Sourced from UCA News by Tracy Cabrera
Suicide bomb attack rocks Indonesian cathedral on Palm Sunday
The destroyed motorbike used by suspected terrorists in the suicide bombing attack at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Makassar in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. (Photo supplied)
VATICAN CITY, ROME — Following a suicide bomb attack at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, Indonesia on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis is inviting prayers for the victims who were injured and even the two suspected terrorists who died and staged the bombings.
The pontiff said that such serious attacks should never be condoned as it endangers the lives of many innocent people who are not involved in any political or religious act of discrimination but are rather contemplating on the passion of Christ on the special occasion of Lent amidst the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic.
Pope Francis stressed the importance of prayers in this time of crisis so that conversion would come to those who have great influence in the state of world affairs.
Initial reports from Makassar in Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province staged the attack at the cathedral’s gate, shattering the calm of Palm Sunday mass and leaving two bombers dead and at least 20 people wounded.
The two bombers tried to enter the churchyard but a security guard stopped them.
“We were suspicious because two perpetrators riding a motorbike tried to get into the churchyard but our security guard stopped them and several seconds later the bomb exploded,” Father Wilhelmus Tulak, who witnessed the incident told reporters after the bombing.
Father Tulak, the parish priest of the cathedral in Makassar Archdiocese, added that after the bomb exploded he found the destroyed motorcycle used by the suspected terrorists scattered at the cathedral’s front gate as well as human body parts, apparently the remains of the suicide bombers.
Five cathedral security guards and several congregation members suffered burns and injuries from the blast but nobody else was killed.
South Sulawesi police chief Merdisyam said the bomb was a high explosive that injured many people and they were treated at several hospitals in the city.
“We have coordinated with church leaders in the province to tighten security during Holy Week masses until Easter so such an incident doesn’t happen again,” Merdisyam disclosed.
Makassar Archdiocese judicial vicariate Fr. Fransiskus Nipa condemned the incident but called on churchgoers to remain calm.
“We handed over the case to the security forces,” he said, adding that masses will still continue during Holy Week to Easter.
Cardinal Ignatius Suharto, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, also condemned the attack.
“The bomb blast doesn’t only hurt Catholics but also all Indonesian people and humanity,” the prelate told the media.
“May the incident encourage all of us tirelessly to build true fraternity among fellow citizens of the nation. We leave it to security officers to handle the case well to protect all people,” he said.
Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, conveyed his condolences to the victims of the latest terrorist attack in Indonesia.
“All people should remain calm and not be afraid but alert,” he stressed even as he expressed deep regret over the attack that happened when Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday mass.
Anwar Abbas, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulama Council, likewise decried the blast as an attack on humanity and said it cannot be tolerated because it contradicted all religious values.
“The security office should uncover the motive of the perpetrator and mastermind as well as not relate the incident to religion,” Abbas noted.
Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, tied the attackers to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which is affiliated with the Islamic State. The terror group bombed three churches in Surabaya, East Java, in 2018 and a cathedral in Jolo in the southern Philippines in 2019.
Riyanta alleged that the incident could be connected to the arrest of dozens of terrorists in several regions in the country by the police anti-terror squad since January.
President Joko Widodo condemned the incident and said terrorism is a crime against humanity.
“I ask society to stay calm and to continue holding worship services because the state ensures religious people’s life,” Widodo said.
The Indonesia chief executive ordered national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo to investigate the case immediately.
Prabowo and Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, immediately visited the explosion site as well as the injured victims to offer them comfort and give assurances that the authorities will initiate all efforts to go after the perpetrators. (AI/MTVN)