Catholic priest in Nigeria freed on Pentecost Sunday after three days in captivity

Father Matthias Opara Father Matthias Opara was freed May 28, 2023, after spending three days in captivity in Nigeria’s Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri. | Credit: Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri

Father Matthias Opara, a Nigerian Catholic priest who was abducted on May 26 while returning from a funeral, has been released.

The parish priest of Holy Ghost Obosima Catholic Parish of Owerri Archdiocese in Nigeria regained his freedom on Pentecost Sunday, May 28, the chancellor of the Nigerian Metropolitan See, Father Patrick Mbarah, announced in a statement. 

“We thank God almighty for his infinite mercy and for answering our prayers,” said Mbarah, who also thanked the people of God for their “fraternal solidarity and prayers.”

“To God be the glory,” Mbarah added.

In an earlier statement following the abduction of Opara, Mbarah said the local ordinary of Owerri, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, had directed him to appeal for prayers for the release of Opara, who has been a priest since 1990.

The May 26 abduction of Opara was the latest in a series of kidnappings that have targeted members of the clergy in Africa’s most populous nation.

On May 19, Father Jude Kingsley Maduka, a Nigerian priest serving in the Okigwe Diocese, was kidnapped and freed after three days of captivity.

Father Chochos Kunav and Father Raphael Ogigba, who had been abducted on April 29 from Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Warri, were released on May 4.

On April 15, Father Michael Ifeanyi Asomugha, the curate of St. Paul’s Parish, Osu, in the Okigwe Diocese, was kidnapped and later released.

The West African nation has faced a surge of violence orchestrated by gangs whose members carry out indiscriminate attacks, kidnap for ransom, and in some cases, commit murder.

Since 2009, Nigeria has experienced an insurgency of Boko Haram, a group that allegedly aims to turn it into an Islamic nation.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

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