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Southern California Catholics pray for kidnapped Nigerian Bishop with strong ties to the area

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Priests and parishioners in Southern California are praying for the safe return of Bishop Moses Chikwe, the auxiliary bishop of Owerri Archdiocese in Nigeria, who served for several years in the Diocese of San Diego as a priest before returning to his country.

Bishop Moses was ordained a priest on July 6, 1996, in Nigeria, after which he completed his Master's degree in educational administration at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and his Ph.D. in education at UCLA. Fr. Moses served for six years as a priest in residence at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown San Diego and at the VA Hospital in La Jolla as chaplain; he also frequently said Mass at St. Mark's parish in San Marcos, CA.

He returned to his home diocese to where he became director of education and was ordained Auxiliary Bishop on December 12, 2019, but he kept "strong ties with the community and came back during the summer for four consecutive years, except for this last summer," Fr. Bruce Orsborn, pastor of St. Mark's and a good friend of Bishop Moses told CNA.

During his summer visits, then-Fr. Moses would resume celebrating masses and preaching at St. Mark's. "Everybody loves Fr. Moses, he is extremely humble and gentle, and he is very intelligent, he is extremely prayerful and people were amazed at his homilies," said Fr. Orsborn.

Fr. Peter M. Escalante, current pastor of Mission San Diego de Alcala and former pastor of the Cathedral in downtown San Diego, told CNA that "it was in mid-2008 that he took residence at St. Joseph’s Cathedral while completing his doctoral studies at UCLA and working on his dissertation. He helped with daily and weekend masses at the Cathedral and he is still fondly remembered there."

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Fr. Escalante has maintained a friendship with Bishop Moses, even traveling to Nigeria with two parishioners last December for the occasion of his Episcopal Ordination. "He is a wonderful human being and Churchman. We are praying fervently for his safety and release."

In a December 29 statement, the Archbishop of Owerri Anthony Obinna urged “all Christ’s faithful and people of goodwill” to disregard reports that kidnappers had killed Bishop Moses. “This information is unconfirmed, misleading and does not come from the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri,” he added.

Fr. Orsborn sent an urgent email to all St. Mark's parishioners, announcing a time of special prayer at St Mark's for the safety of Bishop Moses. The prayer service will be held on Sunday, January 3 2021 at 2:30 pm.

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