Ilorin, Nigeria - Any intending Christian pilgrim below 50 years of age will no longer be allowed to travel to Rome while on pilgrimage. Pastor Gbenga Ogidiolu, Chairman, Kwara State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, made the announcement in Ilorin on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He said such pilgrims would only be allowed to travel to Israel and Egypt for the religious obligations, adding that the measure was to prevent Nigerian pilgrims from using the opportunity to abscond to Europe.
Ogidiolu said: "This year, we are going to cover Israel, Egypt and Rome, but we must stress that going to Rome is not automatic.
"It is only the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC) in Abuja that will determine who goes to Rome and not any board at the state level.
"The conditions are very stringent. 50 years and above will go to Rome, while anybody below 50 years will not be allowed to go to Rome. They will only go to Israel and Egypt and return to Nigeria.
"Other conditions are that those going to Rome must be regular travellers. A visa to Europe will be an advantage, and the person must be gainfully employed and married."
He, however, said that there would be special considerations for Catholic priests to travel to Rome.
Ogidiolu noted that the reasons for limiting the number of pilgrims to Rome was borne out of security lapses in Rome, which could be capitalised upon by pilgrims to abscond.
He said: "Rome is porous, security-wise; and we don't want pilgrims to take advantage of that to abscond to Europe and other countries to tarnish the image of Nigeria." The chairman said that while in the Holy Land, the pilgrims would pray for the peaceful conduct of the 2011 general elections.