THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY of the Philippines has issued an appeal for prayers for the victims of the Jan. 27, 2019 terrorist attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo. Two bombs killed 20 people and wounded dozens more in the city located in the southern Philippines.
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. 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 or the families of our young soldiers who died while securing the cathedral. Most of those who died were our regular Sunday 8am Mass-goers.”
A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ statement also expressed condolences to the families of the civilians and soldiers who were killed.
According to local Church sources, the first blast went off at 08.45am local time, while Mass was being said. As soldiers responded to the incident, a second explosion took place in the parking lot, where Mass-goers had gathered following the first detonation. Initial reports suggest the second bomb was hidden inside the tool box of a motorcycle. Following an examination of the bomb sites, local police chief Oscar Albayalde said that the devices could have been set off by a mobile phone.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that closed-circuit camera footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible. Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to ISIS. 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.