Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims of a bomb explosion that wounded at least 19 people at a Catholic church in Indonesia on March 28.
“Let us pray for all the victims of violence, especially those of this morning’s attack in Indonesia, in front of the Cathedral of Makassar,” the pope said at the end of his Sunday Angelus in the Vatican.
The pope was speaking just hours after the explosion outside the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province.
Two suicide bombers believed to be members of an Islamist militant group are understood to behind the attack.
Father Wilhelmus Tulak, who celebrated the Mass, said the explosion occurred about 10.30 am when the Mass was about to finish.
Makassar is the fifth-largest urban center in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
About 10 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s more than 270 million population is Christian. There are an estimated eight million Indonesian Catholics.
The country’s President Joko Widodo condemned the bomb attack and prayed for the swift recovery for those injured.
“I strongly condemn these acts of terrorism,” Widodo said in a statement.
“I have ordered the police chief to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators’ networks and uncover the networks to their roots,” said the president.
“I invite all members of society to jointly fight terrorism and radicalism, which are against our religious values and noble values as a nation that upholds divine values and upholds the values of diversity,” he added.
Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told Reuters that the bombers were both believed to belong to the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which is suspected of suicide attacks on churches and a police post that killed at least 30 people in the city of Surabaya in 2018.
At least 20 suspected JAD members were arrested in January. The group is also believed to have been involved in a bomb attack on a Philippine church in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.
“They are part of that group … They carried out the attack with a pressure cooker bomb,” said Listyo.
Police said the suspects had tried to enter the church’s grounds on a motorbike. Security camera footage showed a blast that blew flame, smoke and debris into the middle of the road.
“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” said Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas.
Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday.
Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. – With Reuters