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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis expressed his support for a Catholic church in Istanbul where one person was killed in an armed attack during Mass on Sunday.
“I express my closeness to the community of the Santa Maria Church in Istanbul,” the Argentine pope said at the end of his weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya condemned the attack and said authorities were working on capturing the assailants.
An investigation was opened.
Turkish authorities have instituted a media ban on coverage of the attack. Two masked assailants attacked the Santa Maria Church in the Sariyer district at 11:40 a.m., Yerlikaya said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He did not specify what kind of weapons were used or whether anyone else was wounded.
A short video circulating on social media apparently depicts the moment of the attack, with two masked men entering the church and opening fire, with all service-goers hitting the floor.
The two men then abruptly leave.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu offered his condolences and support for religious minorities in the city.
“There are no minorities in this city or this country. We are all actual citizens,” he said.
Speaking to the Associated Press, the victim’s nephew identified the man who died as Tuncer Cihan.
He noted that the target was the church and not his uncle.
“He was a mentally disabled individual who had no connection to politics or (criminal) organizations. He went there on an invitation and was a victim of fate,” Cagin Cihan said.
An Italian order of Franciscan friars runs the church.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that his ministry followed the situation along with the Italian Embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul.
“I express my condolence and firm condemnation for the vile attack on Santa Maria Church, Tajani tweeted.
He added that “I am certain that the Turkish authorities will arrest those responsible.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in the central Anatolian province of Eskisehir for his party’s rally ahead of March local elections, expressed condolences during a phone call with the priest of the Italian church and other local officials.
He assured that “necessary steps are being taken to catch the perpetrators as soon as possible,” according to his office.
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