Premium Times (Abuja)

22 March 2014

Nigeria: Pope Francis to Visit Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday, after conferring with Pope Francis at the Vatican, disclosed that the Pope had promised to visit Nigeria because of his keen interest in the country.

The President also said the Pope assured that he would continue to pray for God Almighty to bless Nigeria and its people.

Mr. Jonathan, who had conferred with Pope Francis on the promotion of inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria and other parts of the world to foster greater global peace and security, also revealed that the promotion of inter-faith dialogue was a cause to which the Pontiff was very committed.

The President said that his administration was already working in close collaboration with Cardinal John Onaiyekan who was "the team leader" for the effort to strengthen inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria. He also assured the Pope of his administration's continued commitment to the promotion of religious harmony and the peaceful co-existence of people of all faiths. He said his administration will continue to work diligently to alleviate poverty in Nigeria through more inclusive economic growth and development.

"My coming to see the Pope was to discuss issues, especially that of inter-faith dialogue which the Vatican has been promoting. Also the Pope has been advocating that the world should do more to eradicate poverty and make sure that the ordinary people of this world are in a position to live more decent lives. The Pope is very dedicated to poverty alleviation and I also interfaced with him on how we can collaborate more with the Vatican on what we are already doing in this regard back home," the president said.

After his private meeting with President Jonathan, Pope Francis received the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri; Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, and his spouse; Governor of Benue, Gabriel Suswam; former Anambra Governor, Peter Obi and his spouse; the wife of the Senate President, Helen Mark and other members of the President's entourage.

Others present at the enlarged audience with the Pope included Nigeria's Ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Okeke; the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa, Obioma Onwuzurumba, and Mike Oghiadomhe.

Before leaving the Vatican, President Jonathan also conferred with the Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin.

He had received Nigeria's Vatican-based Cardinal Francis Arinze earlier in the day at the St. Regis Hotel in Rome.

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