The arrival of the Catholic Church in Nigeria 
APA-Lagos, (Nigeria)
The biggest Church in Nigeria is the Anglican Church. It is the second-largest Province in the Anglican Communion, as measured by baptized membership, after the Church of England. It gives as current membership "over 18 million", out of a total Nigerian population of 140 million.

The Church was made up initially of liberated slaves, but later included the indigenes of the southern Nigeria area. Similar to the first period of evangelisation from the 16th to 18th centuries, trade and politics affected the progress of the Christian mission both positively and negatively through slavery and rejection of the new faith.

Also, Catholics in Nigeria, after the failed efforts at missionary work that ended in early 19th century, began their membership from liberated slaves from Brazil.

The Society of African Missions (SMA) based in Dahomey (Republic of Benin) discovered that a Catholic community was already in Lagos, early in the 1860s under the supervision of a catechist named "Padre Antonio. In 1868 the SMA, led by Francesco Borghero, arrived in Lagos and the evangelisation of the area covered today by the provinces - Lagos, Benin, Ibadan, in the southern part of the country and, Jos and Kaduna in the north. The Vicariate Apostolic of the Bight of Benin was created in 1883 and was under Father J.B. Chausse. Our Lady of Apostles Sisters (OLA) co-operated in this mission. They had communities in Lagos and Abeokuta by 1873.

The Vicariate Apostolic of Upper Niger was created in 1884 with its centre first in Lokoja and later in Asaba under the very popular Father Carlos Zappa who had minor seminarians by 1911.The strong resistance of the West Niger Igbo to foreign religion and fashion was pacified by British military operation.

From this area Paul Emechete emerged as the "first modern African priest in the Gulf of Guinea" in 1920. This development was in line with SMA founder, Marion Bresillac's insistence on building local community and local clergy. The church, which reached Abeokuta and Ibadan in the 1890s, had already a minor seminary established in Ibadan by 1908.

The first three Yoruba priests ordained in 1929, Julius Adewuyi, Peter Oni, and Lawrence Layode were trained in neighbouring Dahomey at St Gall major seminary in Ouidah.

As happened with the Protestant mission, the move to the north was halted by British order. However, in 1907 the intrepid Zappa was able to make the 300-mile leap from Asaba, in the Niger Delta, to establish the only Catholic station in the north up to the 1930s in Shendam in the north.

Westwards, the historic Benin was administered from Sapele in the Niger Delta, which got its own bishop in 1929 (Thomas Broderick) who was resident in Asaba, and moved to Benin in 1939. The Issele-Uku diocese, 30 kilometres from Asaba, was created in 1973 to take care of the West-Niger Igbo. These were the initial steps that later led to the formation of the three ecclesiastical provinces of Lagos, Ibadan and Benin.

2009-03-19 16:09:05

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