Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The traditional ruler of Nawgu community, Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, Igwe (Sir) George Okaa-Onwuogu (Igwe Orachili Na Nawgu), was recently at the Vatican City, Rome, Italy, where he met with the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis.
While on the historic visit to the Vatican City, the royal father presented a medium-sized African elephant tusk to the pontiff. The traditional ruler said the tusk symbolised authority and was presented in appreciation of excellence in leadership, which the Pope represented.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu’s visit to the Pope at the Vatican was part of his pilgrimage to Rome and other states in Europe and Asia.
He said that he had nurtured the ambition and had been preparing to visit the Pope and shake hands with him for a long time, and his ambition came to fruition when his first son, Rev. Fr. Everistus Okaa-Onwuogu of Onitsha Archdiocese was sent to Rome on further studies by the Archbishop, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke.
His son’s presence as well as that of Rev. Sister Uju Onyemobi, who also hails from Nawgu, gave him the burning push for the pilgrimage, noted the monarch.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu said: “The aim of the pilgrimage is to receive Papal blessings. Having reached the highest rank in the knighthood of the church, Knight of Saint Mulumba (KSM), I know that seeking audience with the pope, shaking of hands and exchange of gifts with the pope is the highest honour and blessing in the Catholic church.
“So, I thought deeply about a gift and, as a traditional ruler, I went to the market and bought a medium-sized African elephant tusk as a gift for Pope Francis.”
The monarch and his wife were at the Vatican to seek audience with Pope Francis, along with a few others.
In the words of the royal father, about four million people attended the ceremony, which started with blessing of the people and prayers for peace in the world at 10am.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu noted that a few of the guests seeking audience with Pope Francis were given special seats near the altar. He recalled that he and his wife were the only black people on the poduim.
When it was their turn to shake hands and exchange gifts with the Pope, the royal father gave him the African elephant tusk, and, along with his wife, he received blessings and a chaplet each from the Pope.
He said: “I told him that the tusk is a symbol of good governance, service to humanity and authority. I also thanked him for praying for Nigeria always and he also asked us to pray for him.
“Pope Francis admired the tusk for some time before going to another person,” the Igwe recalled.
Igwe Okaa-Onwuogu also appreciated the presence of some Nigerian Bishops who were at the Vatican to welcome him and his team.
They were the now Emeritus Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Francis Cardinal Arinze, who resides in the Vatican, and the Archbishop of Onitsha, Most. Rev. Valerian Okeke, who hosted them to lunch.
After the event, hundreds of pilgrims who had seen African kings in their regalia only in films and videos trooped to him for photographs, and he obliged all those seeking photographs.