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Nigeria: 3 churches are targets of bomb attacks; Vatican condemns ‘absurd hatred’

Catholic World News - December 26, 2011

Dozens of worshippers were killed in Nigeria as bomb attacks targeted churches in three cities on Christmas Day. The Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out the attacks.

The deadliest of the incidents, which claimed at least 35 lives, took place at St. Theresa Catholic Church near Abuja, the nation’s capital, as worshippers were leaving Mass. “Some of the wounded, including one man whose entrails protruded from his body, ran toward a priest for final blessings,” Agence France Press reported.

Another bombing in Jos killed at least four; a third attack in the northeastern part of the country was unsuccessful.

“Regretfully the attacks at the Church of Saint Theresa in Abuja, timed to coincide with Christmas Day celebrations, are once again the expression of the cruelty of blind and absurd hatred devoid of any respect for human life and represent an attempt to generate and fuel further hatred and confusion,” said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.

“We express our closeness to the suffering of the Church and of all the Nigerian people who have been affected by violent terrorism even during these days that should be of joy and peace,” he added. “While we pray for the victims, we also express the hope that this senseless violence will not weaken the will for peaceful cohabitation and dialogue in the nation.”

At a midday public audience on December 26, Pope Benedict XVI decried the "senseless act" and offered his prayers for the countries that are "drenched with innocent blood" because of religious persecutions. Noting that the day was the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, the Pontiff spoke of all martyrs as being both "living witnesses" and "silent messengers" of the faith.

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