- The identity and motive of the attackers were not immediately clear
- Attacks such as this are rare in Nigeria’s south-west
- The Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims
Several Nigerian news outlets said gunmen had fired at worshippers and detonated explosives at St Francis Catholic Church in the town of Owo.
The identity and motive of the attackers were not immediately clear.
Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, police spokesperson for Ondo state, said police would issue a further statement soon.
“It is so sad that while the Holy Mass was going on, unknown gunmen attacked St Francis Catholic Church… leaving many feared dead and many others injured and the church violated,” said Catholic church spokesman in Nigeria, Reverend Augustine Ikwu.
Reverend Ikwu said the bishop and priests from the parish had survived the attack unharmed.
However, the presiding priest was abducted, said Adelegbe Timileyin, who represents the Owo area in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.
“Our hearts are heavy,” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tweeted Sunday.
“Our peace and tranquillity have been attacked by the enemies of the people.”
A doctor at a hospital in Owo told Reuters that at least 50 bodies had been brought into two hospitals in the town from the attack.
The doctor, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the press, also said there was a need for blood donations to treat the wounded.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”.
The Vatican said Pope Francis was praying for the victims who had been “painfully stricken in a moment of celebration”.
Nigeria is battling an Islamist insurgency in the north-east and armed gangs who carry out attacks and kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the north-west.
In the south-west, attacks such as this are rare.
Mr Akeredolu cut short a trip to the capital Abuja and returned to Ondo after the attack.
“We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay,” he said in a statement. Reuters