Murder of Nigerian Catholic Priest Indication of “failed country”: Cleric at Funeral Mass

Late Fr. John Mark Cheitnum. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The murder of Fr. John Mark Cheitnum, a member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Kafanchan Diocese, reflects “a failed state and also a failed country”, a Catholic Priest has said.

In his homily during the Funeral Mass of the late Nigerian Catholic Priest who was murdered on July 15, Fr. Jega Daniel Romanus said Christians in Nigeria have become “an endangered species”.

“Today we are burying a Priest who is a victim of a failed local government, a failed state and also a failed country,” Fr. Romanus said during the Thursday, July 21 Eucharistic celebration.

The member of the Clergy of Kafanchan Diocese decried the rampant loss of lives, and described the West African nation as “a country where animals are freer than human beings; a country where animals have higher hopes of reaching tomorrow than human beings.”

“Fr Mark died because the governments of the day have decided to value the life of the criminal more than that of the good citizen,” Fr. Romanus said.


Fr. John Mark, 44, was kidnapped alongside a colleague, Fr. Denatus Cleopas on July 15. While Fr. Cleopas safely escaped from his captors, the Communications Director of Kafanchan Diocese was reportedly killed the same day of their abduction.

Fr. John Mark is the most recent Cleric to be killed in the country where armed groups have been organizing targeted attacks.

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

In the July 21 homily, Fr. Romanus said Christianity “has become an endangered species.”

“Her leaders are now targets because they are seen as threats to the survival of their dynasty. What we are seeing is an execution of a project handed over from one generation to the other,” he said.

More in Africa

The Catholic Priest said what Christians in Nigeria are facing “is a reminder that the name of Christ is more than any denomination and if Christianity must survive in Nigeria and also in Africa, we must fight the evil of denominational discrimination.”

In face of the challenges, Fr. Romanus called on Christians to unite beyond their denominations.

Fellow Christians, we all must know that if Christianity must survive, every Christian must be prepared to die. Every Christian must now stand for his/her faith. Every Christian must be ready to die because of his belief,” he said. 

He called upon Christians to act and save themselves, saying, “The time for sleeping is over. Now it's time to combine prayer with meaningful action.”

“We have prayed enough and God is telling us now to work for our salvation. If we remain cold, posterity would accuse us for sending them to slavery,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest said. 


He also cautioned leaders in Southern Kaduna against disloyalty. “May I also speak to our political leaders from Southern Kaduna. Enough of the sellout. Enough of the betrayal,” he said.

“There is never a political move in the state or in the country that you do not know,” Fr. Romanus said, addressing himself to political leaders in the Nigerian State, and added, “Keep quiet and allow your people to be cheated because money is more important to you than the comfort of your people.”

“I pray that, before God would demand an account of your decision, the people would speedily ask you on behalf of God,” he further said.

Addressing himself to members of the Clergy, Fr. Romanus said, “To you my brother Priests, we have lost a brother and a friend. A fellow prophet has fallen.”

“The death of a Priest should remind us of our common unity. It should remind us of the need to hold our hands and walk together. Most times, we allow the lay faithful to know our common differences and weaknesses,” he said, adding that oppressors take advantage of the divisions among Christians.

(Story continues below)

“Now that we have become an endangered species, we must work towards strengthening our unity,” Fr. Romanus further said, and continued, “We must manage the way we discuss and reveal the identity and projects of our brother Priests before the lay faithful.”

“The sheep that we cater for have turned us into commodities they can sell to make money,” he added.

Fr. Romanus underscored the need for unity among members of the Clergy, saying, “When we remain united, we shall succeed. But when we decide to put our differences into play, we would not achieve the result of our ministry.”

Addressing himself to the Laity, the member of the Clergy of Kafanchan Diocese said, “Pray for us, your Priests, that we may lead you well.”

“We are your leaders and not animals that you can sell and make gains. Whatever differences you have with us, there are ways to settle that amicably other than what you do to us now,” Fr. Romanus said during the Funeral Mass of his late colleague, Fr. John Mark. 

He added, “Those of you who hand us over to our enemies know this, when they are done with us, they will certainly turn to you.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.