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Cathedral ransacked by Islamic State-linked extremists cancels Easter celebrations

Worshippers who had planned to attend services at St Mary's Cathedral in the city of Marawi are being directed to smaller churches in the region.

The Bishop of Marawi Edwin dela Peña was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying: "For the first time in many years, we will not hold any service in the cathedral itself.

"But in other parishes in the prelature, we will have our Holy Week services."

Extremists stormed St Mary's during the early stages of five-month bloody conflict in Marawi between groups affiliated with IS and the Philippine government.

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The militants were eventually defeated but not before the cathedral was riddled with bullets by militants who also filmed themselves smashing statues inside the place of worship.

Bishop Edwin was speaking at the launch on Friday of a new church-led campaign to help rebuild Marawi, five months after the conclusion of the conflict which left 500,000 people displaced.

Aid to the Church in Need Philippines

Aid to the Church in Need Philippines and Duyog Marawi are working together on the initiative, which is urging people to pray for the Muslim-majority region, and donate funds towards rebuilding work - including a restoration of St Mary's Cathedral.

Jonathan Luciano, national director of ACN Philippines, said the program would also focus on healing, interfaith dialogue and support for affected residents.

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Mr Luciano added: "We cannot do this alone...

"We are encouraging our fellow Filipinos to join us in this mission."

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