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Pope Francis and beleaguered Nigeria

By News Express on 02/05/2018

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In faraway Vatican City, in Rome, the Holy Father had last weekend condemned the emerging pattern of mass killing of Christians. News reports from Rome are disturbing. It goes as follows: ‘Nigeria was stricken again with the killing of a group of faithful, among whom were two priests.’

Pope Francis repeated his frequent prayers and plea for peace in Nigeria on April 29, 2018.  His comments came after praying the Regina Coeli with crowds of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

“Last week the Christian community of Nigeria was stricken again with the killing of a group of faithful, among whom were two priests,” the Holy Father said. “We entrust these brothers to the God of mercy, that he may help those very tried communities to rediscover 

concord and peace.”

Two Catholic priests were among the victims of an April 24, 2018, attack on parishioners at St. Ignatius Parish in Ayar-Mbalom, a community in the Gwer East local government area of Benue State.

A local source told ZENIT the murdered priests were Fr. Joseph Gor and Fr. Felix Tyolaha. The source said as many as 20 mayhave died in the attack during Mass at the church. The attackers are believed to be Fulani herdsmen and be part of an ongoing reign of terror by Muslim extremists against Christians.

Nigeria’s Catholic bishops met with Pope Francis on April 26, 2018, in their periodic “ad Limina” visit.

“The government apparatus is completely, as it seems to us, helpless, dysfunctional or deliberately helpless and deliberately dysfunctional,” said Bishop William Avenya on behalf of the other Bishops present, as quoted in Vatican News.

“The world is not hearing us. It started like this in Rwanda; the world did not hear. It started like this many years back in Germany. The world was deaf. This is what is happening to us, and the world needs to know that we are in trouble!”

The Holy Father has repeatedly appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria, which has both large Catholic and Muslim populations.  ZENIT recently published a young teenager’s account of the violence facing the nation.

The news item was titled, “APRIL 29, 2018 19:34 ANGELUS/REGINA CAELI, CONFLICTS, WAR, TERRORISM”.

The Pope, who recently clocked five in the Papacy, has gained global ascendancy in the area of conflict resolution just as his focus on Nigeria must be a consolation to us that the Nigerian government will henceforth face global monitoring mechanisms. This was how The Guardian of London assessed the global pride of place of the Pope so we know that Nigeria may not remain the same given that the Holy See has now shifted focus to the mass killings in Nigeria. 

The Guardian reports that Chatham House is one of the most important foreign affairs think tanks in the UK. 

It adults however that on Wednesday its focus will not be a president or an organisation like the World Bank, or the future of the EU after Brexit, but a religious leader: Pope Francis. And it will be the third time in recent weeks that Britain has turned its attention to the pope.

Two weeks ago, the Foreign Office-sponsored think-tank Wilton Park took delegates to the Vatican to meet the pope and discuss violent religious extremism, while last week the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, was in Rome to talk with Francis about modern slavery.

This engagement confirms the pope as one of the leading figures of the age. It will be five years on13 March since the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, following the shock resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

Since then, Bergoglio, who on election took the name Francis after St Francis of Assisi, has become hugely popular. Even atheists declare: “I love this guy!” on social media.

Fellow church leaders, such as the Orthodox leader, ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, politicians and other public figures flock to meet him. The Chatham House event will explore the Roman Catholic Church’s role in diplomacy, its relationship with the US, and the significance of the first post-western pope, who has diluted the Eurocentrism of the Vatican.

It was quickly evident after his election that Francis was very different from Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in February 2013, following a series of financial scandals in the Vatican. He had more energy and enthusiasm for meeting people than his diffident Bavarian predecessor, and also responded, as John Paul II had done before him, to the issues of the age. But whereas the Polish John Paul focused on communism and the cold war, the Latin American pope, a child of economic migrants, has turned his attention to the plight of people uprooted from their homes: refugees, victims of trafficking and modern slavery. In 2016, in a defining gesture of his papacy, after a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, the entry point for thousands seeking asylum in Europe, he took home with him on his plane to Rome three families of Syrian Muslim refugees.

He is also deeply aware of the impact of climate change on the planet’s poorest regions and, in 2015, published his green encyclical, or teaching document, Laudato Si, which he subtitled On Care for Our Common Home, urging people to rethink their relationship with God’s creation. Conservative Catholics, especially in America, claimed he was telling SUV drivers that they were committing a sin. It is the document Francis seems most proud of, offering it as a gift to his visitors. Some, such as the Prince of Wales, appear deeply appreciative; others, such as President Donald Trump, far less so.

Francis Campbell, a former British ambassador to the Holy See and now vice-chancellor of St Mary’s University, said: “There is a lack of confidence about the future of society and Pope Francis is occupying a space that few others are. He is speaking to a constituency that is looking for a form of leadership.

“The fact that people who are not interested in religion are interested in him is a reminder of the lack of global leaders. Who else is not retreating into nationalism or isolationism? Who else is reminding us of the big ethical issues?”

As a world leader, Francis certainly appears to have little in common with Trump. During the Obama administration, the US president and Vatican diplomats worked behind the scenes to bring Cuba and the US towards some kind of rapprochement after an icy stand-off lasting more than 50 years. But there appears to be no love lost between the pope and Trump.

The above reports detailing the international strategic place of the Holy Father may be a thing of joy to the suffering millions in Nigeria that perhaps our situation has received global attention. 

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)

Source News Express

Posted 02/05/2018 6:07:26 PM

 

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