Nigerian church, site of June massacre, set to reopen this fall – Catholic Philly

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Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo, Nigeria is pictured in Washington on June 28, 2022. Bishop Arogundade expects St. Francis Xavier Church, site of the Pentecostal massacre of 40 people during the Mass, reopens by fall. (SNC Photo/Barb Fraze)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo, Nigeria is resolute in the wake of tragedy.

The Saint-François Xavier church in Ondo, where at least 40 worshipers were killed by terrorists on June 5 during the Pentecost mass, will reopen in the fall.

“We will resume all our activities as always,” Bishop Arogundade told Catholic News Service June 28 in Washington, DC, where he attended the International Religious Freedom Summit.

No arrests have been made in connection with the massacre. Nigeria has only a federal police system; there are no local or state police investigators. Nigerian bishops have criticized government officials for doing nothing to stem the country’s growing violence.

Many Nigerians believe ethnic Fulani, who are predominantly Muslim, were responsible for the attack, the first in Nigeria’s Christian-majority south. Fulani extremists killed Christian farmers in the northern and central sections of the country.

Bishop Arogundade said Ondo Governor Rotimi Akerodolu was an outspoken opponent of the extremists’ plans to transform Nigeria into a Muslim caliphate, and they were unable to negotiate with the governor.

“Attacking worshipers inside a church is nothing new,” Bishop Arogundade told CNS. “Nigeria would mean, for them, the expansion of the caliphate.”

The town of Ondo, he said, is “up to 80% Christian”.

Bishop Arogundade said he was about 20 miles from the church when the attack happened and arrived just after the bodies were removed. He visited the wounded at St. Louis Hospital with Father Andrew Adeniyi Abayomi, assistant parish priest.

The bishop said his faith was not questioned following the attack.

“It creates fear in the hearts of the community,” he said. “As a Christian, I am very resolute. People have the right to choose which faith they want to belong to. People are stronger in their faith over the long term.

Terrorists “try to match the goodness of the church with their own evil. People know what the church has always been for their community. This type of attack is counterproductive in this environment.

Bishop Arogundade said he tries not to worry about his own safety: “Life is precious, but of course I am afraid that they will do something. I don’t think about that. I just do what I have to do.

And inter-religious cooperation in the city still exists, he observed. A Muslim leader from Ondo gave him money to help repair the damage to the church. “So we are very close. We do things together.

The International Religious Freedom Summit is sponsored by a coalition of more than 75 organizations working together for the cause of religious freedom around the world.


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