The destroyed motorbike of the suicide bombers at the main gate of Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province on Palm Sunday. (Photo supplied)
A suicide bomb attack on a Catholic cathedral compound in the Indonesian city of Makassar shattered the calm of Palm Sunday Mass, leaving two bombers dead and at least 20 people wounded.
A destroyed motorbike and the body parts of a man and a woman were found in the location after they attacked the main gate of Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral around 10.30am on March 28.
The two bombers tried to enter the churchyard but a security guard stopped them.
“We were suspicious because two perpetrators riding a motorbike tried to get into the churchyard but our security guard stopped them and several seconds later the bomb exploded,” Father Wilhelmus Tulak, a witness of the incident, told UCA News.
Father Tulak, parish priest of the cathedral in Makassar Archdiocese, said that after the bomb exploded he found body parts in front of the cathedral.
He said five cathedral security guards and several congregation members suffered burns and injuries from the blast but nobody was killed.
South Sulawesi police chief Merdisyam said the bomb was a high explosive that injured many people and they were treated at several hospitals in the city.
“We have coordinated with church leaders in the province to tighten security during Holy Week Masses until Easter so such an incident doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Father Fransiskus Nipa, judicial vicariate of the archdiocese, condemned the incident and called on Catholics to remain calm.
“We handed over the case to the security forces,” he said, adding that Masses will be held during Holy Week to Easter.
Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, president of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, also condemned the attack.
“The bomb blast doesn’t only hurt Catholics but also all Indonesian people and humanity,” the prelate told UCA News.
“May the incident encourage all of us tirelessly to build true fraternity among fellow citizens of the nation. We leave it to security officers to handle the case well to protect all people.”
Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, conveyed his condolences to the victims.
“All people should remain calm and not be afraid but alert,” he said, adding that he regretted the attack happened when Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday Mass.
Anwar Abbas, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulama Council, decried the blast as an attack on humanity and said it cannot be tolerated because it contradicted religious values.
“The security office should uncover the motive of the perpetrator and mastermind as well as not relate the incident to religion,” he said.
Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, tied the attackers to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which is affiliated to Islamic State. The terror group bombed three churches in Surabaya, East Java, in 2018 and a cathedral in Jolo in the southern Philippines in 2019.
He said the incident was connected to the arrest of dozens of terrorists in several regions in the country by the police anti-terror squad since January.
President Joko Widodo condemned the incident and said terrorism is a crime against humanity.
"I ask society to stay calm and to continue holding worship services because the state ensures religious people's life," he said.
He ordered national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo to investigate the case immediately.
Prabowo and Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, visited the explosion site and victims on March 28.
Pope Francis invited prayers for the victims at the end of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.