Pope Francis has sent a his condolences following the suicide attack against a football stadium in Iskanderiyah, Iraq which killed more than 30 people last week, many of them young boys.

The Pope was “saddened by the news of the great loss of life” caused by the attack, said the message which was addressed to Archbishop, Alberto Ortega Martín Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, and signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Pope Francis offers fervent prayers for the victims and their families, invoking God's mercy upon the dead and divine consolation upon those who suffer.”

The attack occurred at the football pitch where trophy ceremony being held and which was attended by many young boys. The AFP reports that 17 of those killed were boys between the ages of 10 and 16, according to a medical official.

The suicide bomber himself is said to have been a teenager, the BBC reports.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pope Francis “prays that in response to this act of senseless violence the Iraqi people will be strengthened in their resolve to reject the ways of hatred and conflict and to work together fearlessly for a future of mutual respect, solidarity and freedom.”