Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On the Church in Nigeria

The Church in Nigeria has been frequently persecuted as of late.  The persecution came into the spotlight with the Christmas Day bombing of St. Teresa Catholic Church near Abuja, in which the militant Islamic group Boko Haram murdered at least 32 people.  According to the Associated Press (via The Telegraph), Boko Haram is responsible for at least 510 killings in 2011 alone, and many of these killings (if not most or all of them) were of Christians.  Already this year in Nigeria, there have been 28 murders specifically of Christians by militant Muslims (many most likely part of Boko Haram), including two attacks on churches.  It is very obvious that Catholics and all Christians in Nigeria desperately need prayers.

To help with prayers, I searched for information on the Church in Nigeria.  According to my research, there are two patron saints of Nigeria: St. Patrick (yes, St. Patrick of Ireland) and Mary, Queen of Nigeria.  Nigeria has no saints so far, but it has one blessed, Bl. Tansi.  There have also been three alleged sets of apparitions in Nigeria: one has been condemned, and two have at least some support by their bishops (and no condemnation I can find).

 Bl. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi (1903-1964; beatified 1998): Bl. Tansi was a parish priest (ordained in 1937) for 13 years, during which he initiated many organizations and methods to care for the spiritual needs of Nigerian Catholics, including The Mary League and St. Anne Societies, which are basic and integral to catechesis in Nigeria.  He felt a call to the monastic life, and in 1950 he entered the Trappist (Cistercian Order of the Strictest Observance) community at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicester, England, where he remained until his death.  One of his famous quotes is "If you want to be a Christian at all, you can as well live entirely for God."  Bl. Tansi was declared the patron of Nigerian Catholic priests in 2010, during the Year of the Priest.  His feast day is January 20th.

(Note: Neither of these is officially approved by the Church, though both seem to have some backing by their respective bishops.)
  • Enugu State (Barnabas Nwoye): Barnabas Nwoye began receiving visions in 1995, and they continue to this day.  The visions are of Jesus, Mary, angels, and saints, and the most prominent aspect of them are devotion to the Precious Blood of Christ.  A book of messages released in 1999 received a Nihil Obstat, and book of prayers dictated by Jesus received an Imprimatur in 2001.  From what I can find, there is no statement by the local bishop or any higher Church authority against these visions (though private individuals, such as the source I used, are against them). 
  • Aokpe (Christiana Agbo): Christiana Agbo received numerous visions of Mary and Jesus from 1992 until 2004.  They emphasize praying the Rosary, doing penance, and honoring Mary with the title "Mediatrix of All Graces."  (Sometimes the title of Rosa Mystica was used as well.)  A book was published to raise funds to build a shrine, and this book received an Imprimatur; however, the extent to which the book discusses the apparitions cannot be discerned.  There is no other statement made by a bishop or other Church authority about these visions that I can find.
Now that we know a little more about the Church in Nigeria, let us fervently pray for our brothers and sisters, Catholics and Christians, being persecuted there (and all over the world).

Bl. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, pray for us and for the persecuted Church in Nigeria!

Nota Bene: Most of my sources for this post were linked to throughout the post, but two more are a TIME article on Boko Haram's Christmas Day attacks and the list of Islamic terror attacks at (WARNING: harsh on many Islamic beliefs, especially those involving violence, and descriptive of many brutal events and practices by militant Muslims).

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