“Be visible foundation of unity”: Nuncio to Pioneer Bishop of New Nigerian Diocese

Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi with Bishop Mark Maigida Nzukwein, new Bishop of Wukari Diocese. Credit: Nigeria Catholic Network

The Pope’s Representative in Nigeria has urged the first Bishop of the newly created Catholic Diocese of Wukari to live his Episcopal Ministry through the fostering of unity among the people of God under his pastoral care. 

In his homily during the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Mark Maigida Nzukwein, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi underscored the role of a Bishop as “one who builds bridges” between people in their diversities with each other and with God.

“We understand the particular mission entrusted to our brother Mark as the first Bishop of Wukari. Like all Bishops, he must be the visible principle and foundation of unity of his Church,” Archbishop Filipazzi said in his homily during the Thursday, April 13 Ordination celebration held at GSS Ibi Road in Wukari.

Addressing himself to the Episcopal candidate who was appointed Bishop on December 14, the Apostolic Nuncio said, “Dear new Bishop, today you receive the fullness of Christ’s Priesthood and become ‘Pontifex’, that is, one who builds bridges.”

“You must first build bridges between God and each person, and then build bridges that unite people of all ethnicities, backgrounds, social positions and political ideas,” Archbishop Filipazzi who presided over the Episcopal Ordination said.


He emphasized the need for the new Bishop work for unity, imploring, “May your ministry always serve unity and peace within and outside the Church.” 

“The Bishop does not gather the people around his person or his ideas but around Christ present in his Word and in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood,” the Italian-born Archbishop who started his diplomatic role of representing the Holy Father following his appointment in March 2011 to Indonesia said.

He further said, “The Bishop, conformed to Christ, becomes a living Gospel; he becomes bread broken for the life of many by his preaching and his witness.”

“The new Bishop will have to counteract those factors, which tend to disrupt the unity of the Church and social harmony, especially that mentality which makes one’s ethnic group and place the first and fundamental criterion of thought and action, even to the point of violating God’s law and the life and dignity of other human beings,” Archbishop Filipazzi said.

He went on to condemn the August 2019 murder of Fr.. David Tanko, the Catholic Priest who was ambushed and killed while he was on his way to Takum for a peace meeting with his fellow clergymen to discuss the crisis between Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups.

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The Apostolic Nuncio challenged the Episcopal candidate he was about to Consecrate to “tirelessly preach the conversion of mind, heart and behavior, which, even after Baptism, has not yet been fully achieved.” 

“Without this renewal of mentality according to the Gospel, having another diocese in Nigeria would be useless,” Archbishop Filipazzi said.

He added that people would be rejoicing for the wrong reasons “if the creation of a new diocese and a new Bishop here in Wukari were meant to confirm and even increase the divisions and oppositions that already exist between different ethnic groups or localities.” 

“The Holy Father establishes new local churches so that the Gospel can reach everyone and all can meet the risen and living Lord Jesus and be saved through the work of the Church, the family of God, without borders or barriers,” Archbishop Filipazzi said.

The representative of the Holy Father who was appointed to Nigeria in April 2017 added, “The Pope has also made this decision so that the Catholics of the new Diocese may be a factor of concord, collaboration and peace in the society in which they live.”


Speaking at the same Episcopal Ordination event on behalf of Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso of Kaduna Archdiocese congratulated the newly ordained Bishop.

Archbishop Man-oso Ndagose said that the President of CBCN was calling for collaborative ministry in the newly created Catholic Diocese in order to “achieve the desired progress and growth in the diocese and peace among all persons and tribes in the whole community.”

On his part, the Local Ordinary of Jalingo Diocese from whose territory Wukari Diocese was curved reiterated the Apostolic Nuncio’s advocacy for unity in diversity. 

“I believe the new Diocese of Wukari led by its Chief Shepherd, Most Rev. Mark Maigida Nzukwein, with the full and total support and cooperation of the presbyterium, religious, lay faithful and people of good will, will be the symbol and beacon of hope, joy, unity and peace not only to the Catholic faithful, but also to the whole of Christendom and the people of other faiths in the diocese, Taraba State, Nigeria and beyond,” Bishop Charles Michael Hammawa said.

Bishop Hammawa added, “Please embrace and practice forgiveness and live together in unity that peace may reign.”

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In his maiden speech as Local Ordinary of the Nigerian Diocese, Bishop Maigida said the new Diocese offers an opportunity for the entire community “to see how the reality of faith has been lived out over the years … amidst the shadow of the persistent challenges of gross intolerance that has led to a series of intra-tribal, inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts.”

“Beyond the euphoria of today’s unique celebration, we, the inhabitants of the newly established Diocese (that is, the Jukun, Chamba, Kuteb, Tiv, Ichen, Jibu, Mambila, Kaka, Panso, Kambu, Hausa Fulani, Ndoro, Indola, Jebou, Tigun, Badaki, Yuguben, Ibo, Ogoja and many others) should take advantage of this unique occasion to calmly reflect on the sacred responsibility of seeing in the face of the other, the image of God,” the Nigerian Bishop said.


 “No matter our ethnic extraction,” he went on to say, “we are, in the first place, brothers and sisters.” 

The new Nigerian Catholic Bishop who was appointed Bishop on December 14 was born in 1969 in Jenuwa Nyifiye in the Diocese of Jalingo.

He was enrolled for his Philosophy studies at St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary in Makurdi from 1987 to 1990 and for his Theology studies at St. Augustine's Major Seminary in Jos from 1991 to 1995.

He was ordained a Priest on 15 July 1995 for the Diocese of Jalingo.

As a Priest, the Bishop served in different capacities, including Parish Vicar, Parish Priest, Diocesan Chaplain for Youth, Secretary to the Bishop of Jalingo, and Diocesan Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works, among other Priestly responsibilities. 

The alumnus of the Pontifical Salesian University was at the Rome-based institution of higher learning between 1999 and 2002 where he obtained a Licentiate in Catechesis and Youth Pedagogy.

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.