Pope Francis expresses his condolences for the victims of a terror attack on a Catholic Church in Nigeria’s southwestern Ondo State which killed over 50 people, including several children.
By Devin Watkins & Salvatore Cernuzio
As the Church celebrated Pentecost Sunday, gunmen entered St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Nigeria and opened fire on worshippers.
Initial reports suggest the attackers also set off explosives during the attack in Ondo State.
In response, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the victims and sent his prayers.
The Pope “prays for the victims and for the country, painfully attacked at a time of celebration, and he entrusts everyone to the Lord, that God might send His Spirit to console them,” said Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, on Sunday.
Dozens dead and wounded
Local doctors told Reuters news agency that at least 50 people were killed in the attack.
Dozens of others were wounded and taken to hospitals in Owo. Doctors have appealed for blood donations on social media.
Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, of the Diocese of Ondo, expressed his closeness to the victims and their families, according to Fr. Augustine Ikwu, the Communications Director for the diocese.
Fr. Ikwu said fears are rising that many more people may die from their wounds, and lamented that the Church had been “violated.”
He denied initial reports on social media that the attackers had kidnapped the priest and other members of the congregation.
“All the priests in the parish are safe and none was kidnapped,” said Fr. Ikwu in a press release. “The Bishop of the Diocese is also with them at this trying time.” He added that the Bishop also urges Catholics to “remain calm, be law abiding, and pray for peace and normalcy to return to our commuity, state, and country.”
Prayers for peace
Fr. Ikwu said the identity of the attackers remains unknown, but that Nigerian security forces have been deployed in the area surrounding the church in Owo.
He also invoked God’s help to restore “peace and tranquility” in the country.
“We turn to God to console the families of those whose lives were lost in this distressing incident, and pray for the dparted souls to rest in peace,” he said.
President Buhari’s response
Meanwhile, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement in response to the attack.
He expressed condolences for the families of the victims, and ordered emergency agencies to assist the injured.
“No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people, and darkness will never overcome light. Nigeria will eventually win,” read the President’s statement.