Father Charles Onomhoale Igechi was shot dead while returning from pastoral duties in Nigeria’s Benin City Archdiocese on Wednesday, June 7. BENIN CITY ARCHDIOCESE

By Jude Atemanke

Catholic News Agency

June 13, 2023

Father Charles Onomhoale Igechi was shot dead upon returning from pastoral duties in Nigeria’s Benin City Archdiocese on Wednesday, June 7, the local ordinary has said.

In a statement shared June 8 with ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze expressed “great shock” following the death of Igechi, who was to mark his first priestly anniversary in August.

“With great shock we received the news this morning that he was shot on his way back to his place of assignment,” Akubeze said.

“The appropriate security agency has been informed and they are presently working on the case,” he said, adding: “We pray that the perpetrators of this evil act will be brought to the face of justice.”

The Nigerian archbishop also appealed for prayers for the “happy repose” of the soul of Igechi, who was ordained a priest on Aug. 13, 2022, and was serving as the vice principal of St. Michael College, Ikhueniro, at the time of his death.

“I entrust you all to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Sorrow,” Akubeze said.

“May God continue to guide and protect all the faithful in the Archdiocese of Benin City and may the soul of Rev. Father Charles Igechi find peace and tranquility in the loving embrace of our risen Savior. Amen.”

A Mass for Igechi was said on June 9.

The June 7 murder of Igechi is the latest in a series of attacks that have targeted members of the clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

On June 2, Father Stanislaus Mbamara, a Catholic priest in Nigeria’s Nnewi Diocese, was abducted and later set free.

Last month, Father Matthias Opara of the Archdiocese of Owerri was abducted while returning from a funeral; he was later released on Pentecost Sunday.

On May 19, Father Jude Kingsley Maduka, a Nigerian Catholic priest serving in Okigwe Diocese, was kidnapped and freed after three days of captivity.

The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, which includes representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was sworn in on May 29, to prioritize the security concerns and economic struggles of the people of God in the West African nation.

“Nigeria is facing a number of challenges that require strong and decisive leadership,” Rev. Daniel Okoh said on May 29, adding: “From security concerns to economic struggles, it is clear that there is much work to be done in order to ensure that Nigeria can reach its full potential.”

Earlier, the Catholic bishop of the country’s Sokoto Diocese called upon President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to identify what is behind the “scars, wounds, and injuries” of Nigerians even as he prioritizes their healing.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, who was speaking at the 2023 presidential inauguration lecture held in Abuja on May 27, lamented: “We have so many of our citizens who have lost their lives and a lot who are in captivity.”

The vocal Nigerian Catholic bishop said that the “worst thing that can happen to us is to pretend that everything is okay because everything is not okay.”

The West African nation has been battling a surge of violence orchestrated by gangs, whose members carry out indiscriminate attacks, kidnapping for ransom, and in some cases, murder.

The country since 2009 has experienced an insurgency of Boko Haram, a group that allegedly aims at turning it into an Islamic nation.


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