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ICC Note: Almost a year after terrorists laid siege to Marawi in Southern Philippines, the desecrated St. Mary’s Cathedral will not hold Holy Week observance this year for the first time. Father Teresito Soganub, the vicar-general of the prelature will also not return to the city as he is still healing after months of abduction by the terrorists.

03/26/2018 Philippines (UCA News) – There will be no Holy Week observance this year in Marawi almost a year after extremist gunmen occupied the southern Philippine city.

The Catholic cathedral, which was desecrated and burned at the height of the five-month conflict that ended in October, remains closed.

Bishop Edwin Dela Pena, however, assured that other parishes not affected by the fighting will continue serving parishioners.

Marawi’s St. Mary’s Cathedral was destroyed when Islamic State-inspired gunmen entered the city on May 23 last year.

Even the vicar-general of the prelature will not be returning to the city soon.

Father Teresito Soganub said he was still in “the healing stage” after his abduction by terrorist gunmen. “I wont be able to go back to my regular ministry yet,” said the priest.

“I miss saying Mass in the area and my work in inter-religious dialogue,” he added.

The priest became emotional as he recalled his four months in the hands of the terrorist group.

“You face death every day. Sometimes it’s even every minute. You don’t know where the airstrikes will hit…. You wait for your death every minute,” he recently told journalists.

He said he survived his ordeal because of his faith in God.

“If it was just me, I wouldn’t have been able to endure it. I believed in the presence of God. I always asked Him to give me strength, not to leave me, and I knew He wouldn’t leave me,” said Father Soganub.

This will be the first time that Holy Week has not been celebrated in the predominantly Muslim city, where more than 300,000 people remain in temporary shelters.

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org