Catholic Church, Army celebrate exit of Africa’s oldest priest

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The Catholic Church as well as retired and serving officers of the Nigerian Army recently gathered in Lagos to celebrate the exit of Africa’s oldest Catholic Priest and retired military officer in Nigeria, Monsignor (Col.) Pedro Ayodele Martins, OON, who died on Saturday May 17, 2014 at the age of 103.

The four-day funeral programme for the late Msgr. Martins began with a farewell Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 1004 Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday June 5, 2004. This was followed by a farewell celebration by the Army Chaplaincy on Friday, June 6, at St Michael’s Catholic Church, Tamandu Barracks, Apapa.

The wake and vigil masses for the departed soul were held on Monday, June 9 through Tuesday, June 10 at St. Gregory’s College, S.W. Ikoyi.
Priests, retired senior military officers as well as Catholic lay faithful from across Lagos Archdiocese and beyond were at the funeral Mass held at  the Holy Cross Catholic Cathedral on Mission Street Lagos, in which Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos was the Chief celebrant, while Archbishop Emeritus of Ibadan, Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job gave the homily.

In his sermon, Most Rev. Alaba Job eulogised the Stirling qualities of the Late “Baba” Martins, whom he described as a very devoted Priest and disciplined army officer who served the church and his country diligently. He described Baba Martins’ exit as a well-deserved home call by the Creator after a life well spent in the service of God and humanity.

Dignitaries who took part in the funeral programme included former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Chief of Army Staff and military governor of defunct Mid-West State, General David Ejoor (Rtd.), Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubumi Okogie, senior retired army officers and a host of other dignitaries.

Msgr. Ayodele Martins was born in Lagos on November 16, 1910. He was ordained a Catholic Priest on August 8, 1943. The first indigene of Lagos to be so ordained and one of the first eleven indigenous Nigerian Priests.

Baba Martins lived a distinguished life as a Priest and soldier with an enviable record of service in various capacities which include: Chaplain to the Nigerian contingent to the United Nations Peace-keeping Mission to the Congo; key proponent of the Post-Civil war Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction programme of the Federal Government under the administration of Gen. Yakubu Gowon (Rtd); member of the Justice Aguda Committee on the creation  of a new Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) 1975 – 1976; Chairman of the Corrective Review Panel on Mass Retirement in the Federal Civil Service in 1976; member, Constitution Drafting Committee, 1978; first Nigerian Catholic Chaplain of the Nigerian Army and first Nigerian Director of the Nigerian Armed forces Chaplaincy Services.

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