By Roy Lagarde

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, rubs Holy Chrism on one of the 12 consecration crosses of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, July 16.  The cathedral was reconsecrated nearly six months after the bomb attacks that claimed 20 lives. (photo courtesy of Bro Geoff Mark Rosolada)

The Jolo Cathedral was reopened Tuesday, nearly six months after twin bomb blasts killed 20 people and injured scores.

Amid tight security, hundreds gathered for the reconsecration of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the seat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo.  The consecration of the cathedral also marked the feast of the patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Mass was led by Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, along with Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, retired prelate of Cotabato and several other bishops and priests.

Also in attendance were Archbishops Romulo Valles of Davao, Angelito Lampon of Cotabato, who was the former vicar apostolic of Jolo prior to his appointment to Cotabato, Romulo Dela Cruz of Zamboanga, Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi, and several priests ministering in the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo.

Authorities said the January blasts killed 15 civilians and five soldiers during the attack on the southern Philippine island that is a stronghold of Islamic militants.

The first explosion went off inside the church while morning Mass was going on, and was followed by a second blast outside the compound.

The Islamic State, via its Amaq propaganda website, claimed responsibility for the Jan. 27 attack.

The initial blast caused severe damage to the cathedral. Costly repairs were funded by the Aid to the Church in Need, a Vatican-recognized foundation, and other organizations.

The Jolo blasts were said to have been one of the deadliest bomb attacks in the insurgency-plagued Mindanao region in years, despite recent steps toward peace.

The violence came six days after a referendum that approved expanded autonomy for the Muslim region. Jolo island, however, voted against being part of the new autonomous government based in Cotabato City.