Bishop shocked at murder of two priests in Nigeria

THE MURDER OF TWO CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN NIGERIA, over the June 25-26 weekend, left the local Christian community uneasy and in shock.

Father Vitus Borogo

In a telephone conversation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) June 28, Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagos of Kaduna, spoke of fear and trauma, following the assassination of a priest from his archdiocese, Father Vitus Borogo, age 50.

“Everybody is on edge. All of us, the clergy, the laypeople, everybody. People are afraid, and rightly so. People are traumatized, and rightly so.”

“With this situation, nobody is safe anywhere. If you go out of your house, even in the daytime, until you come back, you are not safe,” he added. Criminals attacked Father Vitus while he was visiting his family on a farm in the Prison Farm region, not far from Kaduna city. The armed men shot and killed him, taking his younger brother and another man into captivity, where they remain.

“It was completely unexpected. They are kidnappers, they are looking for money. We don’t know why they killed him. Obviously, they wanted to kidnap all of them, but for some reason they chose to kill him, only God knows why,” said archbishop Matthew, adding that “it was really shocking for all of us.”

For now, the Church has no more information on the identity of the criminals, or their demands, said Archbishop Matthew. Nigeria has been badly affected by violence and banditry over the past few years, and many priests have been targeted by kidnappers. The Archdiocese of Kaduna has been particularly badly hit by violence and strife.

Father Christopher Odia

In a recent online conference, organized by ACN, Mons. The archbishop took stock of the losses: “In the last three years, seven of my priests have been kidnapped, two have been killed, and one has been in captivity for three years and two months. Four were released. In fifty of my parishes, priests cannot stay in their rectories, because they are targets, they are seen as an easy source of money for ransom. I cannot go on pastoral visits like I usually do, priests cannot go to villages and say masses. People cannot go to farm, so they cannot feed themselves. With this insecurity people are starved of the sacraments.”

Father Vitus is the third priests killed in the Archdiocese, situated in the north of the country.

Kidnapping has also become a problem for the Nigerian Church in the south, however. The same weekend that Father Vitus was killed, another priest, Father Christopher Odia, 41, was murdered in the Auchi Diocese. The priest was killed during a failed kidnapping attempt, as he was coming out of his rectory to celebrate Sunday Mass at St Michael Catholic Church, in Ikabigbo, according to a statement by the diocese that was sent to ACN.

The Church in Nigeria has been very critical of the government, blaming it for rising insecurity and for not doing enough to protect the innocent from criminals.

—Felipe d’Avillez & Maria Lozano