(Vatican Radio) A Catholic cathedral in southern Philippines celebrated its first Mass on Sunday, four months after an attack by a terrorist group linked to the Islamic State.
The Maute militants attacked St. Mary's Cathedral of the Territorial Prelature of Marawi in the island of Mindanao on May 23, sparking a conflict with security forces that has devastated the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi. Since then the province of Lanao del Sur has been under martial law.
During Sunday’s Mass, celebrating the feast of St. Teresa of Lisieux, the patron of the Philippine army, sounds of gunfire and explosions could heard in the background of prayers and hymns. Sunlight filtered into the cathedral through the holes in the bullet –damaged walls and tin roof. A military chaòlain celebrated the Mass for at least 300 soldiers in uniform. The building was liberated on August 28 by the army.
A total of 749 militants have been killed by government forces since May, while 155 army men have been killed in action. The army said it will take a little more time to put an end to the siege of Marawi. They say are still over 40 hostages in the hands of the terrorists.
Father Teresito ‘Chito’ Suganob, vicar-general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff of the cathedral were taken hostage by the militants on May 23. He along with several others were rescued by the Philippine army on Sept. 16. At the time of the attack, Bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi was away in a mission station.