Deadly Bangladesh Blast Condemned by Pope

Police Detain 7 Suspects in Church Bombing

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2001 ( John Paul II sent a telegram expressing his sympathy and offering his prayers for the 10 people killed by a bomb explosion during a crowded Mass on Sunday in a Catholic church in Bangladesh.

In his message to Bishop Michael Atul D´Rozario of the Khulna Diocese, the Pontiff expressed his closeness to the families affected by the tragedy in Baniarchar. The Holy Father condemned all acts of violence and destruction, and appealed to Bangladeshis to work to «ensure a climate of peace and mutual respect.»

The papal telegram, sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, reads:

«Deeply saddened by news of the explosion at Baniarchar Church, the Holy Father asks you to convey to the parishioners the assurance of his closeness in prayer at this time of tragedy and loss. His Holiness commends those who have died to our heavenly Father´s mercy, and upon their grieving families and the injured, he invokes the powerful intercession of Mary, comforter of the afflicted.

«Condemning acts of violence and destruction, he appeals to all to cooperate in ensuring a climate of peace and respect. As a pledge of comfort and strength in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing.»

Police detained seven suspects today in the bombing, the Associated Press reported. A police spokesman said the seven young men were from the area, but he refused further details.

The bomb exploded behind a shelf of books in the tin-roofed church in the village about 65 miles southwest of the capital, Dhaka.

The Pentecost Sunday blast also wounded 16 people. Religious attacks are rare on minority Christians in this predominantly Muslim country.

The funerals for the victims were held today. According to a Vatican Radio program, speculation about the bombing is centering on Muslim fundamentalists.

«However, the excellent interreligious relations established in the diocese, and the prestige won by the young Catholic community because of its works of assistance and charity, make one think, rather, that it was the action of a terrorist group,» Vatican Radio concluded.

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