By Perpetua Egesimba
The atmosphere at the St. Charles’ Catholic Church, Olodi Apapa, Lagos, yesterday, was oppressively solemn, as both laity and the religious mourn their Associate Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo, who was abducted and killed on Saturday in Imo State.
When Daily Sun visited the parish, the parishioners and the Assistant Parish Priest wore long faces even as they prepared for the evening Mass.
While some discussed the death of the priest fondly called, “I will never let you go unless you bless” in hushed tones, others openly shed tears.
“He loves praying and is spiritually strong. He doesn’t like seeing people in pains. I am so pained and angry that those who are involved in his death will never escape justice,” a parishioner, Ihekandu Miracle, swore. She described him as a peace-maker and lover of children.
For Sylvester Etuk, a cathechist, the news is too bizarre to be true. “I just heard of it today (Monday). I am yet to come to grip with the news. He did his work very well. We want justice for him.”
A visiting Priest from Ghana who officiated the Mass described the death of Fr. Cyriacus as unfortunate and sad, adding they both had a good conversation and exchanged contacts and agreed to get in touch when he returned from his father’s burial.
The Assistant Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Christopher Olagbemi said Fr. Onunkwo was posted to St. Charles around March 2016 and officiated a Mass last week Sunday at Our Lady of Rosary, an outstation under the parish.
“Here in St. Charles, he officiated a Mass last Saturday morning. He left on Monday in preparation for his father’s burial. I spoke with him on Tuesday, and tried to console him over his father’s death. I told him to forward to me the burial arrangements. I couldn’t believe when I heard early on Sunday about his death. When I heard it, I was shocked because he was a loving and principled man.”
Fr. Olagbemi said it is confusing why he was killed because he did not stay much in the village. “I don’t know what really warranted his killing. Based on other things, people are saying that it was a case of mistaken identity.”
He described him as friendly man. “For him, there is time for everything. We are going to miss him seriously. When he celebrated a mass, there is always a slogan before the end of the mass: “I will never let you go unless you bless me. That was his slogan and at Masses, he will say that and on Sunday, he will sing it. He was a good preacher, a charismatic one at that. when he preaches, you will know that, yes somebody is preaching.
“My message to his killers is that they should repent, come out and confess and seek the face of God because the way they killed him was a deliberate act. They should confess their sin and seek the face of God. I pray that his spirit would forgive them as we also pray for the repose of his soul and condole with members of his family.”
A parishioner, Peter Adeniji also described him as devoted priest who cared for others.
“It was a shock when I heard the news of his death yesterday. He was a very quiet human being. He will be greatly missed, especially the children. During homily, he has a way of handling the children. I sympathise with his family because it is too painful. He went to bury his father and now he too is dead. It is pathetic.”
Fr. Cyriacuse, a priest of the order of Saint Patrick Missionary, reportedly traveled to his home town last week to prepare for the funeral of his father when he was abducted by gunmen from his vehicle in Orlu town in Orlu Local Government Area on Friday morning by gunmen.
Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, said following a manhunt, the priest’s body was discovered in the bush at Omuma Village in Orlu East Local Government Area on Saturday.