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Pope Francis Prays for Victims of Bombing of Catholic Mass in the Philippines…

Pope Francis Prays for Victims of Bombing of Catholic Mass in the Philippines…

Bishop Edwin Angot de la Peña, the head of the territorial prelature of Marawi, has said that the victims were four Catholic students who were leaders and volunteers in the university’s Catholic community. The bishop added on Dec. 4 that out of the 54 people injured in the bombing, seven were still in the hospital in critical condition. 

“They hit us in the heart, that is, during the Eucharist, the highest moment of our faith. There is so much fear now, but faith accompanies us and supports us. Even in this moment of tribulation, we feel the presence of the Lord,” de la Peña told Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The bishop also commented on the prompt and widespread solidarity and closeness expressed by local Muslim communities in the wake of the attack.

“Even the first responders, who transported the injured to the hospital, and the doctors themselves, all people of the Muslim faith, gave us concrete help and have been spent on the injured. Others are supporting the families of the victims,” he said. “These gestures give us hope and tell us that this brutal and senseless violence will not have the last word, it will not succeed in demolishing the good works built over many years.”

The head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Romeo Brawner, has said that he suspects the bombing could have been a retaliatory attack for recent military operations against the local extremist groups, Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute and Abu Sayyaf, both of which have links to the Islamic State.

As a precaution after the bombing, de la Peña has asked local Catholics to stay home on the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary will still be carried through the streets Friday to mark the solemnity, but instead of the usual crowded procession, Catholics have been asked to place candles in their windows and pray the rosary at home.

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