By Teddy Madubuko/Valerian Aghaulor
Bishops of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, led by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace Most Rev Dr Valerian Okeke, on Monday August 14 paid a sympathy visit to the victims of the St Philip’s Catholic Church massacre of August 16, 2017 in which scores of lines were lost and many sustained injuries.
Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province comprises the dioceses of Abakaliki, Awgu, Awka, Enugu, Nnewi, Nsukka and the Archdiocese of Onitsha. The following bishops were in the delegation: Most Rev Hilary Okeke (Nnewi); Most Rev Dr Jonas-Benson Okoye (Auxillary Bishop, Awka); Most Rev Godfrey Onah (Nsukka); Most Rev Callistus Onaga; Most Rev John Okoye (Awgu); and Most Rev Dr Valerian Okeke (Onitsha Archdiocese).
Addressing the victims at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Most Rev Dr Valerian Okeke said they were shocked and saddened by the massacre, especially where it involved women and children who went to worship God. He prayed God to grant repose to the souls of the deceased while wishing the victims speedy recovery. Most Rev Valerian imparted the apostolic benediction on the victims, assuring them of the Church’s assistance and solidarity.
Speaking to the august visitors in his office, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Hospital, Prof Anthony Igwegbe, who led the bishops round the wards, informed them that the patients were responding to treatment, saying that he was impressed with their speedy recovery which he described as unprecedented.
According to the CMD, a total of 23 victims were currently at the hospital. He said that only one victim, a woman, who had mult6iple gunshot wounds in the head died at the hospital after surgery around 10 pm on that fateful day.
Prof Igwegbe said that six of those with serious orthopedic problems have been transferred to their facility at Oba.
Describing the attack as a sacrilegious and heinous affront on humanity, the CMD commended all those who came to assistance of the hospital when the news broke out and donated blood, as well as rendered other valuable emergency services, saying that it was only God who would adequately recompense them.
He commended both the Catholic and Anglican faithful who broke up their services on that fateful morning to render assistance, even as equally lauded the efforts of the staff of the hospital both those on duty, and those who were not on duty but rushed to offer their services on hearing of the incident.
At the St Philip’s Catholic Church Most Rev Valerian Okeke commiserated with the parishioners for the dastardly attack, saying that they were saddened by what happened, describing it as a crime of unparalled magnitude. He assured them of their ever-ready willing assistance and announced a donation on N10 million to the families of the bereaved victims.
Responding, on behalf of the parish, the Vice Chairman of the Parish Council, Bro Jude Akabogu said that most of the victims were almost from the same family and thanked the bishops for their visit, assuring them that the event would not dampen their faith.