During his Angelus address on Wednesday for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of Tuesday’s deadly attack on an Istanbul airport, asking that God would convert the hearts of those who choose violence.
“Dear brothers and sister, yesterday in Istanbul there was a heinous terror attack, which has killed and wounded many people. Let us pray for the victims, for their families and for the dear Turkish people,” the Pope said June 29.
He asked for a moment of silence in St. Peter’s Square for the victims and then recited the “Hail Mary,” asking the crowd to join him.
Late Tuesday night three suicide bombers blew themselves up in the entrance terminal of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, killing 36 people and wounding more than 140 others, the BBC reports.
Ataturk airport is Europe’s third largest in passenger traffic behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. According to reports, the three men, dressed in black, drove into the entrance terminal by car and opened fire, blowing themselves up only after police began to fire back.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that early signs indicated that the Islamic State was responsible for the attack, but so far no one has claimed responsibility.
Pope Francis offered prayers that the Lord would “convert the hearts of the violent and sustain our steps on the path to peace.”
In his speech before leading pilgrims in praying the traditional Marian prayer, the pope noted how the day marked the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, who are the patrons of the city of Rome.
Francis noted that in the Gospel, Jesus had sent the disciples out two by two. In a sense, Peter and Paul were also sent out from the Holy Land to preach the Gospel in Rome.
Even though the two men were “very different from one another: Peter a humble fishermen, Paul a teacher and doctor,” they were still able to succeed in preaching the Gospel throughout the city, he said.
“If here in Rome we know Jesus, and if the Christian faith is a living and fundamental part of spiritual and cultural patrimony of this land, it is due to the apostolic courage of these two sons of the Near East,” the Pope said.
Regardless of the difficulties and risks of the long trip and the mistrust they surely encountered, the apostles left their homeland out of love for Christ and went to Rome, he said, calling them “heralds and witnesses of the Gospel” who “sealed with martyrdom their mission of faith and charity.”
Peter and Paul have returned to the city and are knocking on the doors of our houses, seeking to once again bring Jesus, his consolation and his peace to our hearts, Francis said.
“Let us welcome their message! Let us treasure their witness!” he said, and prayed that “the firm and forthright faith of Peter, the great and universal heart of Paul, help us to be joyful Christians, faithful to the Gospel and open to meeting all.”
Pope Francis then noted how he had blessed the pallium of the new metropolitan archbishops appointed in the course of the previous year, and offered special greetings and prayers for them and their families.
“I encourage them to continue with joy their mission and service to the Gospel, in communion with the entire Church and especially with the See of Peter, as the sign of the pallium expresses.”