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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Owo located in Ondo State, Nigeria reports that a Whit Sunday massacre at St Francis’ Church saw at least 40 parishioners killed by gunmen.  Later reports say that at least two men have been arrested for the murders. The death toll is expected to rise.

Gunmen opened fire and also detonated explosives as worshippers gathered at St Francis Catholic Church in Ondo State, for Mass. They had disguised themselves as parishioners before using explosives and AK-47 rifles to kill their victims.

The report is as follows.

“Local doctors told Reuters that around 50 bodies had been moved to the Federal Medical Centre in Owo and to St Louis Catholic Hospital. Dozens of other injured people, including children have been taken to hospitals in Owo. Doctors have appealed for blood donations on social media.

“Fr Augustine Ikwu, Communications Director for Owo diocese, said in a statement that the attack has “left the community devastated”. “We turn to God to console the families of those whose lives were lost,” he said. Fr Ikwu said Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade, of the Diocese of Ondo, expressed his closeness to the victims and their families.

“Fr Ikwu said fears are rising that many more people may die from their injuries. But he denied initial news reports that the attackers had kidnapped the priest and other members of the congregation. “The priests are safe,” he told Vatican News. “and the bishop of the diocese is with them at this difficult time.” He said the bishop is appealing Catholics to “remain calm, respect the law, and pray for peace and normalcy to return.”

“On hearing the news, Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with the victims. Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said: “The Pope prays for the victims and for the country, painfully attacked at a time of celebration, and he entrusts everyone to the Lord, that God might send His Spirit to console them.”

“The Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said in a statement: “We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay.” He said the attack was “vile and satanic”.

“Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, condemned the “heinous killing of worshippers.” “No matter what, this country shall never give in to evil and wicked people and darkness will never overcome light,” he said.