Herdsmen killings: Pope deeply concerned – Onaiyekan
Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said that Pope Francis is deeply concerned about herdsmen killings in Benue State and other parts of the country.
Onaiyekan, who spoke with Daily Sun from the Vatican, said though the Pope would not speak in the news media as they (Bishops) do, the Pope would respond through diplomatic channel.
The Pope is the head of state of the Vatican and equally doubles as the successor of Saint Peter (Head of the Catholic Church).
Onaiyekan’s interview was sequel to the Ad Limina’s visit of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to Rome where all the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gave account of events within their dioceses.
Bishops Wilfred Anagbe (Makurdi Diocese); Peter Adoboh (Katsina-Ala); William Avenya (Gboko) and Michael Apochi (Otukpo), all from Benue state, spoke about the developments in the state.
The visit came at a time when there were renewed attacks in Benue State which claimed 19 persons, including two Catholic priests, Revd Frs Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha at the St. Ignatius Quasi parish in Ukpor-Mbalom in Mbalom village, Benue state.
Onaiyekan said that saddened by the development, the Pope specifically asked who the Bishop of Makurdi is, and upon meeting him, held the Bishop who in turn, wept profusely.
According to Onaiyekan, “The Pope is so concerned about what is happening, not only about the Benue killing, but about the situation that has been going on in Nigeria for many months now, even here. He showed deep concern.
“What he does, how he reacts is probably not something that he will like to put in the newspaper for everybody to see. The Pope has generally his channels for reaching out to government.
“The Pope will not speak as frankly as we did because this is our country. We can speak like we wanted. We can speak like we think we ought to speak as leaders of our Church.
“The Pope will be using everything, including from a diplomatic point of view,” Onaiyekan said.
Onaiyekan further said the Pope is very well aware of what is going on in the country.
The former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said: “I can tell you now that when we went to see him, he specifically requested to find out who is the Bishop of Makurdi.
“And he held him to his chest and greeted him very specially and the Bishop of Makurdi was too moved that he burst into tears in front of the Pope and I had to hold him, to tell him, cheer up, cheer up my brother. That is just to show how much concern he has.”
Onaiyekan however said there are many ways out of the present situation, even as he said everyone has a role to play.
Onaiyekan added: “The politicians can continue to pretend that everything is normal. But they know it isn’t. The rest of us cannot allow them to deceive us and defend themselves.
“You can already see that things are not going well and we have elections in a few months. So, it is possible that you are going for an election, but you are not going to get a good election and that means we will be postponing the solutions to our problems.”
Onaiyekan however said he was confident that the situation is not hopeless, saying that Nigerians are good people who are ready to do all they can to make the country work.