ASIA/TURKEY - Reparation Mass in Istanbul church desecrated by the attack

Wednesday, 31 January 2024


Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) – Tomorrow, Thursday, February 1st, at 7 p.m., a mass of reparation will be celebrated in the church of the Nativity of Our Lady in Büyükdere, in the Sariyer district, north of Istanbul, where 52-year-old Tuncer Cihal was murdered during the terrorist attack on Sunday, January 28. "Following the terrible act of violence and profanation occurred on Sunday, January 28", reads a communication released by the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul, "a Holy Mass of reparation will be celebrated in the desecrated church. On this occasion a new altar will be consecrated in the church and prayers will be offered for the soul of the late Tuncer Cihal murdered in those horrible circumstances". The holy Eucharistic will be presided over by Archbishop Marek Solczinsky, Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey and by Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul for the Roman Catholic community in Istanbul.
Last Sunday, the two attackers broke into the church during the celebration of mass. About 35 people were present in the place of worship. Today, in the feelings of the people present, dismay and gratitude are mixed. "It is clear that the attack was planned to have much more serious consequences, and that the hand of the Lord did not want this to happen", says to Fides Father Julian Pista, from the Conventual Franciscan Community of Istanbul.
Details of the attack reveal that the terrorist operation could have had more serious consequences if the terrorists' weapons had not jammed. "The two suicide bombers, also confirmed Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, were armed with 7.65 caliber pistols. Thank God, the two weapons apparently jammed and more serious consequences were avoided." Police operations launched after the attack led to the arrest of the two suspected suicide bombers - a Tajik and a Russian citizen - and 51 other people - Tajiks, Russians and Turks - considered to be linked to the original jihadist terrorist group responsible for the ambush. The vehicle used by the attackers had arrived from Poland 2 years ago, and had never been used before the attack. At the time of the ambush, the Polish consul general in Istanbul, Witold Lesniak, was also at Mass with his family. In a written message, Bishop Maximilian Palinuro expressed "our gratitude to all law enforcement officers, especially our Minister of Interior, Mr. Ali Yerlikaya, who managed to capture the perpetrators and their associated in a short period of 12 hours after the brutal attack that occurred on January 28, 2024 at the Catholic Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, affiliated with our diocese. We take this opportunity", added the Bishop "to confirm that we need your intense support to increase and strengthen security measures during the worship of Catholic communities in their churches in Istanbul. We are grateful for your efforts to maintain this climate of love and mutual respect in Istanbul, where all religions have lived in brotherhood for centuries". "As Catholics living in Istanbul," continued the Vicar, "we know the sincere brotherly love, conscience and hospitality of the people of our country. We love our country and our people very much. We would like to emphasize that individuals and groups who think that we are going to close our churches and lock our doors from the inside, thinking that they are spreading a wave of terror through an act of terror, will not be able to do so". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 31/1/2024)