Pope Francis sent his condolences to the families of the victims of a bombing of a state university in the Southern Philippines on December 3, while a Sunday Mass was being held.
During his Angelus message, the Holy Father said: “I would also like to assure the victims in the Philippines where there was a bomb that exploded during Mass.”
“I am very close to the families of Mindanao who have suffered so much because of this,” he also said.
The explosion in the gymnasium of Mindanao State University, located in the Muslim-dominated City of Marawi, killed at least four people and injured more than 40 others.
In 2017, the same city was the center stage of a five-month conflict, when Islamic State-linked Maute group took control of Marawi City. This killed more than a thousand people and displaced around 300,000 more.
Pope Francis also expressed his solidarity with Filipinos during this time, telling Ozamis Archbishop Martin Jumoad: “I know you suffered a lot. I know, I know and for that I pray for you and for your people.”
In a press conference regarding the recent bombing, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said there were “strong indications of a foreign element” in the attack.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces Chief Romeo Brawner explained that the bombing might be a “retaliatory attack” from pro-Islamic State militants.
The day before the bombing, the Philippine military confirmed they killed 11 militants, including members of the pro-Islamic State group Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines, during an operation in the Province of Maguindanao del Sur.
To ensure the peace and security, police offices in Mindanao and the capital region were placed on high alert. Police and coast guard checkpoints were tightened as well to prevent any follow-up incidents of the same nature.
Mindanao State University has also suspended classes until further notice.
The leadership of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and former Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo also denounced the attack. - Luke Godoy
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