Pope prays for peace following Turkey terrorist attack

Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying for peace and for the victims of a terrorist attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport in Turkey. 

"Yesterday evening in Istanbul, a heinous terrorist attack was made that has killed and wounded many people. Let us pray for the victims, their families and for the dear Turkish people," the pope said June 29 after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

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The attack took place on June 28 in the international terminal and the parking lot of the airport when three suspected terrorists opened fire and, shortly after, detonated their suicide vests. 

Turkish officials said that, as of early June 29, the attack claimed the lives of 41 people, among them 10 foreign nationals, and left 239 people wounded. 

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that preliminary signs point to the Islamic State, according to Reuters.

The terrorist organization carried out a similar attack at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Belgium March 22, which killed 32 people and wounded over 300. 

Before leading thousands of pilgrims in silent prayer followed by the "Hail Mary," Pope Francis prayed that those who perpetrate such attacks would have a change of heart. 

"May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent and sustain our feet into the way of peace," the pope said.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also issued a statement in reaction to the attack. "Evil tests our humanity," he said.

"It tempts us to linger in the terror of Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, and countless other Golgothas ancient and new. Evil lives in the empty hope that terror will blind us to our common humanity. As Christians, we focus not on the violence, but rather the mournful, hopeful image of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Cradling the broken body of Jesus, given up for all of us, Mary found comfort and strength in the love of her Son.

"Jesus responded to horrific suffering with mercy," Archbishop Kurtz said. "Each time terror returns us to Golgotha, we should ask: can we respond as Mary did, or will fear numb our compassion? Evil cannot be born from God. Let us take this moment to reach out to our brothers and sisters in solidarity. The true representation of faith is found in the heroic acts of Istanbul’s airport security and emergency response.

"As violence picks up its deadly pace, we can draw strength from God’s endless mercy. No matter how often we must return to Golgotha, Mary will always be there to sustain us.  Let us, once again, turn our unwavering prayer and generosity toward the suffering."

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich said the attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan "showed a deep lack of respect for faith and human life."

In the Chicago Archdiocese, Catholics joined Muslims on June 27 to celebrate the annual Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago Catholic-Muslim's "iftar," the meal that traditionally ends Muslim fasting during Ramadan. "Let the spirit of prayer and respect that pervaded that gathering grow in the coming weeks and months and leave no room for hatred and suspicion among our people," the archbishop said.

He also asked Catholics of the archdiocese to dedicate themselves to working for peace and understanding in the memory of those lost and injured.

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