ANAMBRA STATE, Nigeria (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic priest was stabbed in the face with a monstrance and beaten into a coma by a group of idol worshipers in Nigeria. The attack happened Monday, when the priest and some of his followers were having a Rosary procession.
Father Fidelis Ifeanyichukwu Ugozo of St. Raphael's Catholic Church in Ugbenu, Anambra State in southeastern Nigeria, was stopped by Gabriel Ikegbunam, one of the youth leaders in his village. Ikegbunam says he stopped him because he felt that the priest was there to burn down their deity.
Ikegbunam would not allow the priest and his parishoners to enter the village, but after confronting them they continued their procession. He then called youths from the village to attack the priest and his followers, who were mainly women and children.
Father Ugozo was shot twice in the back, stabbed with a monstrance, and beaten until he became comatose. Twenty other Catholic faithful were injured during the attack. After the brutal beating, Fr. Ugozo was sent to an undisclosed hospital nearby, and later transferred to a Catholic hospital.
Cletus Nwankwo, a former catechist at St. Raphael's, said the area is known for its practice of paganism. Describing the attack, he said Ikegbunam had called his friends "and told them that Catholics are coming to burn their shrine. Soon the youths trooped out, wielding dangerous weapons such as axe, gun and machetes."
He added, "They grabbed the Blessed Sacrament from our parish priest, hit it on the floor and used the Monstrance to hit our parish priest on his hand before stabbing him on the face and other parts of the body."
One of the traditional rulers of the town told reporters that his wife was among those beaten by the youths. He also said Ikegbunam and three other companions stormed his palace before the incident occurred to complain that their shrine and other sacred symbols were burnt by Christians.
"After investigation I discovered that they were all liars," he commented. "None of their shrines were burnt and I can defend it anywhere."
"It was Ikegbunam that incited others to attack the priest and other Christians," he remarked. "Their greatest mistake was touching the priest and destroying the Blessed Sacrament. It is a sacrilege and they will pay for it."
As of now two of the youths are in custody, while the other accomplices have not yet been apprehended.