VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict condemned an attack in which 52 people were killed in a Catholic church in Baghdad, saying the violence was all the more ferocious because innocent people were killed in a house of God.
Speaking to pilgrims gathered to hear his prayer in St Peter’s Square for the Catholic All Saints’ Day holiday, the pope also made a heartfelt appeal for peace in the Middle East.
“I pray for the victims of this senseless violence, made even more ferocious because it struck defenseless people who were gathered in the house of God, which is a house of love and reconciliation,” he said.
Fifty-two hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics captured by al Qaeda-linked gunmen.
The gunmen took hostages gathered for Sunday mass at the Our Lady of Salvation Church, one of Baghdad’s largest, and demanded the release of al Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt.
The pope urged the international community to work for comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
“May everyone join forces to put an end to violence,” he said from his window overlooking the square.
Iraq’s Christian minority has frequently been targeted by militants, with churches bombed and priests assassinated.