One person killed in shooting at Catholic church in Istanbul, manhunt underway

Istanbul shooting D The scene outside a Catholic church in Istanbul, Turkey, where a reported armed attack took place on Jan. 28, 2024. | Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/EWTN

Two masked assailants opened fire in a Catholic church in Istanbul during Mass on Sunday morning, reportedly killing one person during the consecration.

Bishop Massimiliano Palinuro, the apostolic vicar of Istanbul, told EWTN News on Jan. 28 that a man was killed “during the consecration” in the attack in Santa Maria Church in Istanbul’s Sariyer district.

Turkish Minister of the Interior Ali Yerlikaya has confirmed that the attack occurred around 11:40 a.m. local time and that “a full-scale investigation” has been launched as authorities work to apprehend the assailants.

The minister said that a man, referred to only as C.T., was “the target of a gun attack and lost his life.”

Video footage of the attack obtained by EWTN News shows two armed men dressed in black following a man with white hair into the church and shooting him in the back of the head. Parishioners hid under the pews after the man was shot. It is not clear from the video if the assailants continued to fire shots as they aimed their weapons in several different directions in the church before quickly exiting.

“We strongly condemn this vile attack,” Yerlikaya said.

Turkish Police stand guard outside the scene of an armed attack at a Catholic Church in Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 28, 2024. Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/EWTN
Turkish Police stand guard outside the scene of an armed attack at a Catholic Church in Istanbul, Turkey, on Jan. 28, 2024. Credit: Rudolf Gehrig/EWTN

In an interview with EWTN News less than two hours after the attack, Bishop Palinuro said that the victim was “shot by a gun inside the church during the consecration while all the congregation was praying.”

“We don’t know the reason … we have to wait to understand why this tragedy happened, happened in the church during the Mass,” Palinuro said.

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The bishop has asked people to pray for the victims and the Catholic Church in Turkey.

“We are worried about the future because if this is a sign of the religious intolerance, for our community it could be a bad sign. Let us pray.”

There are about 25,000 Roman Catholics in living in Turkey, including migrants from Africa and the Philippines, according to a 2022 report by the U.S. State Department.

Pope Francis shared a message with the victims of the attack after he prayed the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square hours after the shooting.

“I express my closeness to the community of the church of Santa Maria Draperis in Istanbul, which suffered an armed attack during Mass, which caused one death and several injuries,” the pope said.

This is a developing story. EWTN journalists Colm Flynn and Rudolf Gehrig contributed to this report from the scene of the attack in Istanbul, Turkey.

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