2014 - Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See

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The diaspora Nigerians under their umbrella Nigeria in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) held its annual general meeting in Rome.
The group paid a courtesy call on the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See at the Chancery. Over 50 members and officials from over 15 countries in Europe were in attendance.
They were received by H.E. Dr. Francis Okeke and staff during which useful discussions on various on-going projects in Nigeria as well as their strategy for the year 2015 were discussed.The Ambassador thanked them for their continuous support and assistance to their country in the areas of affordable housing, health and education.
He assured them of the steady support of Mr. President and enjoined them to remain law-abiding and to redouble their contribution to their host countries as well as the Nation.
The Annual General meeting, which held 8th November, was topped by a Gala Night after successful deliberations. Several plaques were given to many members who had made valuable contributions to the Organisation.
The group paid a courtesy call on 9th November to Francis Cardinal Arinze, the most senior African Cardinal in Rome.
The delegation to Rome was lead by the President Dr. George Maduwuike resident in the UK. He was supported by other members of his newly elected executive including Dr. Bashir (Russia-Vice-President) and Mr. Ikenna Ugwu (Italy-Secretary).
Other prominent guests were Ambassador of Nigeria to France, Amb.
Hakeem Olawale Sulaiman and his Spouse. Nigeria’s Ambassador to Italy, Amb. Eric Tonye Aworabhi co-hosted the deliberations together with his Vatican counterpart.
Also in November, about a dozen Papal Knights from the Diocese of Makurdi attended the weekly Wednesday General audience, to thank the Holy Father Pope Francis for their elevation to the rank of Catholic Knighthood. The group of Knights including a Dame, called at the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See where they were received by H.E. Dr. Francis Okeke.
The group led by Sir Mike Jukwe, K.S.S., thanked Mr. President for creating a resident Mission to the Holy See, which assisted them in their spiritual journey to the Vatican. To them it was home away from home.
(See pictures at Gallery)


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The month of October, continues to attract more events for Nigerians in the Vatican State and indeed all Italy.  Schools reopen and with it, the traffic congestion in Rome increases markedly.  The pleasant weather at this time of the year continues to invite visitors.
It is on this background that Nigeria celebrated its 54th Independence celebrations and also acknowledged its centenary as a Nation.  A dinner party at the Westin Excelsior, saw members of the Diplomatic corps and over 150 prominent Nigerians including senior Priests and Religious attending. Key amongst them were the visiting Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.  Also present at the independence celebrations were their Excellencies, Ambassador Tonye Aworabhi & Mrs. Aworabhi, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President IFAD, Dr. Yaya Olaniran, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative IFAD, Madam Angela Bosah, senior citizen visiting Rome from the United Kingdom where she is resident.   The various Deans of the Diplomatic corps for the Vatican State and the African group of Ambassadors were entertained by traditional dances and the Catholic women organization, Casilina, Rome.
Find below pictures taken during the events as well as portions of Mr. Ambassador’s speech on that special day for Nigerians.  
Many Diaspora Nigerians including Presidents of NIDO, Italy, Arch. Emma Adigwe, the Yoruba community elders, Igbo community, Edo and Ijaw communities in Rome were in full attendance.  
The Priests and Religious from Nigeria played very active part in making the evening a resounding success.  They, on their part held their biennial meeting October, 12th at Seminario San Paolo in Rome.  The event was well attended with over 300 nuns, Priests and Seminarians, teaching, working or studying in Italy responding positively to roll call.
Francis Cardinal Arinze, the oldest and most senior Cardinal from Nigeria was Chief celebrant at the Mass commemorating the new academic year for the Pontifical universities where many of our citizens enjoy the assistance of the Holy See in their work.
Also this October, over 200 Bishops arrived Rome for the Pontifical Council meeting on the Family.   This is an extr-ordinary Synod of Bishops from the entire Christian world and preparatory to the  main Synod  on the Family October, 2015.  
Nigerian was represented by the Chairman of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, His Grace Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos; and it is only mid October.
Find below, pictures of the Events. Happy viewing.
We thank Nigerians affiliated to the Holy See for the recent increase in the registration with the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See through its website.  We need urgently the list of ALL our citizens.


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After the ‘’ relative quiet’’ in terms of events in the month of August in the Vatican State, activities have again returned to its brisk State as the Holy Father returns fully to Rome after his important visit to South Korea in August.
The weekly audiences on Wednesday mornings are again in full swing as are private visits by various Heads of State and government.  The impact of the visit of His Excellency, Dr.  Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his dear wife, Her Excellency, Dame Patience lingers on and has increased critically the number of Pilgrims visiting Rome from Nigeria.
In this regard, various Pilgrim tour groups have called at our fully functioning Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See making enquiries, courtesy calls and have sometimes arrived at our doors, out of curiosity.

Among these August visitors, were Pilgrims from:  

  • The Archdiocese of Lagos , The Church of the transfiguration, Victoria Garden City.


  • The Chairmen and Secretaries of State’s Pilgrim’s Welfare Board and Federal Commissioners of N.C.P.C. ably led by Mrs. Taurie Adefemi. They were on their pre-visit tour of Pilgrim Sites.   See picture


  • Over 600 Pilgrims from various parts of Nigeria came to the Vatican while returning to Nigeria from the Beatification of Bishop Alvaro Del Portillo of the Opus Dei which event took place in Spain, late September, 2014.   Over 300 of our citizens who attended the Papal audience on October 1 st , 2014 ( Our National Day) came to the Embassy which is strategically positioned 50 meters from St. Peters Basilica, ( the site of the general audience). They were all received by the Ambassador , Dr. Francis  Okeke and all Embassy staff who had remained on duty to ensure our citizens were well looked after.

Find below some pictures celebrating these encounters with our worthy citizens; and it is only the beginning of the Pilgrim season of October through December!
Happy viewing!  


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In commemoration of the twin canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, donated a statue of now St. John Paul II to the Holy Father on this occasion. The choice of John Paul II is because of the special relationship Nigeria enjoyed with him as the Holy Father.
It will be recalled that St. John Paul II as Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria twice during his tenure. He made the first visit in 1982 and the second one in 1998, during which he Beatified our own Blessed Michael Iwene Tansi. The Nigerian people have a lot of affection for him because of his special interest in our country and the role he played in our national history. It is for this reason that the President decided on behalf of the people of Nigeria to make a donation of a statue in his honour.
The statue was delivered to the Vatican a few days before the event of the twin canonization of 28 April 2014, with a letter from the President to the Holy Father Pope Francis, accompanying the delivery.


The President also sent a high-powered delegation led by the Senate President, Dr. David Mark and other members of the Federal Executive Council including the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, and Colonel Paul Obi (rtd) former administrator of Bayelsa State who presented the statue on behalf of Mr. President.  

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The pervading hot weather this time of the year in Rome promises to reach an even higher tempo with large troops of tourists and pilgrims arriving the Piazza  of St. Peter in June through August.
A large Nigerian contingent, principally from the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan arrived the Eternal City for the receiving of the Pallium from the Holy Father Pope Francis by the Archbishop of Ibadan, His Grace Gabriel ‘Leke Abegunrin.
This event took place 29 th June. Archbishop Abegunrin was an alumnus of the Urbaniana over 25 years ago when he completed his Doctorate in Canon Law with merit.
Accompanying him was the Emeritus Archbishop of Ibadan ecclesiastic province, Felix Alaba Job and various Bishops from Nigeria.
A sizable group of Nigerians living in Italy and beyond were there to felicitate with the Archbishop who was already installed in Ibadan January 2014.
The Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See wishes the new Archbishop, apostolic blessings and our very best wishes as he steers the affairs of this important diocese.  
See pictures

  
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Fellow Nigerians,

1.   I greet and felicitate with you all, today, as we mark 15 years of uninterrupted democratic governance in our beloved country.
2.  Our dear nation, Nigeria, has certainly come a long way and made notable progress since our first Democracy Day on May 29, 1999 when the military finally relinquished power and handed over to a democratically-elected government, marking the true beginning of a government of the people, by the people, for the people."
3.  Although I have ordered a low-key commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day in deference to the current mood of the nation, there can be no doubt that the past 15 years, the longest period of sustained democratic governance in our country, have been a blessing to us, as a people.
4. As we commemorate 15 years of our Fourth Republic today therefore, I believe that it is fitting that we pay tribute once again to all those who played a part in restoring our nation to the true path of democratic governance, built on the foundations of rule of law and freedom of expression.
5.  As a result of our collective efforts since 1999, democratic governance is now entrenched in our nation and institutions. I wholeheartedly believe that our people are the better for it. The scope of fundamental rights and liberties enjoyed by our people over the past 15 years has been expanded beyond measure.
6.  On my watch, we have witnessed high national economic growth rates, steady improvements and expansion of national infrastructure including airports and roads, the restoration of rail transportation, the efficient implementation of a roadmap for improved power supply, a revolutionary approach to agricultural production, as well as advances in education, sports, youth development, healthcare delivery, housing, water supply and other social services.
7.  In the oil and gas sector, our promotion of a sustainable local content policy, continues to guarantee equity and better opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs and skilled personnel.
8. Significant increase in mobile telephone and national broadband penetration, making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy.  We have also developed strong financial markets and regulatory institutions. Our banks now have regional and global footprints.
9.  Nigeria has also gained recognition as the largest economy in Africa, the most preferred investment destination in the continent and in terms of returns on investment, the fourth in the world. We are pleased that the world has noticed, as global leaders converged in Abuja early this month for the World Economic Forum in Africa.
10. The event not only witnessed a record attendance, it brought the prospect of an additional flow of investment into the Nigerian economy estimated at over $68 billion over the next few years.
11. In foreign relations, our country has equally done well within this period, by establishing and strengthening strong partnerships with all ECOWAS countries and the rest of the world. This has helped to deepen Nigeria’s leadership role in multilateral institutions including the United Nations.
12. Furthermore, under this administration, we have made consistent progress in improving the standard of elections in our country to ensure that they are ever more credible and truly representative of the people’s free choice. The National Conference we initiated to deliberate and make recommendations on the best ways of resolving our current political and socio-economic challenges is on-going. It is our expectation that its outcomes will help to further consolidate the gains we have made from democracy in the past 15 years, and place our dear nation even more firmly on the path to greatness.

Dear Compatriots,
13. It is a sad fact that as I address you today, all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores. Our dear country, Nigeria is facing a new challenge. A war has been unleashed on us. Extremist foreign elements, collaborating with some of our misguided citizens, are focused on an attempt to bring down our country and the democracy and freedom we cherish and celebrate today.
14. The despicable abduction of school girls from Chibok in Borno State has brought to the awareness of the entire world, the heartless brutality of these terrorists who want to instigate a descent into anarchy and balkanize our nation.
15.  In recent years, terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of several of our compatriots, many have been injured or maimed, whole villages and communities have been destroyed and the economy of some of our states is in jeopardy.
16.  There can be no doubt that what we are witnessing in Nigeria today is a manifestation of the same warped and ferocious world view that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, killed innocent persons in Boston and led to the murder of defenceless people in the Southern Russian city of Volgograd. Terrorist activities have brought war and pains to Mali, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These agents of evil continue to brainwash and incite ignorant young men and women to attack the innocent. We cannot allow this to continue.
17. I welcome the statements of solidarity from patriotic citizens and the global community in support of our efforts to stamp out terrorism. I applaud the understanding that in a democracy, such as we are building, people can have differences while sharing worthy values and standing together in opposition to the scourge of terrorism. Nigeria is the only country we have and we must all work to preserve it for present and future generations.
18. Despite the challenges we face, we must commend our security forces. We must not forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond. Our forces have paid the supreme price in several places at several times.
19. Today, they face a different challenge, an unconventional war by terrorists. They are adjusting and are being equipped to tackle the new menace of terrorism. We must show confidence in their ability. I have no doubt that, with the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists.
20.  It is now 45 days since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians and I assure them once again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our daughters home.
21. I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country, and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable. I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.
22. I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away – it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
23. For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.
24. My government, while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents, and to ensure their de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society.

Dear Compatriots,

25. We must remain united to win the war against terrorism. Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear.
26. The war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hardwork, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces.
27. We are a strong, resilient and courageous people.  We will continue to partner with the civilized world, to confront international terrorism and every other challenge that comes our way with patriotic zeal and determination.

Fellow Nigerians,

28. Yes, we have challenges but we will surely overcome. Nigeria is our country. Nigeria is blessed. We will all collectively protect, defend and develop this country for ourselves, and our children.
29.  Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
30. Thank you and God bless Nigeria.


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The author of the above scripts needs little introduction.
John Cardinal Onaiyekan is a Nigerian Cardinal and Archbishop of Abuja.
He is a member of various Pontifical Councils in Rome but is universally acclaimed for his contributions in the world of dialogue between Christians and other religions with particular attention to Christian- Muslim Dialogue in Nigeria.
He is the "Pax Christi", Peace Award Laureate 2012.
Wishing you happy reading of another view of the challenges and the way forward in tackling the insurgency in Nigeria.

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The tragic drama of the abducted secondary school girls of Chibok, Borno State at the hands of Boko Haram has shocked the whole world. This has focused very unsavory global media attention on our nation. It has in particular concentrated much publicity on Boko Haram, a publicity which they have always reveled in but which in this case may have gone beyond what they bargained for and which may now boomerang against them. This "unconscionable crime", to use Mrs Obama’s rather unfamiliar language, has to say the least, cast our government in very bad light. Whether this verdict is deserved or not, the government has to do something visible about the crisis on our hands. And quickly too. This perhaps explains why our government is accepting assistance from various foreign nations, from USA to China, from France to Israel. As a Nigerian, I am saddened and ashamed. But it seems clear that we have reached the stage where we have to swallow our pride and stop bragging and pretending to be what we are not.
In itself, there should be nothing wrong with seeking and accepting foreign intervention, especially since it is now clear that the Boko Haram has international connections.  It is therefore not only a question of "assisting Nigeria". It is also in the interest of the international community to join hands with Nigeria to deal with a dangerous virus that is infecting and attacking the entire international community, starting from our nearest regional neighbours.
So far, we have been hearing much about military action. To the extent that the Boko Haram is killing, abducting and bombing, it has to be effectively and appropriately engaged. But there is a limit to how far we can go with military action alone. One only needs to imagine the awful military dilemma of rescuing 200 girls from the hands of heavily armed terrorists and bring them back to their families, safe and sound. The complexity of the Boko Haram phenomenon therefore calls for coordinated action at different levels and in various areas of attention. The political and socio-economic issues are well within our ability as a nation, if we can only summon the political will to act together across political and ethnic lines to save our nation.
But there is also the religious dimension which in my view has not been given adequate attention. This is where I believe we should welcome with deep gratitude the strong messages of solidarity with our nation and vigorous expressions of condemnation of the Boko Haram by the global Islamic community at the highest level. The Islamic Fiqh Academy, based in Saudi Arabia, has declared:
"This crime and other crimes committed by the likes of these extremist organizations contradict all humanitarian principles and moral values and violate the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah".
The OIC, now called "The Organization of Islamic Cooperation", a body well known to us here in Nigeria, has come out not less forcefully in its condemnation, through its "Independent Human Rights Commission" (IHRC). Their statement issued from its headquarters in Jedda merits a long quotation.
"The IHRC is extremely saddened by the misguided claim of the Boko Haram that the abduction of the girls and threat to sell them off as ‘slaves’ is in conformity with the injunctions of Islam. This is not only a violation of international law and human rights law, but also a gross misrepresentation of Islam, which enjoins its adherents to go to any extent in the pursuit of knowledge. The Commission joins the international community in unequivocally condemning the barbaric act … and urges the leadership of Boko Haram to immediately release the abducted girls to enable them join their families and continue with their education."
With such statements at such high Islamic levels, there is no more room for any Muslim or anybody in Nigeria to suggest any kind of alibi, excuses or justification for the "unconscionable crimes" of Boko Haram.  I believe such powerful statements are also great encouragement to our many Muslims who have been speaking loudly against the terrorists, at times at great risk. We think of the imams who have been hunted down and murdered by Boko Haram for preaching against their demonic activities. It is a good sign that many Nigerian Muslims have been making similar statements. It is time for all of us to call Boko Haram by its proper name, "mindless bigots, misguided persons masquerading as adherents of Islam" – as General Buhari branded them recently.
One may suggest that these global Islamic organizations could go further than issuing statements of condemnation. They could do more to support the efforts of the Nigerian Muslims to discourage and knock out radicalization and all forms of extremism in the Nigerian Muslim community. Could they also reach out to the foreign supporters and inspirers of our terrorists to leave us in peace? What about facilitating dialogue with Boko Haram?
Finally, I believe that we Christians, despite all the hurts that we have suffered, should resist the temptation to turn a deaf ear to what the Muslim world is saying. The Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury are singing the same song of peace as the Muslim leaders. This is significant. Muslims and Christians in Nigeria must find it in their hearts to pick up the chorus. When the girls are back home, and the Boko Haram are disarmed, (I say "when" not "if") there will still be the tedious task of dialogue, reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and peace, for which the force of religion will be most needed. This will demand that religious communities join hands and call on the One God who takes care of us all.  It is then that it may well be that this horrible episode, as President Jonathan believes, would "be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria".

May God bless Nigeria, and bring back home our daughters.

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Vatican City is the preferred destination to many Christians from Nigeria especially at this time of the year.
The year 2014 comes even more to prominence with the visit of the President His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan 21 st-22 nd March.
Many Nigerians especially of the Catholic faith are as a result attracted even more readily to spend the Holy Week and Easter in Rome.
The Canonization of the two popes (Pope John XXIII and John-Paul II) on 27 th April has further exacerbated this traffic, which will reach its peak between 25 th-28 th April.
One of the notable and very regular visitor to the Vatican at this time of the year is Lady Vero Onyiuke, wife of the late legal luminary Chief G.C.M. Onyiuke SAN, Q.C.
She has spent time visiting the Vatican over the Easter period for the past 40 years and has never missed coming to the Holy City each year.
Along with Lady Onyiuke, was Chief L.C. Okeke and wife together with other close friends of Lady Onyiuke who were in Rome on pilgrimage.
The Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See wishes Lady Vero Onyiuke many years of good health and happy visits to the Vatican State as the octogenarian continues to pray for peace and progress in our Country.  See pictures

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The "talk" most of this month in the Holy see (besides events leading into the period of Lent), are several visits from various Heads of Governments and Royalty from many countries.
Nigeria was not left out of these important events as Mr. President, H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, visits the Vatican State and the Holy See accompanied by his wife, H.E. Dame Patience Jonathan, for Audience with Pope Francis.
He comes with a modest retinue of government officials including the Governors of Akwa-Ibom, H.E. Goodswill Akpabio and wife.
Also in the delegation were the Governor of Benue, H.E. Gabriel Suswan as well as the Former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and his wife.
Mr. President also attended a meeting with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by the Honourable Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri. The meeting was cordial and mutually beneficial. Issues of common interests to the Holy See and Nigeria were discusses including Pilgrimage and Security matters.
The long relationship between Nigeria and the Holy See in the field of Health and Education were highlighted.
Also present at the discussion were Mr. John Kennedy Opara of Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission as well as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr. Francis C. Okeke.
Mr. President along with the 1st Lady of Nigeria Dame Patience Jonathan after praying with members of the entourage and Pilgrims from Nigeria performing the spiritual journey, returned home after a modest lunch with some Priests and Religious from Nigeria studying and working in Rome.
The most Senior Cardinal from Nigeria, Francis Cardinal Arinze (CFR) was also able to meet with Mr. President prior to his audience with the Pontiff.
A section of the Nigerian Community in Rome presented themselves and gave a big welcome to their Excellencies.
Amongst these, were the Ijaw and Ibo communities and cultural groups resident in Rome. The association of Priests and Religious from Nigeria were there to welcome Mr. President and 1 st Lady as well. The "Cortile San Damaso" of the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, was a bevy of activities as the Vatican State rolled out the red carpet to receive Mr. President.
An entirely fruitful and colourful visit for Mr. President  and Nigeria even if very brief.
The ambassador and wife were there at the airport along with Embassy Staff to wish the visitors farewell as they continued their journey to Hague (Netherlands) for yet another summit on nuclear security.       See pictures

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Interview

Following the meeting between the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Ambassador of Nigeria Dr. Francis C. Okeke gave an interview to Vatican Radio on the same day, 13th January 2014.
Find below the interview









The youth group of the Catholic Secretariat from Abuja visited Italy on pilgrimage and presented itself at the Wednesday audience 19th February 2014. The youths were led by several priests who were supported by nuns resident in Rome during the audience.
The group paid a courtesy call on the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See, Dr. Francis C. Okeke, who was there to receive them with members of his staff. The visitors relayed the good wishes of the organisation to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR), for opening an Embassy to the Holy See which has made them feel at home in the course of their pilgrimage. The group return to Nigeria next week.
Find above and below pictures.



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13th January 2014

Greetings of friendship and constant interests in the affairs of our Countries.
The Holy Father shakes the hand of Nigeria's Ambassador to the Holy See at the meeting of the entire Diplomatic Corps with Pope Francis.


 
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