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Pope Francis prays for victims of Istanbul suicide bombing

A man leaves carnations at the site of the bombing in Istanbul (AP)

Pope Francis has expressed his “prayerful solidarity” with victims of Saturday’s suicide bombing in Istanbul.

Efkan Ala, Turkey’s interior minister, said that the attack which killed four people in the Turkish capital’s main shopping street was carried out by ISIS.

In a telegram to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said Pope Francis “[grieved] to learn of the casualties caused by the bombing in Istanbul yesterday morning, and he expresses his prayerful solidarity with all touched by this tragedy.”

The telegram added: “His Holiness asks you to convey his spiritual closeness to them, as well as to the personnel assisting the injured. Commending the souls of those who have died to the mercy of the Almighty, Pope Francis invokes divine strength and peace upon those who mourn, and upon the entire nation”.

Meanwhile, in another message sent by Cardinal Parolin, the Pope also expressed his sorrow at Saturday’s plane crash in Russia. The FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 crashed in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don killing all 62 people on board.

In the message, Francis said he was “saddened to learn of the tragic air accident in Rostov-on-Don and he sends his sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims”.

The message added that the Pope “commends the souls of the dead to the mercy of Almighty God and implores the divine gifts of consolation, strength and hope upon all who mourn their loss”.

Francis also sent a message of support after the bus crash in Spain that killed 13 international university students at the weekend.

The bus carrying 57 students, who were part of an Erasmus exchange programme, crashed on Sunday near Freginals, between Barcelona and Valencia.

In the telegram to Bishop Benavent Enrique Vidal of Tortosa on behalf of the Pope, Cardinal Parolin assured the families of the victims of the Pontiff’s “heartfelt” prayers.

The message added that Francis hopes that the injured will recover swiftly and expressed the Pontiff’s closeness to the families who have suffered “irreparable loss”.