Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his predecessor, Senator Gabriel Suswam, were at the weekend reportedly stopped from speaking inside the church by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese,
Bishop William Amove Avenya, during a requiem mass for the burial of the elder brother of Senator Gabriel Suswam, Chief Terkura Suswam l, who was killed by gunmen recently.
The requiem mass was held at St. Athanasius Catholic Parish, Anyiin, in Logo Local Government Area of the state and officiated by Bishop Avenya alongside other ministers of God.
A source close to the bishop, who spoke with New Telegraph in confidence, said the order for the duo not to make any statement became indispensable as “it was not captured in the proceedings of liturgy in requiem masses,” adding that; “The order was a deliberate move to stop them, Ortom and Suswam, charging the atmosphere and turning the church into political arena to make empty promises to provoke God’s anger.
“The order and proceedings of liturgy in requiem masses doesn’t give room for a speech outside the chief celebrant. There is absolutely no room for a speech, those giving room are only violating the liturgy’s proceed ings,” said the source.
But the position of the bishop had incited political reactions in the social media with close aides of the governor allegedly throwing punches at the bishop, accusing him of inviting the governor earlier to celebrate his birthday inside the church, but denying him (Ortom) the same place again to speak. Governor Ortom, in a swift reaction to the order, said he will not join issues with the Catholic priest.
The governor, in a three paragraph statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, “appreciated the concerns raised by Benue people on social media and elsewhere, following the decision of the Bishop of Gboko Catholic Diocese,
His Lordship William Avenya, not to allow him, Senator Suswam or any other persons to speak during the requiem mass for Dr. Terkura Suswam.
“As a devout Christian, I will not join issues with any anointed man of God” and further reaffirmed the support of his administration to the growth of the church, which he said has contributed significantly to the development of the state. However, the chief mourner, Senator Suswam, in a statement by his media aide, Bede Bartholomew, lauded the decision of Bishop Avenya, which he said did not humiliate him in any way.
Senator Suswam said: “The Catholic church has its rules concerning such matters and so decided to exercise it based on its tradition during the mass. “I do not grudge or feel humiliated by the decision of the church for not allowing me to speak at the mass for the burial of my loving senior brother.
“I appreciate the Catholic church for honouring my brother even in death for performing the needful, bearing all misgivings and inconvenience of the security situation in Sankera at this time.”