The Catholic Church in Pakistan has condemned a suicide blast at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, where at least 70 people—many of them lawyers and journalists—were killed and more than 120 injured.
The blast on Aug. 8 was carried out at the entrance of the emergency department of the hospital when the body of Bilal Anwar Kasi, president of Balochistan (provincial) Bar Association, was being taken after he was shot by two unidentified gunmen while on his way to court.
"Killing innocent people is (an) inhuman act and totally unacceptable," said the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a rights-based organization of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, in a statement condemning the "tragic killing."
"The commission and the Catholic Church stand firmly with the people of Balochistan in this hour" and asked the government "to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice," said the church statement signed by justice and peace officials, including Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, chairman.
"This tragic incident has caused bereavement throughout the country," the statement said, offering prayers for peace and condolences to the families of the victims.
Pope Francis also offered his prayers and condemned the blast as a "senseless and brutal act of violence."
In a message the Vatican said was sent to church and civil authorities in Pakistan, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope offered his "heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased, to the authorities and to the entire nation."
Pointing out that Balochistan province has experienced more than 1,400 incidents of violence and targeted killing over the past 15 years, the Pakistani church statement urged the government of Pakistan to improve security measures.
"This is terrible," Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the justice and peace commission, told Catholic News Service from Lahore. "The atmosphere is getting frightening. Lawyers and journalists are targeted like this."
While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and anguish" over the killing, lawyers and journalists held protest demonstrations across several cities. According to local media reports, the slain Quetta Bar Association chief had condemned the early August killing of a lawyer and announced a two-day boycott of court sessions to protest the death.
On Aug. 8, 2013, gunmen shot dead a police official in Quetta, and a suicide blast at the funeral claimed the lives of nearly 30 people, including several police officials.