Gory tales of Catholic Church persecution in Maiduguri

By Gabriel Omonhinmin

The Catholic Church in Maiduguri, Borno State has experienced so much pain and persecution due to the repeated savagery of terrorism by the jihadist groups.

The church and parishioners have witnessed bombing, destruction, burning of its buildings and killing of Christians in an unimaginable level. These experiences have forced some Christians to convert to Islam after being threatened.

It was therefore most gratifying to have the presence of Archbishop Filipazzi, the Pope’s representative to Nigeria during the installation of Most Rev. John Bogna Bakeni as the Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Maiduguri. In his words, comfort at the occasion was like a soothing balm to a severe pain to the church and parishioners alike who thronged the church on that day, to witness the epoch-making event. Even though they have been traumatized over the years.

The Pope’s Representative words further embodied and serve as encouragement to their troubled hearts and souls. It was indeed a great source of encouragement to them to carry on with their faith.

Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi commended the clergy and the people of God for their steadfastness in the face of many trials, tribulations and persecutions, which have lasted well over a decade. He said, “I wish to congratulate Bishop Oliver Doeme, his priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful because you have welcomed and collaborated with divine Grace.”

While noting that it was his third visit to the diocese in five years, he commended the Bishop of Maiduguri diocese for the meaningful growth witnessed in the diocese.

“Although for several years in this area, you have been suffering from attacks, killings, violence, insecurity, destruction, population dispersion, and economic and communication difficulties. These problems are sometimes dramatic, as these conditions make the growth of the Diocese of Maiduguri even more evident.

“Indeed, by His Grace, you have grown! Therefore, dear faithful of the Diocese of Maiduguri, you have a valid reason to rejoice, hope, and believe that when you are united to the Cross of Jesus, you bear much fruit, as our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself and us!

“Moreover, based on the teaching of Pope St. Paul VI contained in the “Creed of the People of God”, the Archbishop explained that the true growth of the Kingdom of God “cannot be confounded with the progress of civilisation of science or of human technology, but that it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men”

The Archbishop further said that much as material means are necessary for growth in the Church, they must never obscure the supernatural dimension of the Church’s life and action. “She (the Church) truly grows if her members grow in faith, which is the knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ. The true indicators of growth in the Church consist when its members grow in hope, which is the expectation and preparation of eternal life; when they grow in their response to the love with which God loves humanity and imitate Him; when she and all her members offer to everyone grace and holiness.

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“Therefore, true growth of the Church occurs when the eternal and earthly dimensions are not opposed and mutually excluded. The Church’s proximity to earthly problems is not an end in itself. The Church’s ultimate intention is to enlighten men with the light of Christ and gather them all into Him, their only Saviour”. He, therefore, warned that If the Church does not offer the world this, which she alone possesses, in reality, she would have nothing to offer.”

The Nuncio called on the people to imitate St. Patrick, the patron saint of the Cathedral and take heart with his vision, which says: “Every day, there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or be taken into slavery. But I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of almighty God, who is the ruler of all places.”

The Archbishop expressed appreciation to the government and people of Borno State and the representatives of the other religious denominations, noting that “Catholics respect everyone, hate no one, pray for the whole of society and are ready to collaborate with everyone for the true good of each person, whatever ethnic group, religion or place they belong.”

On his part, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, described Bishop Doeme as a courageous, selfless and humble shepherd worthy of emulation and congratulated him for the joy of the day. He prayed for the many people in the state, who lost their lives and hoped that those who are still displaced in IDP camps are enabled to return to their ancestral homeland. He also called on the Federal Government to do more to secure the lives of citizens so as to avoid total collapse of order because there is a limit to what people can endure.

Bishop Charles Hammawa of Jalingo Diocese, on behalf of the metropolitan of Jos province, Archbishop Matthew Audu, welcomed Bishop John Bogna Bakeni, to the province and encouraged him to continue to support Bishop Doeme in the task of administering the Diocese of Maiduguri.

In his response, Bishop Doeme, visibly overwhelmed with joy, thanked the Holy Father, the Nuncio, his priests, all Bishops and everyone who made the day possible. He also expressed gratitude to the Borno State Governor, Zulum, for his enormous support and for the very cordial rapport that exists.

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