Reasons why the Parish Priest of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, Ugbenu, Rev. Fr Fidelis Ifeanyichukwu Ugozo was last Sunday beaten to pulp by youths of Obubo Village, Ugbenu, Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra state may have emerged.
Fides gathered that the priest who is regarded as being a powerful man of God was beaten up because youths of the village, who are known for idolatory were fed wrong information by one Mr… who raised alarm that the priest was leading his members into the village to destroy their shrines and render their deity powerless.
Recall that Fr Ugozo was attacked while leading a prayer procession with members of the church into the village in observance of their monthly rosary procession when the incident happened.
A source told our correspondent that the priest was beaten to pulp, his priestly garb torn to shreds, while he was also stabbed on the face. Members of his Church also sustained varied degrees of injuries during the attack as the rampaging youths beat up the Catholic faithful which mostly consisted of women.
The source said, “the priest was carrying the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ in procession with his parishioners going round some villages in the community when they were intercepted by one indigene of Obubo(name withheld).
The said indigene insisted that the procession will not enter his village, but when the members of the church ignored him and made into the village, he started making phone calls to youths of the villages, asking them to come and help him prevent the procession from entering the village.
When Fides correspondent launched an investigation into the incident, youths of the village, most of who dissociated themselves from the act said that the youths involved acted because they thought the priest was coming to destroy their charms.
One of the youths who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity said, “This our village is very tough. There is hardly any family that does not have their own shrine. I heard that the youth acted because they were told that the priest was leading his members to come and destroy their shrines.
“The truth also is that there is an existing acrimony between the church people and the traditionalists in this village. I cannot give you all the details because I am not based in the village, but that is the truth.”
On the said day, Fides gathered that youths attacked the priest and his members, seizing the Bleaased Sacrament, which they smashed on the ground, disrupting their prayers and inflicting bodily harm on the priest and his members.
The priest who was first attended to in a hospital at Ebenebe, a neighbouring community has since been transfered to General Hospital, Adazi Ani for serious medical attention.
A former Catechist in St. Raphael’s parish, Ugbenu, Chief Cletus Nwankwo told our correspondent that Obubo village is known in Ugbenu town for adulatory, adding that the youths suspected that the Rosary procession was aimed at destroying their deity, hence the attack.
When Fides called on the police Public relations Officer of Anambra State, Mrs Nkiru Nwode, she said no such incident has been reported to the police. She promised to get back to our correspondent when she finds out.
But the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor when contacted condemned the attack.
Ezeokafor who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Abuchi Onwumelu called on the people of the area to be calm. He enjoined Catholics in the area not to panic as security agents were on top of the situation.