• CBCN, Nigerians insist on bringing perpetrators to book
Following the attack and gruesome murder of worshippers at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo state, Sunday, June 5, 2022, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN and other concerned Nigerians, have urged the government to intensify its efforts to hunt down the attackers and bring them to book. In a condolence message, the CBCN warned that failure to arrest the attackers and mete out the deserved punishment to them will accelerate the country’s descent to anarchy. Speaking on behalf of the Bishops, the President of CBCN and Archbishop-Elect of Owerri, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, while reacting to the dastardly act which claimed no fewer than 38 lives, said, “I received the news of the bloody attack unleashed on innocent worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church Owo in the Diocese of Ondo on Pentecost Sunday with great shock and sadness. No where seems to be safe again in our country; not even the sacred precincts of a Church.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the spilling of innocent blood in the House of God. The criminals responsible for such a sacrilegious and barbaric act demonstrate their lack of the sense of the sacred and the fear of the God. “We call on government to hunt them down and bring them to book. If government fails to act decisively on such a grave matter, it would be encouraging the decent of anarchy on our nation. “It should rise to its primary responsibility of securing the life and property of its citizens. The world is watching us! Above all, God is also watching us.
“At this dark and trying time, we commiserate with the Diocese of Ondo and implore God to grant eternal rest to the dead, speedy recovery to the wounded and consolation to families mourning the death of their beloved ones.” Rev. Anselm Ologunwa, Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)Ondo, State, in a statement condemned the attack, as he described the killing of the worshippers as barbaric and wicked. Ologunwa called on the government to address the security challenges confronting the country. According to him, “nowhere is safe in Nigeria with the recent kidnapping of Prelate of the Methodist Church and two others on the road, the train attack and on the air and now it is inside the church of God.” Ologunwa called on the state government and security agencies to as a matter of urgency go after the perpetrators of the heinous act and bring them to justice. Condoling with families of the victims, the Catholic Community and the entire state, and praying God to give them the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, he assured that CAN will continue to promote religious harmony and equal opportunities for all in the State without discrimination.
The Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, in a statement signed by the Director, Directorate of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, shock,as he condemned the attack on Catholic faithful of St. Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church. For the Prelate, this attack is as callous and barbaric as the many other attacks on innocent citizens who are just going about their legitimate activities. While condoling with the families of the deceased, the Archbishop stated, “We have never had it so bad for our country to be failing in nearly all aspects of her corporate existence. Security is in shambles, the economy has failed the majority of people who are living in extreme poverty, and even the trend in politics gives a lot of concern to the average Nigerian. We are living at a time that the fears and anxiety of the citizens are not being satisfactorily addressed by government. Beyond condemnation of such attacks, we do not see proactive measures being taken to prevent similar attacks. This only points to a failing state that has abdicated all its statutory responsibilities such that non-state actors operate freely and with impunity.
What offence did these people commit to deserve this kind of death while worshipping God? We continue to call on the government of the day to fish out all those responsible for yet another senseless massacre of innocent people, this time in Owo, Ondo State. We demand that government ensures that they face the full wrath of the Law.” The Prelate commiserated with the families of all victims of the unfortunate incident, Bishop Jude Arogundade, Catholic faithful of Diocese and people of Ondo State. He prayed the Almighty God grant eternal rest to the dead. He commended those who have been making voluntary blood donations and asked government and philanthropists to come to the aid of those who are injured and are in hospital. President Muhammadu Buhari while condemning the attack on the worshippers in a statement issued by his media aide, Femi Adesina, said darkness will never overcome light. Buhari said Nigeria will never succumb to the dictates of those he described as evil and wicked people. According to the President, only fiends from the nether region could have conceived and carried out such a dastardly act, adding that eternal sorrow awaits them both on earth here and ultimately in the hereafter.
While mourning the dead, he condoled with their families, the Catholic Church, and the Government of Ondo State, as he directed emergency agencies to swing into action and bring succour to the wounded. Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State Governor who expressed sadness over the attack, vowed to hunt down the masterminds of the assault. The Governor, who visited the Church, described the incident as a “calculated assault” on the people, a personal loss and an attack on the state. The governor who commiserated with the families of the victims, vowed to fish out the culprits. Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis also condemned the attack on worshippers at St, Francis Catholic Church, expressing his condolences to the victims’ families.
According to a statement issued on Sunday by Matteo Bruni, Director, Vatican press office, the pope said the congregants were “painfully affected”. “The pope has learned of the attack on the Church in Ondo, Nigeria and the deaths of dozens of worshippers, many children, during the celebration of Pentecost,” the statement read. Pope Francis prayed for the victims and Nigeria, painfully affected at a time of celebration, as he entrusted the country and victims to the Lord so that he may send his spirit to console them. Some survivors recount how they escaped the gruesome attack. One of the worshippers, Victor Ugweze narrated that he ran away the moment he heard the guns blazing, returned to see people lying down and others rallying for help.
A lady, Victoria Innocent, said that she escaped death because she left the church before the Mass ended, adding that she was going home when she heard sporadic gunshots and fell into the gutter while trying to hide because of stray bullets. A survivor, Nbara Arinze said he escaped death by a whisker, adding that despite hiding underneath a bench, the gunmen shot him in the leg. Another victim, who identified himself as Francis, said he had to hide somewhere with his children, but was shot in the leg.