By Tablet Staff
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Dozens of people were killed when gunmen stormed a Catholic Church in southwestern Nigeria and shot into a crowd of parishioners attending Pentecost Sunday Mass on June 5, according to various media reports.
Local lawmakers told reporters that at least 50 people died in the attack, which took place at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, a city located approximately 215 miles from Lagos, the country’s largest city.
The victims included children, according to lawmakers.
Details of the attack were sparse and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved, but initial reports indicated that the attackers arrived at the church on motorcycles and started shooting sporadically into a crowd of worshipers.
At press time, no group was taking responsibility for the deadly attack. Owo is located in the Ondo State of Nigeria.
The Catholic Diocese of Ondo issued a statement on Facebook confirming the attack. The diocese described the community as being “devastated” by the incident.
“It is so sad to say that while the Holy Mass was going on, men of unknown origin wielding guns attacked St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, Ondo State. Many are feared dead and many others injured and the church violated,” the statement read.
The statement also sought to assure the public that the parish’s priests were safe in the wake of the attack and that the bishop of the diocese was with them.
Pope Francis was informed of the attack, according to the Holy See, which issued a statement expressing the Pontiff’s concern.
“The Pope has learned of the attack on the church in Ondo, Nigeria, and the deaths of dozens of worshipers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost. While the details are being clarified, Pope Francis prays for the victims and the country, painfully affected at a time of celebration, and entrusted them both to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them,” the statement read.