By NBF News
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Catholic bishops in Nigeria , under the aegis of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have expressed their sympathy for Archbishop John Burke of the Benin Archdiocese over what they termed unsubstantiated sexual allegation levelled against him.

They said that such an unfounded allegation has created confusion not only among the lay faithful but also the entire people of Nigeria.

Addressing newsmen yesterday at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha , the President of CBCN, Archbishop Felix Alaba Job stated that Burke was still one of them because he only resigned from his administrative post as Archbishop of Benin and not as a priest or a bishop.

Flanked by Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja , Archbishop Valerian Okeke of Onitsha , Archbishop Ukpo of Calabar and Bishop Michael Okoro of Abakaliki, Job contended that the enemies were always out to destroy a house of God.

Okeke, in his own reaction, echoed Job's response and advised Nigerians to shun rumour mongering and false information.

Meanwhile, the CBCN has condemned the kidnap of three students of the Catholic Veritas University, Abuja from a female hostel located in Obehia, Abia State.

Job said that four days after the kidnap of the female students on May 28, 2010 their whereabouts remained unknown, adding that the kidnappers were demanding N150 million from the university.

'We, the Catholic bishops of Nigeria, are saddened by this horrible incident. While we condemn it, we pray for a change of heart by those involved. We, therefore, appeal to the kidnappers to release the three innocent students unhurt and without conditions.

'We also use this medium to call on the Federal, State governments and the security agents to do more within their power to guarantee the security of lives and property of law abiding citizens of our great nation,' he stated.

Meanwhile, soldiers, policemen and other security agencies numbering over 500 have been drafted to the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity in the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese to secure participants at the ongoing two-day event marking the national closing ceremonies of the special year for Nigerian priests.

The ceremony began on Wednesday with the arrival of the President of the CBCN and Archbishop of Ibadan Catholic Archdiocese, His Grace, Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job and the President of National Association of Diocesan Priests, Monsignor Cletus Gotan and the registration of other participants.

According to the programme of events released by the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocessan secretariat, bible enthronement and vespers/benediction commenced by 6 p.m. yesterday, followed by exposition/unveiling of the Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi and Gala Night.

At 7 p.m., Monsignor Gotan presented a paper on St. John Vianney, while Monsignor Nwosu presented a paper on Tansi, followed by a drama presentation by the Catholic Youths Organization of Nigeria (CYON), dances, songs and cultural displays.

It is expected that a eucharistic celebration, which is the main event of the ceremony, would commence at 10 a.m. today at the Basilica Square, after penitential rites and exposition of the Blessed Tansi between 6 and 9 a.m.

During the eucharistic celebration, 20 deacons drawn from different parts of the country would be ordained priests, after which the bishops would declare the Blessed Tansi as patron of Nigerian priests.

Also lined up are finals of football match between priests from Abuja and Okigwe dioceses, presentation of trophies and prizes to various winners and rosary pilgrimage to Aguleri, the home village of Tansi with a courtesy call on the traditional ruler of Aguleri, Eze Christopher Idigo.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 20 bishops and 50 priests arrived Onitsha as at yesterday afternoon for the occasion.

The Director of Communications in the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Pius Ukor and the Press Secretary to Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Rev. Fr. George Adimike, who confirmed the arrival of the bishops and priests to Daily Sun yesterday afternoon, said the president of CBCN, Job would officiate at the con-celebrated pontifical high Mass.