UK/NIGERIA: Friend of murdered priest pays heartfelt tribute

Father Charles Igechi (© Secretary of the Archbishop of Benin City Father Francis Morah)
Father Charles Igechi (© Secretary of the Archbishop of Benin City Father Francis Morah)

A UK-based priest has paid tribute to “an extraordinary soul” from Nigeria who was gunned down barely 10 months after his ordination.

Father Charles Igechi, aged 33, was killed by unidentified gunmen while carrying out pastoral duties in Benin City last month, less than a year after his ordination.

Father Alfred Osi Ebalu  told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about how as a seminarian 15 years ago he first encountered the “young man driven by the noble aspiration of embracing priesthood”.

Father Ebalu, himself a survivor of abduction and death threats while serving as a priest in Nigeria, said: “I honour the life of an extraordinary soul extinguished in his pursuit of divine love.”

Father Alfred, who came to the UK after the attack, added: “Amidst the sombre veil that shrouds our hearts, we remember a man whose unwavering devotion in 10 months as a priest touched countless lives and whose unwarranted fate now echoes through the annals of time.

“He stood as a beacon of compassion in the corridors of reverence, leading his flock through the labyrinth of life’s trials and tribulations. His voice resonated with the wisdom of ages, imparting solace to the weary and kindling hope in the hearts of the downtrodden.”

He added: “In a heartless act of violence, the sacred cord of life was abruptly severed, and a shepherd of Christ was torn from the embrace of those he served so faithfully.

“His lifeless body, found on a road path and now buried, bears witness to the cruelty that seeks to snuff out the light of goodness, challenging our faith and stirring anguish that runs deeper than words can express.

Father Ebalu, who is an assistant priest at a parish in south London, said that we should “not be consumed by the enormity of this tragedy” – rather, we should “gather our broken spirits and draw strength from the radiant legacy he leaves behind.

“For the priest we mourn was not a mere mortal but a symbol of hope, an embodiment of unwavering faith, and a testament to the indomitable power of love.”

He added: “It was impossible not to be touched by his endearing character, which fostered deep connections with all the seminarians within our parish family.

“His genuine camaraderie and unyielding support served as a beacon, guiding us through the challenges of our shared vocation.”

He concluded: “In the face of adversity, may we stand firm, united in our resolve to combat the forces of darkness and nurture a society where love triumphs over hatred and where the sanctity of life is cherished above all else.

“May the legacy of our beloved priest forever remind us that even in the face of inexplicable tragedy, the power of faith, hope, and love shall endure, guiding us through the darkest nights and ultimately leading us to the eternal dawn of redemption.”

Father Ebalu met with King Charles III last December as part of ACN’s delegation alongside other charities and shared his thoughts on Christian persecution in Nigeria.