- Gunmen linked with al-Qaeda stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad during Liturgy on October 31.

“They entered the church with their weapons, wearing military uniforms,” said an 18-year-old who survived the attack. “They came into the prayer hall and immediately killed the priest.”

After the gunmen took the worshippers hostage, US troops and Iraqi police stormed the parish in a rescue attempt. One gunman detonated a suicide belt, and a shootout ensued, leaving at least 37 hostages and 7 members of security forces dead along with 5 terrorists.

The Islamic State of Iraq-- the Iraqi al-Qaeda affiliate-- said it was responsible for attacking what it called “the dirty place of the infidel which Iraqi Christians have long used as a base to fight Islam.” The group said that it was taking action in support of Muslims in Egypt, charging that Muslim women are being held hostage by Coptic Orthodox clerics. The group warned that it could take action against the Copts next.

At a midday audience on November 1, Pope Benedict XVI decried the “senseless violence—all the more ferocious because it affected defenseless civilians.”

“Faced with the brutal violence that continues to tear the peoples of the Middle East apart”, the Holy Father added, “I renew my appeal for peace.” Chaldean Catholic Bishop Shlemon Warduni—who visited survivors on Monday, together with Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly—remarked that “the Christian community no longer feel safe, not even in the House of God.” He predicted that the attack would trigger a new round of emigration as Iraqi Christians look for security elsewhere.


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