Gov Willie Obiano of Anambra State during a visit to some of the victims of Ozubulu shooting in hospital: the Pope commiserates with them
The Vatican has responded to the dastardly act perpetrated against the faithful of St Philip's Catholic Church, Ozubulu. This was contained in a letter to the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev. Hilary Odili Okeke, by His Holiness Pope Francis, reports Fr Cyril Ezeani
The letter which was transmitted by the Secretary of State, Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed how deeply saddened Pope Francis was over the loss of lives and injuries sustained following the violent attack at St Philip's Catholic Church, Ozubulu.
This is even as the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi plans to set up a charity fund in aid of the victims and their families as part of the Church's role as mother figure. The diocese also finally released the full list of the dead and wounded from the attack.
But the Pope reacting to the attack, expressed and extended his condolences to the bishop and all the faithful of the Diocese of Nnewi, particularly the families of the deceased and all those who were affected by the tragedy, even as he invoked the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the entire diocese.
The letter which was read by His Lordship, Most Rev. Hilary Odili Okeke, to the congregation that gathered for the concelebrated Mass by him and all the priests of the diocese and surroundings, prayed for light and divine mercy in the difficult moment.
Fides gathered that an appreciable number of the lay people were present at the Mass though the Mass was ordinarily meant for the bishop and his priests.
The venue of the Mass was an uncompleted hall building as the church was under lock and key with security agents on ground, perhaps pending the conclusion of police investigations, while the church prepared for the process of atoning for the desecrated Holy place of worship.
In the homily delivered by Fr. Jude Onwuaso, the Parish Priest of St Philip's, Ozubulu, the visibly traumatized priest recounted his experience as far as he could and gave a theological and spiritual bent to what he described as a humanly devastating event.
He recalled that the sad event started while they finished the Credo during the Mass. According to him, a man walked into the church and started shooting sporadically.
Referring to what he described as certain mechanical conspiracy, he said that the generator that powered the compound that morning developed some electrical fault, leading to the Mass being celebrated under impaired vision, with only a rechargeable lantern; something, he said, that had never happened previously.
Linking the sad experience to the event of the Cross and Blessed Virgin Mary's experience, he found solace and gave hope to all even in the parish's dark moment.
Meanwhile, the Nnewi Catholic Diocese plans to open an ''Nnewi Diocese Account, Charity Fund for Ozubulu Victims''. This, Fides learnt, was the Church's way of showing motherly love to her children, especially in such a difficult situation.
The account detail is: Name of the account: CDN OZUBULU CASUALTIES CHARITY FUND
Bank: UBA PLC (NNEWI)
Account Number: 1020519192
The Nnewi Diocese urged anybody, parish, institution, company, society, association or group that would like to join the diocese in providing assistance to the victims and their families to send their contributions to the account, even as she promised to keep accurate records of contributions and distribution of the funds.
The Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev Hilary Odili Okeke, assured that the Church would be close to the victims and families of the deceased in their difficult moment, even as he prayed for the repentance of the perpetrators of the dastardly act, as well as those who perpetrated other forms of violence. He prayed God to touch them to repent.
The bishop made this known towards the end of the Mass which was well attended by over 100 priests of the diocese, all vested in red, despite the short notice.
The bishop then went further to release the comprehensive list of the victims who included the dead and wounded. It is as follows:
A. THOSE IN A/E
1. Ikegwuonu Caroline
2. Nwakile Anthonia
3. Okoye Odinaka
4. Okoye Patricia
5. Isaac Chinedu
6. Oramadike Chinagorom
7. Oramadike Chinecherem
8. Udegbunam Chidimma
9. Ndulue Samuel
10. Udegbunam Obiageli
11. Ugochi Obiajulu
12. Chukwueloka Chineze
13. Oramadike Chioma
14. Azuka Basil
15. Oramadike Chiamaka
B. IN ICU
16. Uchechukwu Chukwueloka
C. IN FSW
17. Nwanya Ngozi
D. IN PAEDIATRIC SURGICAL
18. Ngwuta Chinemelum
19. Asomba Chukwudum
E. OBA TRAUMA CENTRE
20. Nnudule Leonard
21. Muomah Michael
22. Oramadike Favour
THE NAMES OF DEAD VICTIMS
1. Mr. Cyprian Ikegwuonu
2. Mr. Hyacinth Oramadike
3. Mrs. Cecilia Ewin
4. Mrs. Eunice Akanigbo
5. Mrs. Rose Okoye
6. Mrs. Anulika Obunadike
7. Mrs. Uchenna Obunadike
8. Mrs. Anthonia Ufondu
9. Miss Oluchukwu Uhelu
10. Miss Christiana Igbeja
11. Mrs. Udeze Pauline
12. Mrs. Victoria Uzokwe
13. Mrs. Florence Nweke
Meanwhile the Ozubulu Community has disclosed that 12 people died in the attack, with 26 wounded.
Fides reporter, Sunny Ijomah, reports that this disclosure was contained in a press statement issued after an emergency decurity meeting by the Ozubulu Development Union, ODU, Caretaker Committee, titled, “Senseless and brutal murder of worshippers at St. Philip's Catholic Church, Amakwa-Ozubulu”, signed by Deacon Iykebest Malizu.
The statement read: 'With heavy hearts and grief-laden emotion, the Ozubulu Development Union, ODU, Caretaker Committee very strongly condemns the sacrilegious and dastardly murder of our innocent men, women, children and infants, who went on early morning devotion to God, their maker, at St Philips Catholic Church, Amakwa-Ozubulu on 6th August, 2017. The taboo was both shocking and devastating to the entire community and beyond'.
Speaking after the emergency security meeting at the Brother's Club Hall, Ugwuorie-Ozubulu, the chairman of the Caretaker Committee, Dr Chukwuka Ernest, regretted the incident and wondered why such a dastardly act should happen in the house of God.
Also reacting after the security meeting the President General of Amakwa-Ozoubulu Development Union, Deacon Iykebest Malizu, who was visibly shocked, on behalf of Amakwa Community, condemned the attack.
He dismissed the story of communal problem being peddled in some quarters as the cause of the attack, insisting that there was no communal problem in Amakwa-Ozubulu, and enjoined the community to be steadfast and more prayerful as God would reveal everything at the appointed time.
He thanked, on behalf of the town union, all the men and women of good will who assisted the victims to the hospital and the dead to the morgues, for their immense care and dedicated service to the victims, even as he commended Gov Willie Obiano for his assistance and pledge to foot the hospital bills of the surviving victims, as well as assist in their burial.
'Ozubulu people are still in very heavy shock and presently occupied with assisting the survivors in the various hospitals, but for now, we wish to state the casualty figures as follows: wounded victims in various hospitals are 26 persons; dead bodies in various hospitals are 12 persons, missing persons is one and many others yet to be enumerated who escaped with minor injuries and are being treated at home.
'The ODU will issue up to date information on subsequent developments whenever necessary and pray that this type of abominable wickedness is never again visited on Ozubulu, or any other town in Nigeria,' the ODU spokesman prayed.
Meanwhile, Fides roving reporter, Ikeugonna Eleke, reports that the town is yet to fully recover from the trauma of the attack.
Fides gathered that even though normalcy is slowly returning, the tension remains palpable.
Additional reports from Jude Atupulazi