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Bishop kidnapped in Nigeria just over a week after priest released

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Natanael Ginting | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 12/30/20

53-year-old Moses Chikwe has been missing since Sunday.

Nigeria has had a problem with kidnapping for some time, and in recent years even Catholic priests, religious and seminarians have been subject to being held for ransom.

Now, the scourge of kidnapping has reached the higher echelons of the Church. Armed men on Sunday evening kidnapped the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Owerri, Moses Chikwe, and his driver. The Archbishop of Owerri, Victor Obinna confirmed the kidnap in a statement Tuesday, Vatican News reported.

Archbishop Obinna said the abduction took place around Site and Services, New Owerri, in Imo State, in Nigeria’s southeast. 

Bishop Chikwe, 53, who was appointed Auxiliary Bishop in October 2019, “was kidnapped two days ago as he was returning from a visit to his residence in Owerri, a mile or two away from the city of Owerri, where he has his residence,” Obinna told Vatican News. “Kidnapping has, of course, been going on in Nigeria, in different parts of Nigeria. That it has happened to my Auxiliary Bishop shows that the security situation in Nigeria is very bad. The protection, the security that the people ought to have is not very effective. We have periodically raised the alarm about the state of insecurity in which we find ourselves.”

The archbishop added that the fact that a member of the hierarchy was taken shows that the Church is “not far removed from the people. We are not insulated from the suffering of the people. We take it as part of our testimony that we have to bear.”

He also said he was receiving messages of solidarity and assurances for prayer from within the archdiocese and outside the country. 

Vatican News also quoted Nigerian media as saying Bishop Chikwe’s car and episcopal vestments were abandoned by the kidnappers near the Assumpta Cathedral premises.

Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Society, reported that the police have activated two special teams — the Quick Intervention Team (QUIT) and the Anti Kidnapping Unit (AKU) — to find Bishop Chikwe and arrest his abductors.

The kidnapping came less than two weeks after the abduction in Imo State of Fr. Valentine Oluchukwu Ezeagu, as he was on his way to his father’s funeral. The priest was released on December 16.

In recent years, Nigerian priests and religious women have become targets of kidnappings. Criminals kidnap religious women and priests on the assumption that congregations or dioceses will pay a ransom for the release of one of their own, Vatican News said. 

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