Pope strongly condemns Jolo church attack
PANAMA CITY (UPDATE)–Pope Francis has expressed “firmest reproach” for the twin bombings inside a Catholic cathedral on Jolo island that killed at least 20 people, and is calling for those responsible to change their ways.
The pope said the “terrorist attack” was just the latest to hit the Christian community in the Philippines.
He also prayed for the dead and wounded during his Sunday blessing, delivered from Panama where he was wrapping up a youth festival.
“I raise my prayers for the dead and wounded. May the Lord, prince of peace, convert the hearts of the violent and give the inhabitants of that region a peaceful coexistence,” he said.
He expressed “the firmest reproach for this episode of violence.” He called for peace, for those responsible to change their ways and for serene cohabitation for Filipinos.
Once again, he said, “the Christian community has been plunged into mourning.”
Bishop Angelito Lampon, who previously served in Jolo, said Sunday’s attack may be the worst, but was certainly not the first on the church.
“In my 20 years there from 1998 to last week, there were seven hand grenades lobbed into our cathedral,” he told AFP. “Fortunately there was just a little damage and no casualties.”‘
Five soldiers, a member of the coast guard and 12 civilians were among the dead while 83 other people were wounded, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana.
The bombings took place on Jolo island, where Muslim militants are active.
Fr. Romeo Saniel, Apostolic Administrator of Jolo, said that most of those who died were his personal friends.
“They bravely stayed in Jolo in spite of the threats and insecurities. I believe they have died for their Christian faith,” Saniel in a news posted on CBCP News.
“No words can describe the sorrow and pain that we feel these days. May they be given justice in God’s time,” he said. “I know that the friends of the victims, both Muslims and Christians, are mourning and in deep sorrow today.”
Saniel was in Manila attending the bishops’ plenary assembly when the blasts happened.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, issuing a formal communique saying two suicide bombers had detonated explosive belts, according to the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities. Associated Press, Agence France-Presse
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