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Bauchi episcopal ordination: Cardinal O’Brien’s account

Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh give a first-hand account of the Episcopal Ordination of Malachy John Goltok, the first African bishop of Bauchi Diocese in Nigeria

It is difficult to describe in a few words a visit to Northern Nigeria for the initial purpose of being the principal concelebrating bishop at the Episcopal Ordination of a son of the Diocese of Bauchi, Malachay John Goltok (above).

Bauchi Diocese, initially a few scattered parishes in the northern part of Jos Diocese, has been linked with St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese for almost 50 years now—and the history of the ‘Bauchi link’ is recorded elsewhere. Suffice to say that the link was established by two Bishops of great vision – the late Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the late Bishop John Reddington, then Bishop of Jos, with the support of priests and people of their dioceses.

The day of the Episcopal Ordination, Thursday May 19, dawned bright and clear with an increasingly hot sun beating on the heads of the thousands of people from all over the diocese and from the mother archdiocese of Jos, heading for the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Secondary School on the outskirts of Bauchi town where the ordination was to be celebrated. And there a great excitement and joy greeted the arrival of the principal guests, including the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, himself a native of Uganda, who had arrived from the capital city of Abuja, some five hours away by car. Included among the dignitaries were some 20 Bishops from various parts of Nigeria and approximately 250 priests, especially from the Diocese of Bauchi and the Archdiocese of Jos – along with Government officials, representatives of other Churches, and of the world’s great Faiths.

At the beginning of Mass, traditional welcoming greetings were given by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, who had been Apostolic Administrator of Bauchi since the sad death of the first bishop of Bauchi, Bishop John Moore SMA – with Archbishop Kaigama also warmly welcoming Father John Keane, another SMA Father, who had been the vicar general of Bauchi during the vacancy in the Diocese.

In my own opening remarks as principal celebrant, I thanked God for the links which bound Bauchi and Edinburgh together – and spoke of the friendship which had developed between Edinburgh and the first Bishop of Bauchi, especially through the apostolate of the late Mgr Danny Simpson, one of the pioneer missionaries to Bauchi and also through the friendship of Canon Leo Glancy, who had travelled with me for the episcopal ordination. I extended a very special welcome to the new bishop’s mother, Margaret, and her eight other remaining children and their families – noting that the new Bishop’s father had died only last year and had been the late Monsignor Simpson’s cook for some 20 years.

Much singing and dancing accompanied the very long ceremony of some four hours – but a deep silence fell over the congregation at the moment of ordination, with the proclamation of the words of ordination and then the laying on of hands by all the Bishops present. The congregation erupted with songs of great joy as the Sign of Peace was exchanged between the bishops present, welcoming Bishop Malachy John as one of their number and as priests and representatives of the people of Bauchi paid allegiance to their new Bishop, especially when the Bishop’s mother, Margaret paid her own allegiance to her son.

After the episcopal ordination, various receptions in honour of the new Bishop took place, with very special precedence given to the people of the parishes in Jos where the new bishop had recently served and where he had been archdiocesan treasurer.

In days after the ordination, both Canon Glancy and I joined Bishop Malachy John to visit various parishes with particular links to the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. These parishes including St James in Bauchi – where we learned there was daily Exposition from 4.30 am until 5.30 am when Mass was celebrated before the men went to work in their fields. We also had the opportunity of visiting the Parish of Our Lady of Loretto, Fadama Mada, also in Bauchi – the church which was funded by Canon Joseph McMullan and his parishioners from the Parish of Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael in Musselburgh in 2005. Sadly, three churches near the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, were destroyed during the recent Muslim riots, but Our Lady of Loretto remained untouched.

No visit to Bauchi would be complete without a visit to the Cathedral of St John and Evangelist. There, with the new bishop we prayed silently before the grave of Father John Gibbons, one of the first Edinburgh priests in Bauchi, who died after a road accident in Bauchi town; and also prayed before the memorial stones in memory of the late Monsignor Danny Simpson and Bishop John Moore, the first Bishop of Bauchi, erected nearby in the grounds of the Cathedral.

Various other parishes were visited where the new Bishop was received with great joy, including the Parish of St Francis of Assisi (the parish on the railway line) and that of St Joseph the Worker (where many visible signs were seen of the recent troubles between the Muslim and Christian communities) – signs that Bishop Malachy John will have a variety of service ahead of him and will need the support of our prayers in his valued apostolate.

In due course it is hoped that this first Bauchi Bishop will visit again our archdiocese to thank in person many of the people responsible for the early missionary endeavours in Bauchi when part of the archdiocese of Jos and are still helping in various ways the Christian apostolate in that country. It will soon be 50 years since those links were firmly established—an occasion to thank God for his goodness to us all.

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