Manila churches could cancel services over terrorism threat

Filipino cardinal Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato has condemned as an act of “terrorism” a bomb explosion outside a Catholic church in the southern Philippines which injured three people. The attack took place as Mass-goers were leaving Our Lady of Hope Church on Sunday, 27th November, the first Sunday of Advent. 

The cardinal said the bombing in the town of Esperanza in the southern province of Sultan Kudarat was “made worse because of the sacredness of the place, the sacredness of the day, and the sacredness of the event that had just taken place.” Quevado described the bombing as “an attack on innocent human lives [and] an attack on freedom to worship” and urged the security forces to bring those responsible to justice. 

Superintendent Romeo Galgo, a regional police spokesman, said intelligence officials believed the homemade bomb was intended to divert attention from the army’s military offensive against the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Police and military checkpoints have been set up around the province. 

The day after the church bombing, another bomb was found near the US embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila and detonated safely. Another group that has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State was believed to have been behind the foiled bombing.The same week nine members of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team were injured after their convoy was hit by an explosive device. Police have now erected checkpoints around Manila to prevent further attacks.

Following the recent spate of terrorist attacks clergy in Manila warned they could cancel Masses because of the heightened threat of attacks. Fr Jerome Secillano of the public affairs committee of the Catholic bishops’ conference stated “The church, for practical purposes, will be more than willing to suspend any liturgical activity if there are threats to the safety of churchgoers.”

In August Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, a missionary priest involved in interfaith dialogue, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that Christians were “living in fear, terrified to speak out” and leaving the region because of the more violent form of Islam that was spreading there.  He added that behind the current complex situation there are hidden geopolitical and military interests.

ACN Malta