Women weep Dec. 31, mourning their loved ones who died in the Christmas bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, just outside Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

January 16, 2012

Boko Haram, a Nigerian group that purports to be inspired by Islam, claimed responsibility for Christmas bombings that killed more than 40 people, including Muslim passersby, at two churches in Nigeria.

The Nigerian bishops' conference described the bombings as the equivalent of war and declared Dec. 31 a day of fasting and prayer to ask God's forgiveness for the acts.

"This group has apparently declared war on Nigeria and, at times of war, nations are calling on their reserves," said a statement by the bishops.

The country's mainstream Muslim leaders also condemned the attacks.

The bishops asked Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan "to recall the retired experts in criminology and employ foreign experts in this field to assist the active security agents to put an immediate end to the Boko Haram menace."

One of the churches targeted on Christmas was St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, just outside of Abuja. The other church attacked was the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church in Jos.

The head of the Vatican's office for interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, said the Christmas bombings clearly demonstrate the need to strengthen religious teaching that violence cannot be committed in God's name.