St. Francis Xavier Catholic Parish in Owo, Ondo state, that was attacked last year, has put behind it the unfortunate incidence as the parish reopened for Easter Sunday Mass on April 9, 2023.
Recall that on June 5, 2022, 50 people lost their lives after gunmen reportedly invaded the church while mass was ongoing and detonated explosives on the church premises.
In his homily during the reopening of the church which was closed for renovation for 43 weeks and to allow time for survivors of the attack to receive treatment, the local ordinary of Ondo Diocese emphasized the need to rely on the strength of faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade said, “Let our faith that has remained our strength continue to help us to deal with the issues of life and to overcome all that come against us and the Gospel of Christ”.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ was sacrificed for us. This morning, we are here with mixed feelings,” the Bishop added. “For about 10 months, we couldn’t open the church because of attacks that happened in this church [on June 5, 2022].”
“The attack embarrassed us; how could someone come to church, the church that is the beauty of Owo town?” he asked, recalling the events of Pentecost Sunday 2022. “A joy that is the joy of God’s people; why will anyone come here to hurt people?”
The Bishop attributed the attack to the works of evil, saying: “We know the evil ones are always at work.”
He went on to recognize the dozens who “were called to heaven” during the Pentecost Sunday attack and stated: “We have resumed worship in this church, thanks be to God. l wish to empathize with those who lost their loved ones.”
The Bishop compared the painful events of the attack to Good Friday, asking: “But how do we explain this in relation to the death of our beloved Jesus Christ? We can explain by our faith also by the joy we bring to our brothers and sisters.”
“We have to call ourselves back to the greater understanding of what is happening in our society today,” he said. “I have never seen a nation so comfortable watching the killings of its citizens on a daily basis in [the] hundreds and nothing has been done for the past 15 years.”
Ayodeji, who started his episcopal ministry in May 2010 as coadjutor Bishop of the Ondo Diocese, faulted the Muhammadu Buhari-led government for failing to even express an apology to citizens amid multiple attacks.
“It doesn’t happen in other places. I don’t know why the government refused to apologize to the citizens they failed. A government which failed or cannot protect its citizens is not worthy to be called a government,” he said.
He continued: “I wish to say this without fear of anyone that the government of this country has failed us and you pressmen should record me very well; they have failed in the area of protecting the lives and properties of the people.”
“Many people have even forgotten what happened in this church 10 months ago, because many more have happened without the world paying attention,” he lamented.
The Bishop, who has been at the helm of the Ondo Diocese since November 2010, said he found it regrettable that not a single person has been “tried for all the crimes going on in this country.”
“I don’t know if anyone in this church has heard of anyone tried for all the crimes going on in this country, or anyone sentenced for taking the lives of hundreds of people,” he lamented. “It has not always been this way; those behind these should stop. Let’s build a good country for ourselves.”
The Bishop appealed for justice, saying: “The government must wake up and show strength and courage and make sure those who carried out the evil that took place in this church and the evil going around our country, are brought to book and punished accordingly.”
“Let’s work together to recognize ourselves as civilized people,” he continued. “Those who can’t survive here are doing great things outside the country. We must come together and ward off what has taken hold of our country.”
“Let’s ask ourselves how we can contribute to peace and live for humanity. Keep praying for those still suffering and in trauma as a result of the attack,” he ended, stating that the Church would continue to comfort those in pain.