Pope Denounces Massacre Of Christians In Iraqi Church
01 Nov 2010
Vatican City: November 1, 2010. (RTTNews) Pope Benedict XVI has denounced the massacre of worshipers in a failed rescue operation by Iraqi security forces in a Catholic church in central Baghdad
About 100 people who assembled inside Our Lady of Salvation Church for an evening Mass on Sunday were held hostage by al-Qaeda-linked militants demanding the release of all al-Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt, including two Muslim women.
Iraqi security forces surrounded the Cathedral and U.S. military helicopters hovered overhead.
The gunmen reportedly threw grenades, opened fire, and detonated their explosive vests as the security forces stormed the church, killing 58 people and wounding 75 others, reports quoting Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal said.
Forty-four of the dead were worshipers, most of them women and children. The casualties also included two priests, security forces, and attackers.
Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq claimed its members had seized the Catholics in Karrada district, and gave the Coptic church in Egypt a 48-hour deadline to release two female captives, both wives of priests, who either had converted to Islam or expressed their desire to do so.
After offering prayers with pilgrims in St. Peter's Square observing the feast of All Saints on Monday, Pope Benedict urged international and national authorities and all people of good will to work together to end the "heinous episodes of violence that continue to ravage the people of the Middle East."
"I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, which is even more savage because it struck defenseless people, gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation," he added.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi expressed the Church's solidarity with the Christians in Iraq who "live with great insecurity."
This was the most fatal attack on Christians in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003.
Iraq was home to one million Christians at that time, but the Christian population has reportedly dwindled by almost half over the years, as the rest left their homeland for safer destinations.
At a just concluded special Synod with the pope at the Vatican, Iraqi bishops said kidnappings for ransom, attacks on churches and other Christian buildings and a general lack of security have made life so difficult for the vulnerable Christian community in the Muslim-dominated country.