Both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have previously spent time in New Zealand

By Joelle Goldstein
March 15, 2019 10:22 PM

In the wake of the mass shooting tragedy in New Zealand, the royal family is speaking out about the attack on a place that is dear to all their hearts.

On Friday, Kensington Palace issued a joint statement on behalf of Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle, where the royal couples referred to the “senseless attacks” as a “horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship.”

Both William and Kate and Harry and Meghan have previously spent time in Christchurch, where two mosques were attacked on Friday. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were last there in 2014, while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — who are expecting their first child in Aprilrecently visited in October 2018 as part of their 16-day Royal Tour.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives in the devastating attack in Christchurch,” the lengthy statement on Instagram began, alongside a photo of the New Zealand flag.

“We have all been fortunate to spend time in Christchurch and have felt the warm, open-hearted and generous spirit that is core to its remarkable people,” they wrote. “No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship.”

Kate Middleton and Prince William with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
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“This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship,” the royal four continued.

“We know that from this devastation and deep mourning, the people of New Zealand will unite to show that such evil can never defeat compassion and tolerance.”

Wrapping up their heartfelt note, the royal couples said they were sending thoughts and prayers to the people of New Zealand and finished with “Kia Kaha” — a Māori phrase that means “stay strong,” which is often used by New Zealanders as an affirmation.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in New Zealand
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Prince William and Kate Middleton in Christchurch, NZ
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On Friday, 50 people were killed while another 20 were injured after a mass shooting attacks at two mosques in the Soth Island city of Christchurch.

At approximately 1:40 p.m. local time, New Zealand police responded to a “serious firearms incident” at Masjid Al Noor mosque on Deans Ave in Christchurch. Another nearby mosque, Linwood Masjid, was attacked shortly after.

New Zealand police announced on Twitter that 41 people were killed at the Masjid al Noor mosque while 7 died at the Linwood Masjid mosque on Linwood Avenue, while one died from their injuries in a hospital. The death toll was later upgraded to 50.

Explosive devices were also found in multiple vehicles by authorities.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the incident as “an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence” and considered it to be “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said. “From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.”

A 28-year-old suspect has been charged with murder.

Four people — three men and a woman — were taken into custody, but as of Saturday morning local time, only Tarrant and two others remained in custody, according to New Zealand Police.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”