ROME — Pope Francis called for prayers Friday for the safe return of Nigerian Bishop Moses Chikwe, who was abducted last Sunday with his driver.
“I invite you to unite your prayer to the Archdiocese of Owerri in Nigeria for Bishop Moses Chikwe and his chauffeur who were kidnapped in the last few days,” the pope said following the New Year’s Day Angelus prayer.
“Let us ask the Lord that they and all who are victims of similar actions in Nigeria might be restored to liberty unharmed and that that beloved country may regain security, harmony and peace,” the pontiff added.
Last Sunday evening, unidentified gunmen kidnapped 53-year-old Bishop Chikwe, auxiliary bishop of the Catholic archdiocese of Owerri in Imo State in southeast Nigeria.
“So far, there has been no official reports of any correspondence with the kidnappers,” Father Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria said. “Trusting in the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray for his safety and quick release.”
According to Anthony Obinna, the archbishop of Owerri, Bishop Chikwe was kidnapped “as he was returning from a visit to his residence in Owerri, a mile or two away from the city of Owerri, where he has his residence.”
“Kidnapping has, of course, been going on in Nigeria, in different parts of Nigeria,” Archbishop Obinna told Vatican News. “That it has happened to my Auxiliary Bishop shows that the security situation in Nigeria is very bad. The protection, the security that the people ought to have is not very effective.”
“We have periodically raised the alarm about the state of insecurity in which we find ourselves,” the archbishop continued. “The Church is not far removed from the people. We are not insulated from the suffering of the people. We take it as part of our testimony that we have to bear.”
Bishop Chikwe’s abduction occurred just a week after the December 15 kidnapping of Father Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, who was seized by gunmen on his way to his father’s funeral. He was released the following day.