Nigerian Catholic Priest Recounts Experience of Pentecost Sunday Massacre in Ondo Diocese

Altar of St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese. Credit: ACN

A Nigerian Catholic Priest has, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International shared with ACI Africa, recounted his experience of the Pentecost Sunday attack on St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese that reportedly left dozens killed.

In the interview shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, June 15, Fr. Andrew Adeniyi Abayomi says the Nigerian Catholic Parish where worshippers were attacked needs “material and financial support to care for the victims and the survivors.”

“I was still in the sanctuary. I had finished the Mass and was putting incense in the thurible, to prepare for the procession outside the church. That was when I heard a noise,” Fr. Abayomi who is an Associate Pastor at St. Francis Xavier church told ACN International.

Fr. Andrew Adeniyi Abayomi. Credit: ACN

He is further quoted as recounting the June 5 attack, “I thought it was a door slamming, or that someone had fallen, or seen a snake, because that has happened before.”


“But then I heard a second loud noise, and I saw parishioners running in different directions in the church. I stood there in shock, wondering what was going on, when someone ran to me, yelling: ‘Father, unknown gunmen!’” the Nigerian Catholic Priest goes on to recount.

At that point, Fr. Abayomi continues, “I did not fear for my life, rather, I was thinking how to save my parishioners.”

“Some of them summoned the courage to lock the entrance door. I urged people to move through the sanctuary into the sacristy. Some of the parishioners escaped through there. I remained in the inner part of the sacristy. I could not run as I was surrounded by children, while some adults clung to me, some even inside my chasuble. I shielded them just as a hen shields her chicks,” Fr. Abayomi recounts. 

The Catholic Priest continues, “I heard the voices of my parishioners: ‘Father, please save us; Father, pray!’”

“I encouraged them and calmed them, and said they should not worry, that I was praying, and that God would do something,” he says, and adds, “I heard three or four explosions, one after the other. The whole attack was well planned and lasted about 20-25 minutes.”

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Finally, Fr. Abayomi says, “we got a message that the attackers had gone. We left the sacristy and I saw that some of the parishioners were dead, while many were injured.”

Credit: ACN

“I was troubled in my spirit. I pleaded with people to drive our injured brothers and sisters to the hospital. I began moving some of the injured to St. Louis hospital and the Federal Medical Center, with the help of parishioners who were able to drive. We left the dead bodies in church, while trying to save the wounded,” he further recounts.

Asked about the number of attackers, Fr. Abayomi told ACN International, “I did not see them, but some eyewitnesses say there were four, while others said that in addition to the four there were some among us in church. Some say six, in total, but the actual number is unknown.”

Speaking about the sudden outburst of violence in the territory covered by the Catholic Diocese of Ondo that has enjoyed relative peace, Fr. Abayomi is quoted as saying, “We have been hearing that militant groups are mobilizing people in the southwest and other parts of the country. We cannot ascertain the tribe, the race, or the group the attackers belong to.”


“Even when the attack was going on, some saw them, but they could not identify them as they didn’t speak,” he says, and adds, “Some of the attackers disguised themselves as regular parishioners during Mass. They worshiped with us during Mass until the attack started.” 

Regarding what the Diocese of Ondo is doing to help the wounded and grieving parishioner, the Nigerian Catholic Priest explains, “We have started doing that already, giving them pastoral care, visiting them, praying with them, administering the Sacrament of the Sick and encouraging them to keep hope alive.”

“We went further to care for their families and the bereaved,” Fr. Abayomi is quoted as saying, and continues, “The diocese called on other parishes for support. Government as well as non-governmental organizations, like the Red Cross, and other groups, even Muslim groups and imams, are coming to our aid practically and financially.”

He recognizes with appreciation the Red Cross that he says “has been the most active, pleading for blood donors and material support” and further says that more aid is needed to attend to the wounded and grieving families.

“We need material and financial support to care for the victims and the survivors. We also need our own security strategy,” Fr. Abayomi says.

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The Nigerian Catholic regrets the fact that on the fateful day, “nearby security personnel and police failed to come to our rescue, even though the attack lasted 20 minutes and four artifacts exploded. We need our own security apparatus.”

Following the attack, he notes with concern, “fear has set in the minds of some of the parishioners.”

Bearing in mind the real fear among parishioners following the attack, the Priest says, “we are determined to get them on their feet, to keep them strong in faith, and to comfort them by getting close to each one, not only those who were directly affected.”

Credit: ACN

Fr. Abayomi further says in reference to the fearful parishioners, “The goal is to establish personal contact with them, strengthening them and reminding them that when we profess our faith in God, it means that we have given up our whole life. This life is just a passage to eternity — and eternity should be our focal point.”

The faith of parishioners is very much alive and strong despite the attack, Fr. Abayomi is also quoted as saying, adding, “From my encounter with parishioners, I have not seen a loss of faith, but a strengthening.”

“They are ready and willing to remain steadfast,” he says in reference to parishioners, and adds, “I keep praying for them, every day, and Mass is being offered for the intentions of those still in the hospital, to aid their quick recovery.”

“Mass is also being said for the souls of those who died, may they rest in peace,” Fr. Abayomi told ACN International, adding, “Finally, Masses are being offered for the intentions of all members of the parish, so that they may remain steadfast in faith and alive in hope.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.