Catholic Church bombing in Jos, Nigeria
St Finbarr’s Catholic Church, Rayfield, Jos was the latest church to be bombed by a suicide bomber, a member of the Boko Haram Islamic sect. The attack took place as worshippers gathered for Sunday morning Mass, about 11am. Failing to gain entry to the Church compound the bomber detonated the bomb, injuring many people around him and killing himself. There are unconfirmed reports of other deaths. St Finbarr’s Church, in the suburbs of Jos Town, was built by the late SMA missionary, Fr Denis Donovan (from Dunmanway). The present Bishop of Bauchi, Rt Rev Malachy John Goltok, was Parish Priest there until his appointment as Bishop in March 2011.
This attack is the latest in a series of bombings and killings taking place in several dioceses in Nigeria. Boko Haram intends to Islamise the entire country and does not recognize the traditional local powers, such as the Sultan of Sokoto and the different Emirs. According to Boko Haram, these institutions have no place in Islam. The Archbishop of Abuja, speaking to the FIDES News Agency on 9 March, expressed the hope that the Nigerian government and other political forces in Nigeria will recognize that “we are facing a common threat which must be addressed together” but “I do not see significant steps in this direction and this worries me.”
Priests of the Society of African Missions were the founding missionaries of the Catholic Church in the Plateau area of Nigeria. French and Italian SMA’s had established a mission in Lokoja on the west bank of the Niger in 1884. In 1907, Fathers Oswald Waller, Ernest Belin and Joseph Mouren arrived in Shendam, to the north-east. This brought them north of the other great Nigerian river, the Benue. At this time, the entire area was part of the Prefecture of Asaba, headed by Italian SMA Fr Carlo Zappa. From there, the Church expanded throughout the rest of the Plateau and further north. Today, there are several Archdioceses and dioceses in the area, all led by Nigerian bishops. Surely a sign of God’s blessing and the faith of the Nigerian people.
One of the notable missionaries, Fr Berengario Cermenati, served in the Asaba Prefecture from 1899 to 1926, when a dispute with the British authorities forced his removal to a mission in Togo. Dr Edmund Hogan SMA has recently published a book on this great missionary. Further details here.