A bishop in Turkey has said that Catholics are fearful about attending church after recent terrorist attacks, but insisted that Christians could 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 outside a courthouse in İzmir, while police hunted for the perpetrator of a New Year’s Eve attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, which left 39 dead. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting.

In an interview with the Catholic News Service, Bishop Tierrablanca said uncertainties had been worsened by the extension of a state of emergency imposed by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after last July’s coup attempt, but said he believed this was “not a time to criticise government failures”.

“It’s a difficult moment, and all we can really do is speak out together against terror and in favour of peace; this, rather than any political statement, has to be our message to the Turkish authorities,” the bishop said.

Earlier, Archbishop Lorenzo Piretto of İzmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, said “many Muslims” had attended a New Year’s Mass in Ephesus. The Mass was given police protection, and the archbishop said he believed the Erdoğan government had “shown concern for Christian minorities”.

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