Pope Francis

Pope Francis prays to ‘overcome evil with good’ after Marawi bombing

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope Francis prays to ‘overcome evil with good’ after Marawi bombing

PRAYER. Pope Francis recites the Angelus prayer at the Vatican, December 3, 2023.

Vatican Media/Reuters

Pope Francis sends a telegram of condolence to longtime Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña after the bombing in the Mindanao State University gym during Sunday Mass

MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis prayed that all might “turn from violence and overcome every evil with good” after the bombing in a university gymnasium while a Mass was being held on Sunday, December 3, in Marawi City. 

The Pope relayed this message in a telegram sent to Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña through the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The telegram was published by the Vatican on its website Sunday evening. 

“Deeply saddened to be informed of the injuries and loss of life caused by the bombing that took place during the celebration of the Holy Mass at Mindanao State University in Marawi, His Holiness Pope Francis asks you to convey his spiritual closeness to all affected by this tragedy,” Parolin told Dela Peña, who heads the Prelature of Marawi, on behalf of Francis.

At least four people died and at least 45 were injured after a bomb exploded during a Catholic Mass at the gym of the state-run Mindanao State University in Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines that was seized by terrorists linked to the Islamic State for five months in 2017. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the “senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists,” an attack that also drew statements of concern from the United States and the European Union.

MARAWI BLAST. A woman is carried away by rescuers from the scene of an explosion that occurred during a Catholic Mass in a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur province, Philippines, December 3, 2023 in this screengrab obtained from social media video.

Parolin told the Marawi bishop that the Pope “joins you in commending the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”

“With prayers that Christ the Prince of Peace will grant to all the strength to turn from violence and overcome every evil with good (cf. Rom. 12:21), His Holiness cordially imparts his blessing as a pledge of strength and consolation in the Lord,” Parolin said in the telegram to Dela Peña.

Dela Peña, 69, is a missionary priest who has served as bishop of Marawi for nearly 22 years, making him one of the country’s longest-serving prelates. For perspective, the politically influential Cardinal Jaime Sin served as Manila archbishop for 29 years – a situation avoided nowadays to ensure healthy transitions of power. Hardship assignments like Marawi, however, prove to be an exception.

Born in Siquijor, Dela Peña belongs to the Missionary Society of the Philippines and is a veteran of many crises in the local Catholic Church, including the 2017 kidnapping of Father Chito Soganub during the Marawi siege. Soganub, who was Dela Peña’s former right-hand-man, died in his sleep at the age of 59 in 2020.

Contrary to ‘all human and Islamic norms’

Earlier on Sunday, the Pope briefly mentioned the Marawi incident in his weekly Angelus address, alongside references to the crisis in Gaza and COP28.

“I would like to assure my prayers for the victims of the attack that occurred this morning in the Philippines, where a bomb exploded during Mass. I am close to the families, to the people of Mindanao who have already suffered so much,” said the Pope after leading the Angelus prayer on Sunday.

Both the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the United Imams of the Philippines (UIP) condemned the Marawi bombing.

CBCP president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David noted that the Marawi bombing happened on the First Sunday of Advent, which holds special significance for Catholics because it starts the traditional four-week preparation for Christmas. “Such violence should not only be denounced; it should also be renounced as a way of seeking redress by every peace-loving Filipino,” he said.

The Filipino imams said the bombing was contrary to “all human and Islamic norms.” The UIP said, “Terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts.”

While condemning the attack, however, the Council for Climate and Conflict Action Asia (CCAA) warned against a disturbing increase in hate speech in the wake of Sunday’s tragedy.

“Let us be vigilant but not vigilantes,” said the CCAA. “We also call for calm and reflection amidst attempts to polarize the situation and sow the seeds of a Muslim-Christian conflict.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com