In this March 11, 2019 file photo, worshipers are shown in this photo from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation lighting candles in the Jolo cathedral on the 40th day since the attack.
Handout photo via John Unson, file
A year after the Jolo Cathedral bombing, a call for prayers and for unity
John Unson (Philstar.com) - January 29, 2020 - 11:46am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Christians in Sulu province prayed together for their safety amid the somber commemoration of the first anniversary of the Jolo cathedral bombing that killed 26 people.

There has not been any closure yet to the January 27, 2019 attack that also injured 116 other churchgoers.

Monsignor Romeo Saniel, apostolic administrator of the Vicariate of Jolo, on Wednesday called on Catholics in Sulu to continue praying for the full recovery of surviving blast victims from injuries and trauma.

Jolo is the capital of Sulu, an island province that the police and military have been trying to clear of the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

The Abu Sayyaf operates in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"One year is like yesterday for those who lost loved ones. No words we offer or deeds we do can ever truly remove the pain of their absence. The victims still demand for justice. Concerned Christians and Muslims cry out never again," Saniel said in a statement.

Saniel, who belongs to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, said Pope Francis had instructed them to care for the people injured in the bombing and to prevent the incident from causing animosity among Sulu's Muslim and Christian residents.

He said the Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in downtown Jolo has been restored with the help of benefactors.

"We assisted the victims in terms of cash assistance, hospitalization, initial trauma healing, scholarships, and housing," Saniel said.

Saniel said Sulu's Catholic religious sector is also extensively involved in continuing interfaith dialogues promoting Muslim-Christian solidarity. The Jolo Vicariate's peace-building program is focused on workshops on countering violent extremism and on respect and cooperation among religious sectors.

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