A Catholic bishop led a moment of silence Sunday at a gathering of Catholic communicators for the victims of an explosion that ripped through a congregation attending Mass at the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City.
Speaking at the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu in Mandaue City, Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit condemned the violence and requested a moment of prayer for the at least four people killed.
The MSU, in a statement, called attack “senseless and horrific” and assured support and assistance to those affected by the tragedy.
“We stand in solidarity with our Christian community and all those affected by this tragedy. We will not be deterred by this act of violence, and we will continue to work towards building a more peaceful and just MSU community,” it said.
The incident took place shortly after church leaders in the Philippines began a project urging Catholics to seek out the “New Martyrs” in the faith.
Monsignor Bernardino Pantin, the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said many Christians in various parts of the world face persecution for their “unwavering commitment to Christ.”
Speaking during the “Red Wednesday” Mass in the Manila Cathedral on Nov. 29, Pantin said many Christians endure hardships, discrimination, violence, and even death because they refuse to renounce their faith.
“Their courage in the face of adversity mirrors the steadfastness of Daniel and the early disciples,” he said.
The priest noted the Old Testament Book of Daniel featured the story of Belshazzar, a king who disregarded the Lord and used sacred vessels from the temple to indulge in worldly pleasures.
“In a shocking turn of events, a mysterious hand appeared and wrote on the wall, foretelling the downfall of the king and his kingdom. Despite seeking answers from wise men and enchanters, it was Daniel, a man of faith, who interpreted the writing and proclaimed the impending judgment upon the king,” Pantin said.
“Similarly, in the Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus forewarns His disciples about the challenges and persecutions they will face because of their allegiance to Him. He speaks of betrayal, persecution, and the endurance needed to withstand these trials. Jesus assures them that through their endurance, they will gain their souls,” he said.
The Philippines has the third highest population of Catholics in the world with more than 83 million.
On January 27, 2019, two bombs exploded during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Jolo, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 100 others, an attack claimed by Daesh (ISIS) affiliate Abu Sayyaf.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports that in the Philippines’ Mindanao archipelago, where many Muslims live, various Islamist terrorist groups have been active for years and radicalization and violence are increasing noticeably.
ACN says radicalization and violence are increasing noticeably and the Church seeks above all dialogue with moderate Muslims.
In his “Red Wednesday” Mass, Pantin called on Christians to remember those who have given up their lives for the faith “and lift up before the Lord those who continue to experience persecution, asking for His divine protection, strength, and consolation.”
“May we also be inspired by their faith and resilience in our own walk with Christ. Let us not take our religious freedom for granted but rather cherish and defend it, standing in solidarity with those who suffer for their faith,” the monsignor said.
Pope Francis recently established a Commission of New Martyrs – Witnesses of the Faith in the Dicastery for the Causes of the Saints.
“Martyrs are more numerous in our time than in the first centuries: They are bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, lay people and families, who in the different countries of the world, with the gift of their lives, have offered the supreme proof of charity,” Francis said.
For the 2025 Jubilee, the pope has tasked the Filipino bishops’ conference to compile a list of those who have shed their blood from 2000 to the present day due to violent opposition to the good brought by the Gospel, or even just because they were Christians.
Speaking in Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the latest attack in Marawi City, and, in a separate written message, appealed to “Christ the prince of peace (to) grant to all the strength to turn from violence and overcome every evil with good.”
The CBCP will be asking all the dioceses, religious congregations, and the different Catholic commissions to help in gathering data about the Filipinos or foreign missionaries who have been murdered for their faith so that they could be submitted to Rome in time for the Jubilee.
In his speech, Pantin noted the witness paid by these new martyrs.
“As we reflect on the courageous witness of persecuted Christians, let us remember that Jesus never promised a life free from difficulties. Instead, He assured us of His presence and strength to endure. The trials we face can be opportunities for us to deepen our faith and reliance on God’s grace,” he said.
“Let us pray that the persecutors may experience a conversion of heart and come to recognize the dignity and freedom of every human person, especially the freedom to practice one’s faith without fear. May the light of Christ shine brightly in the darkest corners of the world, bringing hope, healing, and peace.”