Catholic Priest in Nigeria Suspended Following Tribal Remarks During Holy Mass

Fr. James Anelu. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A Priest in Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos who banned singing in a Nigerian language allegedly citing dominance of other tribes in “his Church” has been suspended from pastoral duties indefinitely, pending investigation into “matters relating to his ministry in the Parish.”

Fr. James Anelu, the Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity Ewu-owa, Ikorodu Parish of Lagos Archdiocese is said to have banned Igbo songs and choruses in the Catholic Parish, arguing that the excesses of Ndigbo must be contained.

With a population of about 40 million throughout Nigeria, the Igbo people are considered “one of the biggest and most influential tribes” in the West African nation.

In a letter that was circulated on Tuesday, February 8, the Local Ordinary of Lagos Archdiocese terms the remarks of Fr. Anelu as “completely unacceptable.”

“It has been brought to our notice that Rev. Fr. James Anelu, the Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Ewu-owa, Ikorodu, made some completely unacceptable comments about Igbo songs being sung in the Church and unsavory remarks that do not represent the Catholic Church’s position on common brotherhood of peoples of all tribes and religions,” Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins says in his letter.


Archbishop Adewale adds, “For this reason he has been asked to proceed on an indefinite leave of absence to give an opportunity for a thorough investigation of all the matters relating to his ministry in the Parish.”

The Archbishop of Lagos further announced that Fr. Anelu’s leave of absence takes effect from Tuesday, 8th February, 2022 “till further notice.”

We therefore urge all Catholic faithful to hold on to the faith and continue in our worship of God as one big family united in love and not separated by language, culture or race,

In what has been described as “a bizarre pronouncement”, Fr. Anelu is said to have “angrily” stopped a soul lifting chorus during the second collection at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, noting that “Igbos cannot keep dominating other people even in his parish”.

A local media report, in reference to the Catholic Priest’s utterances, says “he cited the case of his Benin Diocese where Igbos dominate to the point of becoming the Bishop in person of Most Rev. Augustine Akubueze.”

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Fr. Anelu is said to have added that the Spirit of God in any place recognizes only languages indigenous to that geographical location.

His utterances are said to have irked the faithful and the entire Congregation at the Eucharistic celebration is said to have gone up in tumultuous uproar, staging a massive walk out of the Holy Mass.

A cosmopolitan city, Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria and the second most populous city in Africa, with a population of 15.3 million as of 2022 within the city proper.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.