Nigerian Catholic Diocese Announces “gruesome murder” of One of Two Abducted Priests

Late Fr. John Mark Cheitnum. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan in Nigeria has announced the “gruesome murder” of Fr. John Mark Cheitnum who kidnapped on July 15 alongside Fr. Denatus Cleopas, the latter having safely escaped from his captors.

In a Tuesday, July 19 statement shared with ACI Africa, the Chancellor of the Nigerian Diocese says, “Sequel to the announcement of the two kidnapped priests from our diocese, we wish to announce that Rev. Fr. Donatus Cleophas escaped from his abductors and has reunited with us,” 

Fr. Denatus Cleopas. Credit: Courtesy Photo

However, Fr. Emmanuel Uchechukwu Okolo adds, “it is with a deep sense of sorrow and pains that the Bishop, Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Diocese of Kafanchan announce the gruesome murder of Very Rev. Fr. John Mark Cheitnum.”

“Fr. John Mark who was abducted from the rectory of Christ the King Parish Yadin Garu, Lere L.G.A of Kaduna State, was brutally killed by his abductors on the same day of his abduction; Friday 15th July, 2022,” the Chancellor of the Nigerian Diocese says in his July 19 statement. 


The body of Fr. John Mark “was later discovered already decomposing on Tuesday 19th July, 2022,” Fr. Okolo says.

He highlights some of the responsibilities the late Catholic Priest was having, noting that Fr. John Mark was serving as the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of the Jama’a Local Government Area (LGA) in Southern Kaduna State.

The late Nigerian Priest who was the Director of Communications in Kafanchan Diocese, the Pastor of St. James Fori Parish in Jama'a LGA, and the Dean of Kwoi Deanery was also the Coordinating Chairman of CAN in Southern Kaduna.

In his statement, the Chancellor says that Fr. John Mark will be laid to rest Thursday, July 21 in a celebration that will begin with Holy Mass at St. Peter Cathedral of Kafanchan Diocese, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time.

“As we solicit for prayers for the repose of our dear brother Priest and God's consolation on his immediate family, we wish to humbly call on all and sundry to refrain from taking the laws into their hands,” Fr. Okolo says.

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The leadership of the Nigerian Catholic Diocese has declared “a two-day mourning for peaceful repose of” the soul of Fr. John Mark.

“May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace,” the Chancellor of Kafanchan Diocese implores in his July 19 statement shared with ACI Africa.

Late Fr. John Mark Cheitnum. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Nigeria “is grappling with a wave of violence by armed gangs who frequently carry out killings and kidnappings for ransom – mostly in unprotected rural communities,” BBC News reported in April.

Since 2009 when Boko Haram insurgency emerged with the aim of turning the West African nation into an Islamic state, the country has been experiencing insecurity.


Boko Haram, one of largest Islamist groups in Africa, has been orchestrating indiscriminate terrorist attacks on various targets, including religious and political groups as well as civilians.

The insecurity situation has further been complicated by the involvement of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen, also referred to as the Fulani Militia, who have been clashing frequently with Christian farmers.

The latest murder of Fr. John Mark follows a series of other killings of members of the Clergy and Christian worshippers in Africa’s most populous nation.

On June 26, two Catholic Priests were killed in separate attacks in their respective Nigerian Dioceses, one in Kaduna Archdiocese, and the other in Auchi Diocese.

On June 19, gunmen attacked worshippers at St. Moses Rubu church, one of the 17 outstations of St. Augustine’s Parish of Kaduna Archdiocese, Maranatha Baptist and Evangelical Church Winning All, all the churches in the LGA of Kajuru, Kaduna State.

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On Pentecost Sunday, June 5, gunmen attacked St. Francis Xavier Owo Catholic Parish of Ondo Diocese leaving 39 Catholics killed and more than 80 injured.

Earlier this year, in March, Fr. Joseph Akete Bako, another Priest serving in Kaduna Archdiocese, was kidnapped by gunmen at his residence and his security guard killed. The leadership of Catholic Archdiocese later announced the passing on of Fr. Bako.

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.