Pope Francis has deplored "the barbaric act” of deadly bombings that killed at least 95 people, and injured 508 others who were taking part in a peace rally in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, on October 10.
He did so hours after the bombing, in a telegram to the country’s president, in which he expressed his closeness to all those suffering from that terrible attack and assured them of his prayers for all enduring the consequences.
He spoke again about this terrible massacre at midday the following day, Sunday, Oct. 11, when he addressed thousands of Romans and pilgrims from all continents gathered in St Peter’s Square.
He said he experienced “great sorrow” on receiving “news of the terrible massacre that took place in Ankara,” the previous day; “sorrow for the numerous dead; sorrow for the wounded, sorrow because the attackers struck innocent persons that were demonstrating for peace.”
He told them he was “praying for that dear country” and had “asked the Lord to receive the souls of the dead and comfort the suffering and their families.”
He concluded by asking the thousands of pilgrims in the square to join with him “in making a silent prayer” for all who died as well as those suffering. Silence descended on the crowd as people bowed their heads and prayed.
Pope Francis knows Ankara, a city of 4.4 million people that serves as the country’s capital and seat of government. He visited it on Nov. 28, 2014 and there met the president of this majority Muslim country of 76 million people (85.7 percent of whom are Turks, 11 percent Kurds, 1.5 percent Arabs), where Christians count for 140,000 people, among them 53,000 Catholics.
On receiving the bad news on Saturday, Oct. 10, Francis asked the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to convey his sorrow and closeness in a telegram to the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
It said the pope “was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the injuries caused by the explosions in Ankara this morning,” and “expresses his heartfelt solidarity with those affected by this tragedy.”
In it, he asked the Turkish president “to convey his spiritual closeness to all the families affected during this time of grief, and to the security and emergency personnel working to assist the wounded.”
It concluded by saying, “Pope Francis commends the souls of all who have died to the loving mercy of the Almighty” and “invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving relatives.”
Moreover, it said, the pope “deplores this barbaric act” and “asks” the President “to convey his spiritual closeness to all the families affected during this time of grief, and to the security and emergency personnel working to assist the wounded.”
It concluded by saying, Pope Francis “commends the souls of all who have died to the loving mercy of the Almighty” and “invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving relatives.”
Saturday’s bombings came just three weeks before national elections on Nov. 1. The snap elections were called as the country was experiencing much tension both internally and externally, and as Erdogan’s power seems to be on the wane, even as Turkey’s armed forces are engaged in an offensive against Kurdish militants and the Islamic State. Many blame Erdogan and his policies for what has happened, even though no one has yet claimed responsibility.