Pope Francis 'deeply saddened' over Nigeria church massacre

Pope Francis conveyed his condolences to the families of the people who died in the Ozubulu church massacre in southeastern Nigeria on Aug. 6, and expressed immense sadness over the death and injuries of the victims.

Pope Francis speaks during a mass on 100th anniversary of Armenian mass killings in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 12, 2015. REUTERS / Tony Gentile

In a telegram addressed to Nigerian Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke and signed by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed his sadness after learning that people were killed in the church attack. The pontiff also declared comfort and strength for the victims of the attack at St. Philip's Catholic Church, Crux detailed.

"Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and injury following the violent attack in Saint Philip's Catholic Church, Ozubulu, His Holiness Pope Francis extends heartfelt condolences to you and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, in particular the families of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy," the telegram said.

Diocese spokesman Father Hygi Aghaulor, on the other hand, issued a statement condemning the attack and praying for consolation for the families of the victims. He also reportedly urged them not to allow the tragedy to dampen their Christian faith.

Meanwhile, Nigerian police said the shooting stemmed from a conflict between Ozubulu natives who were living abroad. In a statement, Anambra State Police Commissioner Garba Umar said the attack could be connected to drug trafficking, the BBC reported.

In addition, Umar said the shooter was hired to kill someone believed to be inside the church at that time. He said one of the expats involved in the feud was the one who built the house of worship.

Although Boko Haram has torched down churches in northeastern Nigeria in the past, authorities do not believe that the Islamist group had anything to do with the Ozubulu church massacre.

Local human rights activist Emeka Umeagbalasi told the AFP news agency that the attackers were looking for the son of a local chief, but when they allegedly did not find that person at home and in the church, that made them angry.