The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, has explained how Pope Francis heard of the killing of two priests and 15 parishioners in Gwer East LGA of Benue State in April.
He gave the explanation in an interview with The Sun on Saturday.
The respected cleric said, “First of all, it was not us who told the Pope about the massacre that happened in Benue state. He heard of it already even before we got to Rome. As you know, that event went round the whole world and it was reported that same day in Radio Vatican. So, it was well known. Actually, as we entered the Pope’s library, the first thing he asked me was, is the Bishop of Makurdi here? I said yes. I want to talk with him, the Pope said. And we brought out the Bishop of Makurdi and the Pope put his hand around him and the Bishop of Makurdi broke down, crying. The Pope was encouraging him. In other words, let nobody say we went to Rome to report Buhari to the Pope. The things happening in Nigeria have reported themselves. And they are still asking the question: how is that possible? Is there no government in that place? We find ourselves all the time trying our best to defend our government. And sometimes, we just don’t have any words, no way of defending them because things are happening that should not happen. If we don’t care too much about two priests and 15 parishioners slaughtered in the morning or indeed, about sometimes 30 Moslems praying in the Mosque, slaughtered with a bomb. If all that is not a major thing for us, for people out there in the world, it is a great thing. They take it seriously. And it is a bit shameful that others are more concerned about us than it seems we ourselves are. Maybe because we are getting used to these atrocities that they seem not to move us too much. We don’t have a situation where it is the bishops who are going to mobilize international reaction against our government. That can’t happen. What we do believe is that whatever we have that is called a government, should be sensitive to international feelings about the things happening in our country. And it is very interesting. Trump and Buhari are standing there before the whole world and Trump said the killing of Christians must stop. My president, what did he say? Did he in anyway remark on that statement? So, which means he was completely disarmed. Not only in front of Nigerians, in front of the whole world. This is a case where we must say silence means consent. President Buhari did not respond to Trump and said no, there is no killing of Christians going on. He cannot. That will be a blatant lie. The fact that we are not saying it much, that doesn’t mean it is not happening. But I do believe with that kind of attitude, with what we are hearing from other people about us, the Pope getting involved and praying that these things should stop, and with Trump and maybe he will go to another big country and the same problem comes up, at least, we should be ashamed and decide to do things differently. I still believe that we can do things differently.”