After Istanbul carnage, Pope and World Council of Churches condemn attack on innocents

(Photo: REUTERS / Stoyan Nenov)Pope Francis releases a white dove prior to delivering a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul November 29, 2014. Pope Francis began a visit to Turkey on Friday with the delicate mission of strengthening ties with Muslim leaders while condemning violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

A gunman dressed as Santa killed 39 innocent people in an early hours attack on New Year's day 2017 in Istanbul drawing condemnation from Pope Francis and general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.

Jan. 1 was also the 50th World Day of Peace and the Pope Francis denounced the Istanbul attack, praying for the victims, the injured and in support of everyone who works to fight violence and terrorism.

"Grieved, I express my closeness to the Turkish people, I pray for the many victims and the injured and for the whole nation in mourning," Francis said after leading his weekly Angelus Sunday blessing.

"I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who roll up their sleeves to boldly tackle the scourge of terrorism and the bloody stain that envelops the world with a shadow of fear and bewilderment."

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At least 39 people were killed, and another 69 injured, after a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Istanbul around 1:30 a.m. the BBC reported.

In his Angelus message, Pope Francis said that peace is brought about by saying "no" to hatred and violence and "yes" to fraternity and reconciliation. And that the year ahead will only "be good to the extent that each of us, with God's help, will try to do good every day."

The WCC's Tveit said, "Yet, another terror attack in Istanbul. Innocent people are suffering again and again. This is an evil act.

"This attack is particularly shocking, in the first place because there seems to have been a clear intention deliberately to target people who were simply enjoying themselves at the New Year' Day," said Tveit.

It was the fourth terrorist attack in Turkey in less than a month.

On a typical night, the club hosts several hundred guests and is a popular hot spot for celebrities and foreigners visiting Turkey.

Tveit commented, "In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence."

The WCC offers its deepest condolences to the bereaved and injured. Tveit said "God in your mercy, be with the victims and their families and those who accompany and help them."

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