Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2013 / 03:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis condemned a massive suicide bombing at a Christian Church in Pakistan over the weekend, calling the violence unacceptable and urging peace efforts in the region.
“Today, in Pakistan, because of a wrong choice, a decision of hatred, of war, there was an attack in which over 70 people died. This choice cannot stand.”
At around noon Sunday, Sept. 22, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the midst of the hundreds of worshippers leaving the historic All Saints church in Kohati Gate, a heavily populated area of Peshawar, Pakistan.
Witnesses of the attack, which killed at least 80 and wounded more than 120 people, said they heard two blasts from the bombs, the second being more powerful than the first. Suicide vests were later found outside of the church.
It is reported that the militant group Jandullah, linked to the Pakistani Taliban, said they carried out the double bombing in retaliation for US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal north-west.
This attack comes as the latest in a series of assaults on Pakistani Christians, who represent about 1.6% of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population. Reports say that there are about 200,000 Christians in the province, of whom 70,000 lived in Peshawar.
Both religious and political leaders have condemned the attack, however angry crowds took to the streets in denouncement of the state's failure to protect minorities. On Sunday the demonstrators blocked roads in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, and reports say that rallies are also expected in major cities on Monday.
The attack has been described as the first assault of its kind on Christians in recent memory, and is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on Pakistan's Christians. As a result, the Pakistani government has announced three days of mourning.
In unprepared remarks made at the end of his Sept. 22 one-day trip to the city of Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia, Pope Francis referred to the attack as an act of “hatred and war,” saying that violence such as this “cannot stand.”
“It serves nothing. Only the path of peace can build a better world.”
The lights on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica were dark on Sunday night, reportedly out of remembrance and mourning for the victims and their families.