Catholic priest and six others killed in attack on church in Nigeria

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban with a religious sister. / Courtesy photo.

Rome Newsroom, Mar 31, 2021 / 07:25 am (CNA).- A Catholic priest and at least six others were killed by gunmen in an attack on St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benue State, Nigeria, the Diocese of Katsina-Ala confirmed Wednesday.

Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban had just offered Mass in his parish church of St. Paul Ayetwar in eastern Nigeria and was preparing to leave for the Holy Week Chrism Mass when he was shot in the head by gunmen on March 30.

According to a statement by Fr. Fidelis Phelle Akjmbul, chancellor of the Diocese of Katsina-Ala, the body of the priest and those of six other victims were recovered after “there was pandemonium among the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the parish premises.”

“Fr Ferdinand went out to find out the cause of the confusion. He was shot in the head as he tried to take cover after sighting armed gunmen,” said the letter from the chancery dated March 31 and obtained by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban. / Courtesy photo.
Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban. / Courtesy photo.

Local authorities in Nigeria’s Benue State confirmed that bandits had attacked St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Aye-Twar village.

The unidentified gunmen who attacked the parish also raided the Aye-Twar village and set many houses on fire, according to multiple media reports.

Ngugban was ordained to the priesthood in 2015. The diocese noted that he was on his way to “renew his priestly vows alongside his brother priests” in the Chrism Mass at St. Gerard Majella Cathedral when he was killed.

He had served as the assistant priest at St. Paul parish since 2018, where he helped care for the many internally displaced persons hosted by the parish. Ngugban previously was the assistant cathedral administrator for the Diocese of Katsina-Ala from 2015 to 2016 and a priest of St. Peter parish in Gbor-Tongov from 2016 to 2018.

The murder comes days after another Nigerian priest, Fr. Harrison Egwuenu of the diocese of Warri, was released after a week-long kidnapping by gunmen. He is still recovering from the trauma, according to the diocese.

The funeral arrangements for Fr. Ngugban and the other victims will be forthcoming.

“May the soul of Fr. Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban and his companions rest in peace,” Fr. Akjmbul said.

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

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