crash in Pennsylvania and for aid workers.
Vatican sources said they expected the pope to talk about the attacks at his weekly general audience on Wednesday.
In Geneva, where the executive council of the 342-member World Council of Churches is meeting, the Rev. Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the Protestant and Orthodox fellowship, called the attacks "terrible tragedies," and in a message to U.S. churches expressed "our profound shock and our profound sympathy."
"You are all in our prayers," the message said. "We pray especially for the victims ...1