An attack at a catholic church in Ozubulu, Anambra state, saw gunmen open fire against the faithful while Sunday Mass was being celebrated, killing at least 11 people.
Following the tragic incident, the Vatican’s Secretary of State sent a telegram to the local bishop saying that Pope Francis was “deeply saddened” to learn about the loss of life following the “violent attack in the Saint Philip’s Catholic Church.”
Pope Francis on Monday extended his “heartfelt condolences” to the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi in Nigeria, where at least 11 people were killed and another 18 critically wounded when gunmen attacked a church in the country’s southeastern Anambra state.
“Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip’s Catholic Church, Ozubulu, His Holiness Pope Francis extends heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy,” says the telegram signed by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Addressed to the local Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke, Parolin also wrote that Francis “willingly invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength.”
The details of the attack remain unclear. On Sunday, Garba Umar, police commissioner of Anambra state, said it was one gunman who was responsible for the attack, but according to The Associated Press, a parishioner, Uche Nonoso, said there were two. He also put the death toll at 15.
Following the attack, Father Hygi Aghaulor, spokesman of the diocese, said that the event was a sign of loss of what is sacred: “What on earth would make people open fire on innocent unarmed worshipers including children and women on a Sunday morning?”
“We condemn this ungodly act in its totality; we pray Almighty God to console the families affected and assure them that our hearts are with them as we pray for the quick recovery of the wounded,” he said.
According to local news reports, he also urged the parishioners not to let this event discourage their usual practice of faith.
“It is when the forces of darkness attempt to overshadow goodness that the light of God shines even brighter than ever just as it happened on Easter Sunday,” he said. “Evil may make attempts but God and goodness will always triumph; we call on the good people to continue to pray for the deceased worshipers and their families.”