The World

Church mourns murder of two more priests in Nigeria

Two more priests have been murdered this week in Nigeria. Father Christopher Odia and Father Vitus Borogo, the latest victims in a long trail of blood. It is the third major attack on Catholics in the last month.

Antonino Piccione-June 29, 2022-Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo: June 17 funeral for those killed in the attack. ©CNS photo/Temilade Adelaja, Reuters

Article in English.

Two priests were killed this weekend in the southern state of Edo and in the north-central state of Kaduna. Just a few weeks have passed since the Pentecost Sunday massacre, with the killing of at least 40 people at St. Francis Xavier Church in Owo, in the southwestern state of Ondo. 

Cold-blooded murders

Father Christopher Odia, 41, was abducted yesterday from his rectory in St. Michael's Church as he was preparing to celebrate mass. The priest was later killed by his attackers, a local church statement said. On Saturday, Father Vitus Borogo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, was killed at Prison Farm, following a raid by "terrorists", as reported by Father Alumuku, as also reported by the local press and sources of Aid to the Church in Need.

The 50-year-old priest "was there," explains the head of social communication of the archdiocese of Abuja, "with two people, his brother and another boy, who were later kidnapped" by the gunmen. "I knew Father Vitus, as he was a student of mine when he was rector of St. James Seminary in Makurdi Diocese, Benue State," recalls Father Alumuku. "He was a very kind and bright boy. I met him recently, a couple of months ago in Kaduna. As chaplain of the Kaduna State Polytechnic, he was guiding the Catholic students of that college in the faith to be positive signs in the local community."

Nigeria, country of martyrs

"As priests, we do not back down, we are not afraid: we are prepared to be martyrs, because it is with the blood of martyrdom how the Church in Nigeria will grow". These are the words of Father Patrick Alumuku, head of social communications of the Archdiocese of Abuja and director of the National Catholic Television of Nigeria, in the face of the bloodshed that is tragically striking the African country and the Catholic Church in particular.

"The Kaduna area is one of the most affected by Fulani herders," explains the priest, referring to the nomadic West African ethnic group. Their presence extends from Mauritania to Cameroon, often in bloody conflict with the settled agricultural populations. The general context of insecurity is generated by the violence of the various branches of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram.

Request for assistance to the authorities

Alumuku speaks of a "jihadist" drift in the country, Father Alumuku says that "the Catholic Church is a target to be attacked" simply "because of its Christian faith: we are not fighting against anyone, we have no weapons". On behalf of Signis Nigeria, the local branch of the World Catholic Association for Communication, of which Father Alumuku is president in Abuja, the priest urges the "security agencies at the federal and state levels to intensify their efforts to bring the killers to justice, while multiplying their efforts" to safeguard the lives of all citizens.

"The state has a duty to protect all Nigerians," says Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna. "It is a terrible thing. The Church is hurt, but not only the Church: all Nigerians are hurt by what is happening." "People don't feel safe in their homes, in the streets, anywhere," the prelate continued. "Hundreds of Nigerians are victims of kidnappers and terrorists and all this," he notes, "with impunity." "If there is peace in the country, those who have the task of announcing the Gospel, like us, have the possibility of doing so; where there is no peace and security, as is happening now, our work" is difficult, "inhibited" by the fact that "we cannot move freely." This, concludes the Archbishop of Kaduna, "is the terrible situation we are living today" in Nigeria.

A tragic month

The country has lived through a long and horrifying trail of bloodshed in the catholic world. Earlier this month, he writes CNAIn a statement, "gunmen attacked a Catholic and a Baptist church in Kaduna State, killing three people and reportedly abducting more than 30 worshippers. The heinous and cowardly attack on the Catholic church in Ondo state on June 5 was denounced.

With respect to the latest tragic episode, the news agency Fides reported the capture of two of Father Christopher's kidnappers. "Two of the murderers were captured by the community who were on the trail of the kidnappers," explained the auxiliary bishop of Minna, Monsignor Luka Gopep.

Since the beginning of the year, three priests have been killed in Nigeria alone. The first, Father Joseph Aketeh Bako, was kidnapped and then killed on April 20. Agenzia Fides also reports that 900 Christians have been killed so far in the first months of the year. The West African country is dealing with a wave of violence by armed gangs, mainly in unprotected rural communities. Since 2009, when the Boko Haram insurgency emerged, Nigeria has been living in a total state of insecurity.

The authorAntonino Piccione

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