The St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, on Sunday, witnessed massive attendance of worshippers as the facility was reopened for religious activities after the June 5, 2022 massacre by suspected terrorists, Peoples Gazette reports.
The Church was reopened for Easter service as a mark of honour to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jude Arogundade, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ondo, presided over the Sunday service amid tight security.
Last June, gunmen stormed the Catholic Church, located at Owaluwa Street in Owo on Sunday morning, and opened fire on the congregants.
The assailants, who disguised themselves as worshippers, during the violent attack detonated explosives which killed and maimed both old and young congregants.
No less than 41 worshippers were killed during the attack.
Speaking while reopening the Church which was filled to the brim, Mr Arogundade said the building was rededicated to God for his blessing and mercy.
He recalled that the Catholic Church was “desecrated” by bandits “who felt no one should worship Christ at the facility.”
“But we come here again today to open this place (church) of worship and to ask God for his mercy and forgiveness for those who have carried out this heinous attack that led to the death of 41 people.
“So, we dedicate and bless this church for the use of the people of God, knowing that we are to exist to resist the work of evil,” he said during the Sunday service.
Some of the worshippers who spoke prayed that the calamity which befell the church and the state as a whole during last year’s violent attack would never happen again.
“We appreciate God for another year and pray that the souls of the departed rest in peace. It’s not been easy since the church had been under lock and key but we can only bless his name,” Hannah Odungwe, one of the worshippers said.
St Francis Catholic Church is located in Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s hometown of Owo.
The Owo massacre jolted Nigeria and the global community, attracting public outcry and condemnation from local and international organisations.
Last month, Mr Akeredolu announced the construction of a ‘Memorial Park’ to honour victims of the massacre.
He explained that the park was being built as a mark of respect that would also allow the state to always commemorate the souls of the departed worshippers, adding that his administration was determined not to forget those who were massacred by the gunmen.
“For us, we are determined not to forget the souls that have departed. They were 41 in number. And others that are still nursing the wounds, although they have gone back to their homes, have been discharged, and some of them are outpatients.
“So, for us, it is just a way of remembering those 41 souls that died,” Mr Akeredolu had said.
In August last year, the Nigerian military hierarchy announced the arrest of four suspects believed to be masterminders of the Owo massacre.