AN urgent appeal for prayers for the victims of the January 27, 2019, terrorist attack on a cathedral in the Philippines has been made by the leader of the local Catholic community.
Two bombs exploded during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.
In a message to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Romeo Saniel, Apostolic Administrator of Jolo, said: “Please pray for the victims of Mount Carmel Cathedral bombing in Jolo.
“No words can describe the sorrow and pain that we feel these days. May they be given justice in God’s time.
“I know that the friends of the victims – both Muslims and Christians – are mourning and in deep sorrow today.
“Pray also pray for the families of our young soldiers who died while securing the cathedral.”
Fr. Saniel added: “Most of those who died were our regular Sunday 8 am Mass-goers.”
A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ statement on the bombings also expressed condolences to the families of the civilians and soldiers who were killed. Pope Francis also condemned the attack and offered prayers for the victims in remarks following the Sunday Angelus.
According to local Church sources, the first blast went off at 08.45am local time (00.45 GMT), while Mass was being said.
As soldiers responded to the incident, a second explosion took place in the car park, where Mass-goers had gathered following the first detonation.
Initial reports suggest the second bomb was hidden inside the toolbox of a motorcycle.
Following an examination of the bomb sites earlier today (Monday, 28th January), police chief Oscar Albayalde said that the devices could have been set off by a mobile phone.
Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.
Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.
The cathedral attack came within a week of a referendum in which the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao voted for greater autonomy.