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Nigeria’s President Promises to Support Ministry of New Archbishop of Abuja

Newly appointed Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja in Nigeria

Following Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation of John Cardinal Onaiyekan from the pastoral care of the Archdiocese of Abuja, and the confirmation of Archbishop Ignatius Ayua Kaigama as his successor, President Muhamadu Buhari has extended a congratulatory message to the new Archbishop, assuring him of his support.

“As His Grace, Archbishop Kaigama begins a new phase of his ministry, the President joins all members of the Catholic Church across Nigeria in praying for a successful and memorable tenure in office that will see the Church accomplish great things for the unity and prosperity of the nation, while complementing government’s efforts at human and material development,” reads a statement signed by the President’s Media Aide Femi Adesina dated Sunday, November 10.

According to the Message, “the President recognizes the role Archbishop Kaigama had played in promoting peace, interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims in the country.”

The President has recalled his interaction with the Bishops under their collective body of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and appreciated “the many contributions Catholics have made to Nigeria’s development and assures the leadership of the Church of his government’s active support to faith-based organizations as partners in progress.”

Born on July 31, 1958, Archbishop Kaigama was ordained a priest on June 6, 1981.

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Pope Saint John Paul II appointed him bishop of the newly established Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalingo in February 1994 and was later consecrated as bishop on April 23, 1995.

In 2000, the Prelate was appointed Archbishop of Jos by Pope Saint John Paul II to succeed the late Archbishop Gabriel Ganaka.

Until his appointment as Archbishop of Abuja by Pope Francis on November 9, Archbishop Kaigama was Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Jos. He is the immediate former President of CBCN.

He takes over from John cardinal Onaiyekan who attained the retirement age of 75, on January 29, 2019.

President Buhari has also congratulated the Archbishop Emeritus John Cardinal Onaiyekan commending his “dedicated service to the Catholic Church, and invaluable contributions to the spiritual life of Christians under his pastoral care.”

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Born on January 29, 1944, Cardinal Onaiyekan was ordained a priest on August 3, 1969.

He was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Ilorin, Kwara State, and titular bishop of Thunusuda in January 1983 by Pope Saint John Paul II.

He became Bishop of Ilorin in 1984.

In 1990, the Prelate was named Coadjutor Bishop of the Abuja. When that diocese became an Archdiocese on March 26, 1994, Onaiyekan became its first Archbishop.

He was created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in a consistory on November 24, 2012.

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The outspoken Cardinal became a widely acclaimed figure in Nigerian following his open criticism of government’s action.

In 2005, he advised former President Olusegun Obasanjo not to seek a third term in office as the 1999 constitution forbade it.

Cardinal Onaiyekan played an important role in defusing tension and conflict between Christians and Muslims created by the satirical cartoons about prophet Mohammed by a Danish Newspaper.

A joint statement issued by the retired Prelate and the Sultan of Sokoto, the Supreme Spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria, calmed down the tense atmosphere in the country.

The Diocese of Abuja corresponds territorially with the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, which is estimated at 950,000 square kilometers, and has an estimated population of 3.5 million. Its Catholic population is about 550,115.

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