Pope Prays for Iraqi Victims of "Absurd" Violence

3 Priests Among Scores Killed in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, NOV. 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Three priests were killed along with 58 others in an attack on a Catholic church in Baghdad. Benedict XVI is offering prayers for the victims and is pleading for peace.

On addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Monday, the Solemnity of All Saints, the Pope said that he is praying «for the victims of this absurd violence, which is even more ferocious as it struck defenseless persons, gathered in the house of God, which is a house of love and reconciliation.»

Some 58 people were killed when gunmen stormed the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday in Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Salvation. Another 75 were wounded.

Among those killed during the attack were Father Wasim Sabieh and Father Thaier Saad Abdal. A third priest, Father Qatin, was wounded and died later in the hospital, Aid to the Church in Need reported.

The gunmen, who had explosives attached to their belts, took the congregation hostage and demanded the release of Al-Qaeda members being held in Iraq and Egypt. Later in the day, Iraqi and American soldiers freed the hostages.

However, today the attacks have continued with a series of at least 15 explosions, many of them car bombs, in a Shia Muslim neighborhood. There are widely varied accounts on the actual numbers of the rising death toll, but it is estimated that some 100 people were killed today, and another 200 were injured.

In his address on Monday, the Holy Father expressed his «affectionate closeness to the Christian community, which has been hit again,» and he encouraged «all pastors and faithful to persevere in fortitude and in the firmness of hope.»

The Pontiff said: «Lastly, in face of the cruel episodes of violence that continue to destroy the populations of the Middle East, I would like to renew my urgent appeal for peace: It is a gift of God but it is also the result of the efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions.»

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