Gunmen target Istanbul church, killing one person during morning mass

Relatives of the victim of an attack by two assailants react outside Santa Maria Church, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE
Relatives of the victim of an attack by two assailants react outside Santa Maria Church, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Gunmen targeted a church in Istanbul on Sunday morning, killing at least one person during the celebration of mass. Pope Francis has condemned the attack.

The St. Mary Draperis Church in the Büyükdere neighborhood of Istanbul's Sarıyer district was targeted by two masked men around 11:40 a.m. local time, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said in a statement on social media.


Yerlikaya identified the victim as a man with the initials C.T. It was not immediately clear how many others were injured but Yerlikaya later said he wished for the speedy recovery of priests at the church.

"A full-scale investigation and efforts to apprehend the attackers have been launched," Yerlikaya said. "We strongly condemn this vile attack."

Yerlikaya, in a broadcasted news conference translated from Turkish using ChatGPT, said that the victim of the "heinous" attack was a Turkish citizen.

"Our security forces are working to clarify and shed light on the incident as soon as possible. All our colleagues are striving hard. There are many places of worship in Istanbul. Each one, every single one, freely and in a peaceful and secure environment, performs their religious duties," he said.


"All religious people and the entire congregation are extremely satisfied with this atmosphere of peace and security. No one who intends to disrupt the unity and solidarity of our nation will ever succeed. I particularly want to emphasize this. And we will always continue to live, trusting each other, in an atmosphere of peace and security in Istanbul, especially, and everywhere in our country."

Yerlikaya warned that the suspects would be identified and brought to justice, with all levels of Turkey's security and intelligence forces working together. He said President Recep Erdoğan has been informed of the shooting.

"Through you, I also wish to convey once again my condolences and wishes for recovery to every member of this valuable church community," Yerlikaya said. "I pray for the protection of each of us once again."

Pope Francis has condemned the attack on the church, according to a report from Vatican News, the press arm of the Holy See. Francis said "several" had been wounded.

Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, the Apostolic Administrator of Constantinople, said that the armed men entered the church around the time of the Sanctus and first fired gunshots into the air.

"And then the reaction of one of the faithful, who also had some mental health problems, had the courage to protest against this, probably in response to this act," he said, adding, "They responded by killing this person."


He said the motivation for storming the church was not known but that it appeared to be a religiously motivated attack.

"As a Christian community, we ask the authorities to shed light, to seek the truth," Palinuro said.

"We ask for greater security and for the safety of the faithful, of the Christian community, which perseveres in the faith and courageously face very long journeys at times to attend the Eucharistic celebration."

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