Pope Francis has granted audience to 112 pilgrims from Nigeria currently in Rome for the 2022 special pilgrimage organised by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC).
The pilgrims were led to the papal audience at the Vatican City by His Grace, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, among other high profile personalities.
A statement issued on Monday in Abuja by Celestine Toruka, NCPC Head of Media and Public Relations, said that the Pontiff received the Nigerian flag from the pilgrims and prayed for peace and progress in Nigeria.
He also prayed for those who lost their lives in the recent flood incidents in Nigeria.
Toruka said that Rev. Yakuba Pam, the Executive Secretary of the commission, described the audience with the Pope as spiritually fulfilling.
He quoted Pam to have commended the good conduct of the pilgrims during the special pilgrimage to Rome in spite of what he described as some “inadequacies”, and the inability of the pilgrims to visit Israel due to operational reasons.
The NCPC boss assured the pilgrims especially the self-sponsored ones that the commission would come up with a mechanism to accommodate them in the next pilgrimage, the spokesman said.
The PRO added that one of the pilgrims and the President of Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji, also described the the visit to the Pope as awesome, adding that it would have a special effect on Nigeria and her people.
“The fact that the Pope prayed for Nigeria and her people signifies a new beginning for the country,” he added in the statement.
The spokesman also said that Daramola Bade, the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who handed the Nigerian flag to the Pope, said it was an unforgettable experience.
“I will never forget this experience in my life, I thank the NCPC for providing this veritable platform to be in the presence of his Holiness,” Bade was quoted as saying in the statement.
Very Rev. Bukola Adeleke, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Christian matters, said that the pilgrimage to Rome was fulfilling in view of many Holy sites visited by the pilgrims in the statement.
Toruka stated that Adekeke said that the pilgrims visited the St. John Basilica, the Basilica of Mary as well as St. Peters Basilica all in Vatican among other important Holy sites.
Adeleke commended the NCPC for organising the special pilgrimage and suggested that more improvements be made to make the exercise seamless in the future, the spokesman added.
In his comment, the Executive Secretary, Enugu State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Nestor Ezeme, said that he could not contain his joy when he met with the Pope for the first time the spokesman said.
“It is a privilege of a life time,” Ezeme said and urged the NCPC to organise more of such pilgrimages and interaction with the Pope in the future.
He lauded the NCPC for providing decent accommodations for the pilgrims despite all odds.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that pilgrims from Lagos and Enugu states, as well as some high profile personalities including the Deputy Governors of Enugu and Nasarawa States and traditional rulers were in Rome for the pilgrimage. (NAN)
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