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In Nigeria, deadly violence hits faithful at Mass
"This attack is terribly inhuman and barbaric and we condemn the killings wholeheartedly."
By ACN staff
ARMED thugs drove their vehicle onto a parish compound early Sunday Aug 6, 2017, entered the church where faithful were gathered for 6AM Mass and opened fire. The target was a drug lord, who was absent. Instead, thirteen innocent worshippers were killed and 26 were gravely wounded among hundreds present.
The bloody incident took place in the Church of St. Philippe in the town of Ozubulu, Anambra State, in southern Nigeria.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a telegram to the local ordinary, Bishop Hilary Paoul Odili Okeke of Nnewi, conveying Pope Francis’s condolences. The message said that the Pope was “deeply saddened” for the victims of the “violent attack.”
Bishop Okeke, who read the telegram to the congregation at Mass in St. Philippe’s Church the day after the killings, told international Catholic papal agency Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that his faithful were “deeply touched by the gesture of the Pope to comfort them at such a tragic time.”
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, told Vatican Radio that “this attack is terribly inhuman and barbaric and we condemn the killings wholeheartedly.”
Tribal conflict fueled and worsened by drug trafficking has held a grip on Ozubulu and other towns in Anambra State. It is another dimension of the endemic hardships besetting a country struggling with poverty, corruption at all levels of society, the aftermath of the reign of Islamist terror in northeastern Nigeria and ongoing jihadist aggression against Christians in the country’s north and so-called Middle Belt.
“Aid to the Church in Need condemns in the strongest possible terms any attack that takes place in a house of worship,” said Edward Clancy, ACNUSA director of outreach, “and we join the Pope in solidarity and prayer for the victims of this senseless violence.” He added: “The Nigerian Church’s overriding objective is to create a culture of peace, a culture of life—its mission is to heal and protect all citizens.”
“Despite these attacks, Catholics in Nigeria will continue to be strong and committed Christians,” said Archbishop Kaigama. He concluded: “We urge them to be ready and willing to continue to show their commitment to Jesus through a life of witness.”