ROME — Suspected Islamic terrorists bombed a Catholic Mass at Mindanao State University in southern Philippines on Sunday, killing at least four and wounding dozens more.
The explosion took place in Marawi, the country’s largest Muslim city, on the first Sunday of Advent, the Christian season of preparation for the feast of Christmas marking Jesus’ birth.
Regional police Chief Allan Nobleza said that the blast, which came from a grenade or an improvised explosive device (IED), may have been a vendetta after a Philippine military airstrike on Friday killed 11 Islamist militants from the Dawlah Islamiyah-Philippines organization in Mindanao.
Officials from Mindanao State University condemned “the act of violence,” saying the institution stands “in solidarity with our Christian community and all those affected by this tragedy.”
A general view shows a gymnasium after a bomb attack at Mindanao State University in Marawi, Lanao del sur province on December 3, 2023. (MERLYN MANOS/AFP via Getty Images)
Injured people are treated at Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi, Lanao del sur province, after a bomb attack during a Catholic mass at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium. (MERLYN MANOS/AFP via Getty Images)
The governor of the Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao, Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr., denounced the “violent bombing” as an assault on the “right to religion.”
“Terroristic attacks on educational insitutions [sic] must also be condemned because these are places that promote the culture of peace and mold our youth to be the future shapers of this country.”
Army Major General Gabriel Viray III also defined the attack at the Mindanao State University “a terror act,” noting that security forces are on “heightened alert” as they try to determine the motive and identify the perpetrators of the attack.
For his part, Pope Francis sent a telegram saying he was “deeply saddened” by news of the attack, assuring his “spiritual closeness” to all affected by the bombing.
The pontiff said he was commending the souls of those who died to “almighty God’s loving mercy” while imploring “the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”
A military personnel (L) talks to one of the injured people being treated at Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi, Lanao del sur province, after a bomb attack during a Catholic mass at Mindanao State University’s gymnasium. (MERLYN MANOS/AFP via Getty Images)
Francis also pledged prayers that “Christ the Prince of Peace will grant to all the strength to turn from violence and overcome every evil with good.”
According to eyewitnesses, the explosion took place during the first Bible reading at Sunday’s Mass, a text from the book of the Prophet Isaiah urging God to come to the aid of his people.
“Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage,” the text reads. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you.”