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Bishop says Turkish Catholics fearful, but government supportive


Ambulances transport people wounded during an attack on a New Year's Eve celebration at a popular nightclub in Istanbul. At least 39 people, mostly foreigners, were killed and dozens injured in the attack. (CNS photo/EPA)

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OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A church leader in Turkey said Catholics are fearful about attending church after recent terrorist attacks, but insisted local Christians can count on government protection.

"Although we can move around freely, people are understandably afraid of coming to Mass and there's been a drop in participation," said Bishop Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez, apostolic vicar of Istanbul.

"But all churches have been given police guards since a coup was attempted last July, and security officials have shown great kindness to us. Christians, Muslims and Jews are talking together and sharing the same anxieties, although the future doesn't depend on us."

The Mexican-born bishop spoke as a car bomb killed four and wounded 11 outside a courthouse in Izmir, while a police hunt continued for the perpetrator of a Jan. 1 attack on Istanbul's Reina nightclub, which left 39 dead and at least 70 injured.

In a Jan. 5 interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Tierrablanca said Turkey's minority Catholic Church was thankful no resident members had been hurt or killed in the atrocities.

He added that uncertainties had been worsened by the extension of a state of emergency imposed by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the July15-16 coup plot, but said he believed this was "not a time to criticize government failures."

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