“He fertilized my brain”: Widely Published Nigerian Priest Inspired by Pope Francis

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With over 100 scholarly publications in just about a decade, Fr. Stan Chu Ilo is inarguably one of the most published Catholic authors in Africa.

Under his name, Fr. Stan, a Research Professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University has 12 books, 40 peer-reviewed articles, seven book reviews, and 27 book chapters. The Nigerian Catholic Theologian has also presented 26 scholarly papers to audiences globally, written countless essays for leading religious and secular media, and granted numerous interviews.

From the time he obtained his second PhD in 2017, Fr. Stan has written over 40 essays, 12 journal articles, and four books, all on Pope Francis.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Stan confesses that his scholarly endeavors were revitalized by the speeches, works, teachings, and writings of Pope Francis who has led the Catholic Church for the past 10 years and will be celebrating his 10th anniversary on Monday, March 13.

I think 90 percent of what I have written so far is about Pope Francis. His theology has fertilized my mind in a very unique way,” Fr. Stan says in the Wednesday, March 8 interview with ACI Africa.


He adds, “I came of age as a Theologian during these 10 years of the leadership of Pope Francis. The way the Holy Father speaks invigorates me. I am very excited to write theology around Pope Francis. I get him, just like a child would understand a father.”

Fr. Stan’s book, “A Poor and Merciful Church: The Illuminative Ecclesiology of Pope Francis”, draws from the Holy Father’s invitation to be a merciful Church that brings healing to the wounded.

Published in 2018, the book answers the question, “What will we see in the Church that will point people to Jesus?”

In the book, Fr. Stan argues that people are leaving, especially the Catholic Church, and joining Pentecostal Churches for various reasons, especially the Church’s failure to point them to Jesus.

“Many people are fleeing the Catholic Church. We may not see this because of the rapid growth of the continent’s population, but the Church is losing followers. People are losing their faith in God,” he says, and adds, “Perhaps, what the people wish to see is a poor and merciful Church that is open to everyone, especially the wounded that Pope Francis talks about.”

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His other book, “Ecological Ethics and Spirituality for Cosmic Flourishing: African Commentary on Laudato Si’” published in 2022, talks about reforms in the Catholic Church. It poses the questions, “Is Pope Francis a reformer?” and “Has Pope Francis contributed to a new way of reforming the Catholic Church?”

Published in 2019, Fr. Stan’s other book, “Love, Joy, and Sex: African Conversations on Amoris Laetitia and Gospel of Family in a Divided World” looks at the synod on the family, which he says was “very divisive”.

“The Synod on the Family brought about controversy in handling issues of separation and divorce in the Church, same-sex marriages, among others, and several authors of the book were guided by the message of Pope Francis in accompanying those who feel that they no longer belong to the Church. The book is about bringing these people healing to see the path of reconciliation,” he says.

The Nigerian Catholic Priest has edited the “Handbook of African Catholicism”, which was published in 2022 to provide readily available and readable resources for Catholics in Africa. Drawing contributions from many authors, the book provides such information as the facilities managed by the Catholic Church in various African countries, Catholic saints in Africa, and so on.

To the member of the Clergy of the Catholic Diocese of Awgu in Nigeria, Pope Francis is a notable Theologian who has pumped new energy into Theology and influenced the Nigerian Professor’s work.


Pope Francis has referred to Theology as a spiritual laboratory. He says he doesn't want to see the theology of the kitchen table. Pope Francis wants to see Theologians who will go out to the peripheries. I now look at Theology not as simply quoting Church documents, or citing other Theologians,” Fr. Stan says.

“The laboratory of faith isn't in the library.  It is out there in the field where you have to test experiences. You don't go with pre-packaged assets, but rather go with the Spirit of God,” the Priest, who serves as the Principal Convener of the Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology, Society, and Pastoral Life says.

He adds that Theology, from past centuries, simply showed the existence of God, and adds, “Today, all of us theologians are called to engage in Theodicy; to prove and to demonstrate the existence of God.”

Fr. Stan says that Theology, through the lens of Pope Francis, is no longer simply about going to accumulate data but is rather “seen in the suffering of our times, in the pain of the poor, and in the hope of those who are hanging on the cross.”

“Theology is seeing through these wounded people, how they're holding on to their faith,” he says, and adds, “I saw this in the women I met at Kijiji cha Upendo in Kibera (a slum in Kenya). I saw in their resilience, just after COVID-19, the existence of God.”

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“Theodicy, to me, is not just about what St. Aquinas says, but what these women of Kijiji cha Upendo taught me by holding on, not being depressed, and not being suicidal when they had nothing. They felt that even though they had nothing material, they had Jesus Christ their savior,” Fr. Stan says.

The Nigerian Catholic Priest who also serves as the producer and host of African Catholic Voices, a podcast service of the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN), acknowledges the contribution of Pope Francis to Theologians, noting that the Holy Father has encouraged him not to be an armchair scholar.

Pope Francis helped me by encouraging theologians, not to be armchair speculators, but rather to go to the existential peripheries, more than what I have learned as a theologian,” he says, and adds, “I've learned from the poor through the encouragement of Francis, the existence of God. And now and I see, and I believe, even more than I have ever done before.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.