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At Burial of Murdered Nigerian Priest, Archbishop Prays for “repentance, conversion"

Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso of Nigeria’s Kaduna Archdiocese/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Archbishop of Nigeria’s Kaduna Archdiocese has, at the burial ceremony of Fr. Alphonsus Bello who was murdered May 20, invited the people of God in the West African nation to pray for  the conversion of the Priest's killers. 

"We are here to pray for the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes," Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso said in his Tuesday, June 1 homily. 

Archbishop Ndagoso added, "Pray that God will give the victims of these criminal activities and their loved ones the grace to forgive so that they do not become victims twice."

The Nigerian Archbishop also called on members of the congregation to forgive the perpetrators of the crime.

"Painful as it is, if we are not to remain victims forever, we have to take the right step moving forward, namely, forgive those who have done this to us even if we do not know them," Archbishop Ndagoso said during the burial Mass at Our Lady of Apostles Catholic Church, Independent Way, in the Archdiocese of Kaduna.

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The lifeless body of the 33-year-old Priest was found in the farmland behind the Catechetical Training School, Malunfashi.

The Fidei Donum Priest, a member of the Clergy of Kaduna Archdiocese, was killed during the night of May 20 when gunmen attacked St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Parish of Sokoto Diocese where he was serving as Parish Priest

The Local Ordinary of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, is spearheading negotiations to secure the safe release of Fr. Joe Keke who was kidnapped the same night Fr. Bello, a Clergy of Kaduna Archdiocese, was murdered.

In his June 1 homily, the Local Ordinary of Kaduna Archdiocese emphasized the need to seek “justice and fair play for all” amid the practice of forgiveness.

Those who practice forgiveness become "true disciples of our Master who did not only pray for the forgiveness of his executioners but also made excuses for them,” he said. 

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"He prayed: 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,'" Archbishop Ndagoso said in reference to Jesus' prayer for those behind his crucifixion, and explained, "The murderer of Fr. Alphonsus and many others like them do not know what they do." 

"We cannot talk about genuine forgiveness, reconciliation and peace without first of all working for justice and fair play for all," he clarified, adding, "A situation where equal citizens are treated unequally because of ethnic, religious, political and social affiliation does not augur well for peace and peaceful co-existence."

Making reference to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, the Nigerian Archbishop explained, “Peace as the fathers of the Second Vatican Council tell us is the fruit of the harmony built into human society by the Creator and is brought about by men and women as they strive to attain an even more perfect justice.”

He acknowledged the fact that Priests in the country “live in challenging and even frightening times.”

“We pastoral agents are subjected to all kinds of hardship but never distressed. We see no way out but never despair. We are pursued but never cut off. We are knocked down but still have some life in us. We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too may be visible in our body,” said the 61-year-old Nigerian Archbishop.

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Addressing himself to the Clergy, the Archbishop said that amid challenges in the ministry, “Be sure of this, the God who called us and entrusted His work to us is with us because He is Emmanuel. And this is his assurance to each of us.”

He went on to call upon Nigeria’s security officers to “wake up from their slumbers” and go after “religious fanatics, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, AK47 wielding herders and opportunists who are criminals in every sense of the word, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians regardless of religion, ethnicity and political leanings.”

At the same time, he recognized with appreciation the role of security officers who often put their lives on the line to secure the people of God in the country saying, “without them the situation would have been worst.”

“There is always room for improvement. Our security agents need to work harder especially in the area of intelligence gathering, sharing and surveillance,” the Archbishop said, urging the government to invest in the country’s security personnel.

“Government should of necessity invest more in this area by adequately equipping them and take good care of their essential needs to motivate them,” Archbishop Ndagoso said, adding that without adequate security, the infrastructure in the country would be of no use.

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“These infrastructures can only be useful when there is peace and security enabling free and secure movements,” he emphasized, and continued, “The protection of human life and security of property are of paramount importance to the country today more than anything else.”

On May 31, during the Vigil Mass for Fr. Bello, Bishop Kukah faulted the Nigerian government for laxity in ensuring security for citizens.