A Nigerian priest based in Scotland said he fears for the safety of Catholics in his homeland after fifty people were killed at Mass on Sunday.
Pope Francis has led Catholics around the world in praying for the victims of the terror attack, which included several children.
As the Church celebrated Pentecost Sunday, gunmen entered St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Nigeria, and opened fire on worshippers.
In a message to the local bishop the Pope said he was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific attack and ‘assures you and all those affected by this act of unspeakable violence of his spiritual closeness.”
“In commending the souls of the dead to the loving mercy of Almighty God and imploring divine healing and consolation upon the injured and those who are grieving,” the Pope went on. ”I pray for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence so that they will choose instead the path of peace and righteousness.”
Fr. James Anyaegbu, a Nigerian priest now based at St Mary’s parish, Beauly in the Diocese of Aberdeen said ‘the Church is supposed to be a safe haven, not a killing ground but those massacres have caused a severe wound that’ll take time to heal in the hearts of many.
“Unfortunately those who are supposed to see to the security of lives and properties of Nigerians are now busy planning how to rig elections,” he went on. “How did we get here? Who do we run to for help? How can we tell this story, that a family woke up, dressed up & went to Church to praise God saw to their end in a gruesome manner unprovoked.
Where’s even safe now in Nigeria?”
Archbishop Lucius Ugorji, president of the Nigerian Catholic bishops’ conference, made a similar lament.
“Nowhere seems to be safe again in our country; not even the sacred precincts of a church,” he said. “We condemn in the strongest terms the spilling of innocent blood in the house of God. The criminals responsible for such a sacrilegious and barbaric act demonstrate their lack of the sense of the sacred and the fear of the God.”
The identity of the attackers is still unknown and It is not yet clear how many people have died and or were injured. The church, which is one of the biggest parishes in its diocese, can hold up to 1,200 people and was It was full at the time of the attack.
Nigeria has experienced an increase in violence in recent months. Just two weeks ago, two priests were kidnapped. in the north of the country. They have not been released.
Caption: Security forces inspect the St Francis Xavier’s church in the aftermath of the attack.