By News Editor
Plateau State Governor and Director General, DG of the APC presidential candidate, Mr Simon Lalong weekend, tendered an unreserved apology to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) over his ‘blasphemous’ remarks about the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Lalong had on Wednesday provoked the anger of Catholics faith in a blasphemous comments while fielding questions from State House correspondents after a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
He had insinuated that the Pope had endorsed his decision to accept the position of DG, Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim presidential Campaign Council against the wishes of many Nigerian Christian groups who had protested against it.
Governor Lalong who is also a Catholic Knight, admitted after a fearce warning memo served him last Friday by the college of knights, in an apology letter, which he personally signed, that he erred for linking the Catholic Pontiff with Nigeria’s politics.
He, therefore, begged for forgiveness and understanding from the Catholic Church through the Bishops’ conference.
Earlier on Thursday, a group called Concerned Catholics in Nigeria, had frowned at his choice of words, even as a Papal Knight of St. Gregory and demanded his immediate apology and suspension from the Church.
Governor Lalong, in the apology letter to the CBCN President entitled, ‘Letter of Apology,’ dated August 12, 2022, restated his commitment to the Catholic faith and promised to continue upholding the banner of the Christian faith in his public life.
He wrote, “I have followed with some shock and deep regret, the reactions that have trailed my appointment as the Director-General of the Campaign Council for the Presidential Candidates of our Party, the All Progressive Congress, APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Ibrahim Shettima.
“The appointment, understandably was received with mixed reactions across the Christian community who genuinely feel aggrieved by the decision of our party to settle for a Muslim Muslim ticket.
“While many people commended me for the appointment and saw it as a way of remaining within the system to fight for our own interests, others cast aspersions on it on the grounds that our faith had been insulted and denigrated.
“In the course of this, many of my opponents turned the issue into a political weapon with some spreading rumours and questioning the integrity of my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight.
“In trying to make my case, I have granted interviews to justify why I believe that the appointment did not in any way undermine my commitment to the Catholic Church.
“During the week, in the course of defending myself, I had cause to make reference to my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight. In the process, I made reference to the Holy Father.
“I now realise that this was an error on my part and has caused some level of concern and even embarrassment to many, especially the Members of the family of Papal Knights to which I belong.
“I now understand that I may have overreached myself in the course of trying to defend my personal decision in accepting this appointment and thus, the reference to the holy father was not intended as an act of disrespect to his exalted and revered office.
“Your Grace, by this written letter, I wish to tender my unreserved apologies and ask for their understanding and forgiveness from my brothers in the Catholic faith and, through you, the entire members of the Bishops’ Conference, our Fathers and our Leaders.
“My commitment to the Catholic faith to which I belong remains unreserved and undiluted. I will continue to uphold the banner of my faith in public life as I have done over the years.
“You may recall, Your Grace, that in the last five or so years, I have been at the forefront of facilitating our dialogue as politicians with you our fathers in the faith. and remain committed to this and pray that you will continue to encourage us as we ascend the slippery slope of politics.”
Below is the most powerful warning letter from body of Papal’s knights that brought Gov Lalong to his knees.
LETTER TO SIMON BAKO LALONG, GOVERNOR OF PLATEAU STATE
FROM PAPAL KNIGHTS AND MEDALISTS IN NIGERIA, (APKMN),
My dear Sir Simon Lalong, Governor of Plateau State, I write to you as the National President of Papal Knights and Medalists in Nigeria, (APKMN), to express the disappointment of all Papal Honorees in Nigeria at a statement credited to you which would tend to bring the revered image and person of the Holy Father, the Pope into your Local Politics. Your action, to say the least, is not only disappointing but condemnable and not expected of a Catholic and more so of a Papal Knight. The Holy father is a busy man and does not interact with individuals so easily as you will want Nigerians to believe. I have been mandated by all Papal Knights and Medalists in Nigeria who feel betrayed by your Statement to ask you to produce evidence of your claim or refute the statement credited to you.
An ardent Catholic and a Papal honoree at that, ought to know where and when to apply the break in discussing issues of the Church.
No true Catholic, no matter his/her position in the society will deliberately politicize the revered name of the Pope for the purpose of a position in a localized political matter of any country.
The executive of the Association of Papal Knights and Medalists in Nigeria will be meeting to take a decision and make recommendations to CBCN and thereafter to the Papal Nuncio.
Rt Hon Dame Dr Esther Uduehi
National President, APKMN