“It is not normal and this has never happened in our country before,” said Joachim Wangabo, executive secretary of Caritas Tanzania, in a May 6 interview with CNA.
“The government says it is associated with Muslim terrorists, but it is necessary to know why it happened,” he stated.
The attack happened May 5 as parishioners were beginning a Mass to officially open the new Saint Joseph’s Catholic parish in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha.
According to Wangabo, the government officially reported that one woman died and 60 people were injured.
Magesa Mulongo, the Arusha regional commissioner, told AFP May 6 that six people had been arrested for the attack, two Tanzanians and four Saudis.
The bomb was thrown from a motorcycle into the church, according to eyewitnesses, and officials said the driver was arrested.
The attack happened despite heavy security for the inauguration of the church.
But the Caritas official noted that recent incidents, including one in Zanzibar where a Catholic priest was shot in the head and another where buildings were set on fire, were “not like this.”
“We are very much shocked because it is the first time this happened in a church, when people were about to start praying and the Mass was about to begin,” explained Wangabo, who is based in Dar es Salaam.
According to the executive secretary, Catholics will react “with an official statement by the president of the episcopal bishops’ conference, which has not yet been released.
“Caritas is waiting for information from the archdiocese so we can give our response,” Wangabo explained.
Caritas Tanzania is a Catholic charity that coordinates with 29 diocesan offices throughout the country.
The Pope’s representative to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, escaped unhurt from the explosion.
“I would like to express my solidarity to the Archbishop of Arusha and to the whole Catholic community of Arusha, for the very sad event that happened,” said Archbishop Padilla.
“The attack should not have happened because it was a celebration of joy, of opening a new church, a new parish,” he told Vatican Radio in an interview published on May 6.
Archbishop Padilla said he is praying for “the victims who have died and those who are wounded, some of them very gravely.”
“I pray that peace will always reign, that violence would not be the way to resolve tensions,” he stated.
“This is my hope, and I hope that I can also contribute to the continuance of peaceful coexistence in this country, which has always been there in the last many years,” he said.
A top official with the charity Caritas Tanzania says a Sunday attack on a new Catholic parish was the first of its kind for the East African country.
Persecuted Christians, Church in Africa