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24 May 2018

Pope Francis to consider visiting Nigeria – Onaiyekan says

The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, is considering visiting Nigeria, as part of his itinerary, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan has said.

Onaiyekan, however, said no date has, however, been fixed for the visit.

Onaiyekan said the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Nigeria during their recent Ad Limina visit to the Vatican.

The former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, however, said since the Pope is Head of State and head of the Catholic Church, he cannot visit Nigeria without the invitation of the Federal Government.

He added that since the Vatican has an ambassador in Nigeria (the Papal Nuncio) and the federal government has an ambassador in the Vatican, arranging the visit will not be problematic as both envoys will liaise with the respective authorities.

Speaking about the CBCN’s request, Onaiyekan told Daily Sun that: “Both the government and the church will be responsible for the visit.

“So, both governments and the church are involved. In other words, a Pope will not visit a country if the government of that country does not invite him.

“We have not reached the stage of contacting the government yet. All the formalities will normally start after there is a tentative decision by the Pope to visit. There is no point telling government to be making moves if the Pope is not thinking yet of visiting.

“In any case, you know that first, we have a Pope’s ambassador here in Nigeria and a Nigerian ambassador in the Holy See. So, these are the people who will handle all those diplomatic aspects,” he said.

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