Pope Francis Considering a Visit to Nigeria – Onaiyekan
The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, is considering visiting Nigeria, as part of his itinerary.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan disclosed the Pope’s intending visit in Abuja, yesterday. He said no date has, however, been fixed for the visit.
Pope John Paul II (now Saint Pope John Paul II), was the first Pope to visit Nigeria in February 1982. He visited Nigeria again in March, 1998, during the administration of late General Sani Abacha and beatified the late Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, a Cistercian monk, at Oba, Anambra State.
Onaiyekan said the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Nigeria during their recent Ad Limina visit to the Vatican.
Onaiyekan said upon making the request, the Pope said he is thinking about visiting Nigeria as part of his programme.
The former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, however, said since the Pope is Head of State and head of the Catholic Church; he cannot visit Nigeria without the invitation of the Federal Government.
Asked if the CBCN has reached out to the federal government on the visit, Onaiyekan said the CBCN is awaiting the Pope’s response before approaching the government.
He added that since the Vatican has an ambassador in Nigeria (the Papal Nuncio) and the federal government has an ambassador in the Vatican, arranging the visit will not be problematic as both envoys will liaise with the respective authorities.
Speaking about the CBCN’s request, Onaiyekan added: “Both the government and the church will be responsible for the visit. “So, both governments and the church are involved. In other words, a Pope will not visit a country if the government of that country does not invite him.
“We have not reached the stage of contacting the government yet. All the formalities will normally start after there is a tentative decision by the Pope to visit. There is no point telling government to be making moves if the Pope is not thinking yet of visiting.”
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