Nigeria church massacre: Pope Francis mourns victims of ‘unspeakable violence’

Pope Francis prays with journalists on the papal flight en route to South Korea August 14 2014 Credit Alan Holdren CNA CNA 8 14 14 Pope Francis prays with journalists on a papal flight August 14, 2014. | Alan Holdren.

Pope Francis has expressed his “spiritual closeness” to Nigerian Catholics mourning the victims of a massacre at a church on Pentecost Sunday.

A telegram sent on the pope’s behalf said that he was praying “for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence.”

In the June 5 attack, unidentified gunmen reportedly opened fire on Catholic worshipers attending Pentecost celebrations at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, in southwestern Nigeria.

Initial reports suggested that more than 50 people were killed, including children, and others injured. Reuters reported on June 6 that there was no official death toll.

The papal telegram, released on June 6, was sent to Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It said: “His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific attack at St. Francis Church in Owo, and he 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, His Holiness prays for the conversion of those blinded by hatred and violence so that they will choose instead the path of peace and righteousness.”

“Upon you and the faithful of the diocese, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength as you continue to live the Gospel message with fidelity and courage.”

The Vatican also released a statement on June 5 after Pope Francis was informed of the attack.

“The pope learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, and the death of dozens of faithful, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost,” said Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See press office.

“While the details of the incident are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and for the country, painfully affected in a moment of celebration, and entrusts both to the Lord, to send his Spirit to comfort them.”

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