Encomia poured freely on Tuesday at the Holy Trinity Catholic Cathedral Orlu, Imo State, as the Emeritus Bishop of the Diocese, His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr.) Gregory Obinna Ochiagha was laid to rest.
The floodgate of praises for the late clergy was opened by President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, both of who described Bishop Ochiagha as a true shepherd of Christ.
In a message read on his behalf by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, President Buhari condoled the Catholic Communion, especially the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Catholic Diocese of Orlu, and prayed for the repose of the soul of Bishop Ochiagha.
It was also an opportunity President Buhari used to acknowledge that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria accommodates all Nigerians irrespective of creed or religion and that in 2021 Nigerians will witness a positive turn around in all ramifications.
Governor Uzodimma who attended the burial with the wife, Barr. (Mrs.) Chioma Uzodimma, described the late Bishop as “the love of Christ personified who was a spiritual father to many” including himself.
Governor Uzodimma added that Bishop Ochiagha built for himself a treasure in heaven and left a lot of lessons to be learnt in his holy life.
Governor Uzodimma said: “Bishop Ochiagha lived a life of chastity, purity and holiness in God with which he inspired many as a priest. Bishop Ochiagha lived a faithful life of service to God and humanity and as the Bishop of Orlu Diocese he strengthened the Catholic Church in Orlu and expanded the scope of Christianity in Orlu and beyond.”
The Governor seized the opportunity to warn criminals to desist from harassing men of God who are committed to the spiritual growth of the society, noting that “Government will not fail to live up to her sworn responsibility of protecting lives and properties of her citizens.”
The Governor who acknowledged that the late Bishop had finished his race on earth and from the testimonies of many, had won the crown of glory, asked the audience how prepared they are to live their lives and run their races like the late clergy.
The message from the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria read by their Secretary, Bishop Augustine Akubueze was no less gratifying about the pious life Bishop Ochiagha led.
His brother bishops eulogized his contributions in the expansion of Catholic faith in Nigeria and beyond and described him as “a shepherd who cared for his flock”. They said “Orlu will not forget him in a hurry”.
The Catholic Secretariat used the opportunity to enjoin Government at all levels to run an open administration that will enable them listen to the cry of Nigerians rather than take them for granted. They said that was one of the messages preached by late Bishop Ochiagha.
The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Province, Most Rev. (Dr.) Anthony J. V. Obinna, who also presided over the funeral Mass and the interment of late Bishop Ochiagha thanked those who found time to attend the burial and described it as an honour done the late clergy.
He thanked profusely Governors Uzodimma of Imo State, Willy Obiano of Anambra State and the security agencies for their efforts in rescuing the Auxiliary Catholic Bishop Owerri Diocese, Most Rev (Dr.) Moses Chikwe who was kidnapped at the same time Bishop Ochiagha died.
He appealed to the government to rely on the same attention and measures deployed for the rescue of Chikwe to deal with the issue of kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry in Imo State and Nigeria in general.
Highlights of the funeral programme was the launching of a book titled, “Man Endures What He Creates” written by late Bishop Ochiagha. The book was to be launched on January 6, 2021 to mark his 60th Priestly Anniversary and 40 years of Episcopacy.
The personalities who attended the funeral include the Governor of Plateau State, Barr. Simon Lalong, Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku, Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon Paul Emeziem, Acting Chief Judge of Imo State, Ijeoma Agugua, Senators, former Governors of Imo State, 36 Bishops among others.
CPS/Media Adviser to the Governor, Imo State