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First mass held at St. Mary's since Marawi crisis began

Catholic soldiers and police hear mass at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City, the first held there since May 23. Courtesy of Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay/Westmincom
LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Muslim military and police personnel stood guard on Sunday as their Catholic comrades attended mass in a church that terrorists occupied when they laid siege to Marawi City on May 23.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command told The STAR via mobile phone Monday that Capt. Alfredo Era, Jr. led the Sunday mass at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, the first held there since the May 23 outbreak of hostilities in Marawi City.
Era is the assistant division chaplain of the Army’s 1st Infantry "Tabak" Division.
Maute terrorists vandalized the worship site on May 23 and abducted parish priest Teresito “Chito” Suganob and 11 worshipers they used as shields to prevent pursuing government forces from getting close.
The walls and the roof of the cathedral were dotted with bullet holes as a result of the encounters between soldiers and combined Maute gunmen and Abu Sayyaf bandits.
“We are thankful to the Muslim state security people who secured the cathedral tightly while their Catholic companions were inside to hear mass,” Galvez said.
Among those who provided security to the worshipers were Muslim members of units under the Police Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The chief of the Marawi city police, Superintendent Ebra Moxir, is an Islamic theologian.
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the ARMM’s 24-seat Regional Assembly said on Monday that the successful clearing of areas in Marawi City that Maute terrorists occupied were achieved through the joint efforts of combined Army and police units with mixed Muslim and Christian personnel.
“That alone will show that there is no Muslim-Christian conflict here. This is something between peace-loving Muslims and Christians against a group of misguided militants,” said Adiong, spokesman of the Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management committee.
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