On September 13, 2020, Nigeria witnessed the desecration of a Catholic Church in Markurdi, Benue State. According to accounts of the Deputy Director, Social Communications, Catholic Diocese of Markurdi, Rev. Fr. James Utav, St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Low-Level, Markurdi was vandalized by yet-to-be identified persons on September 13, 2020, noting that this is the second time the Parish will experience such a sacrilegious attack within an interval of four weeks.
The initial assault occurred on August 12, 2020. The Clergy, Parishioners, and neighbours were emotionally touched by the gravity of the attack. Quoting the Bishop of Markurdi Diocese, Most. Rev. Wilfred Anagbe, Fr. Utav said that the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the main Church building were broken into during the attacks. “The sacred specie of the Most Holy Eucharist was desecrated and sacred vessels looted thereby defiling the Church,” he explained.
The Catholic Bishop of Makurdi Diocese has suspended all pastoral activities at the Church, following the desecration of the Holy Eucharist and burglary. Rev. Fr. Utav further informed that while the Bishop was reading the decree sanctioning the suspension of pastoral activities, he announced that the Parish would be closed from the celebration of Holy Mass and all other activities in line with Canon 1211 of the Code of Canon Law.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines desecration as “the loss of that peculiar quality of sacredness.” Material objects designed for the purpose of worship assume a sacred and inviolable character. When this character is tampered with, those objects become unfit for use until they are rededicated. “The decree sanctioning the suspension indicates that the Parish will be closed from celebration of the Holy Mass and all other pastoral activities in line with Canon 1211 with effect from September 15, 2020 until further notice.” According to Canon 1211, sacred places are desecrated or violated when “gravely injurious actions” are done in them “which give scandal to the faithful.
” These actions are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by penitential rite according to the liturgical books.” “The closure is to enable us to adequately prepare for penance required by law in order to repair the injury this profanation has done to the sacred body of Christ.” While assuring of a fully guaranteed better security outfit and structure for the Parish in accordance with canonical requirements, the Bishop also reassured that pastoral activities will resume only after a proportional satisfaction is made with regards to the sacrilege.