Marawi (Agenzia Fides) - Early this morning, December 3, a terrorist attack hit the Filipino Catholic community on the island of Mindanao, in one of the predominantly Muslim provinces. An explosive device was detonated during the Eucharist celebration on the first Sunday of Advent in a sports hall at the Mindanao State University in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province. The mass began at 7 a.m. local time. The attack claimed at least four lives and injured at least 42 people.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos immediately condemned the attack, calling it a "senseless act by foreign terrorists".
Photos posted on the Lanao del Sur government's Facebook page show overturned plastic chairs and a black mark on the floor of the gymnasium where the mass was held.
The Mayor of Marawi, Majul Gandamra appealed to his fellow Christians and Muslims to stand together in the face of the terrorist attack, which is intended to incite hatred and feelings of revenge between different communities. “Our city,” said the Mayor, “has long been a symbol of peaceful coexistence and harmony, and we will not allow these acts of violence to overshadow our shared commitment to peace and unity.”
Last Friday, the Philippine military killed eleven Islamist fighters from the “Dawlah Islamiya-Philippine” organization in Mindanao in an operation. The investigation initiated by the police is therefore based on the hypothesis that the attack in the university sports hall was a kind of reprisal after the military operation two days earlier.
During the Angelus, Pope Francis also wanted to assure his prayer “for the victims of the attack that occurred this morning in the Philippines, where a bomb exploded during Mass. I am close to the famiglie, and the people of Mindanao, who have already suffered so much”, the Pope said
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a telegram of condolences for the victims of the attack to the head of the Marawi Territorial Prelature, Bishop Edwin Angot de la Peña, on behalf of Pope Francis.
In the telegram, Pope Francis asked that his spiritual closeness be conveyed to “all those affected by this tragedy.” He commends “the souls of the dead to the loving mercy of Almighty God.”
In the message, the Pope the Pope invokes "the divine gifts of healing and consolation for the wounded and mourning, combined with the prayer that Christ, the Prince of Peace, may give all the strength to turn away from violence and to replace all evil with good" (Cf. Rom 12,21).
On the island of Mindanao, in the predominantly Catholic south of the archipelago, there lives a large Muslim community of around 6 million people who have in the past demanded forms of autonomy and independence and - after decades that were also marked by conflicts and armed uprisings - achieved the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, includes the Islamic-majority provinces.
The city of Marawi was controlled by an organization linked to the Islamic State in 2017 and was subsequently devastated after a siege by the military. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 3/12/2023)