The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday asked for prayers after Maute terrorists took hostage a priest and some parishioners in Marawi City.
"Fr. Chito Suganob and others were in the Cathedral of St. Mary's when members of the Maute fighting group forced their way into the Cathedral, taking with them Fr. Chito and others as hostages," CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement.
"They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled," the archbishop added.
Bishop Edwin dela Peña, Prelature of Marawi, said the terrorists broke into Suganob's house inside the Cathedral's compound and took with them the priest, the parish secretary, two working students, and at least 10 other parishioners.
"They negotiated with me for me to make an appeal to the military not to pursue them and to declare a ceasefire," dela Peña said in an interview on radio DZMM.
Villegas slammed the hostage taking, saying the captives were unarmed and non-combatants.
"At the time of his capture, Fr. Chito was in the performance of his ministry as a priest. He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict."
Villegas used the #PrayforMarawi and "begged" all Filipinos to "pray fervently for Fr. Chito and for other hostages."
The CBCP President also asked the government forces to "make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration" while ensuring that the law is upheld.
Meantime, local government officials in Marawi said they are "still verifying" details of the abduction.