Owerri, Nigeria — Pope Benedict the XVI and Cardinal Francis Arinze were among eminent clergymen and dignitaries who paid glowing tribute to late Catholic Bishop of Ahiara Diocese in Imo State at his funeral ceremony, Rt. Rev Dr. Chikwe who died at the age of 72 having served the diocese for 22 years as Bishop.
The Pope in his papal message read by his representative and the Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Kasuja said he was saddened to hear the death of Bishop Victor Chikwe but expressed gratitude to God for his many years of service to the Church and humanity.
He noted that Bishop Chikwe's life was that of service to God and consoled the entire catholic community for his demise.
Similarly Cardinal Arinze in his message sent from Rome said he received the news of the death of Bishop Chikwe with great sorrow.
He said his relationship with Bishop Chikwe started in Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu where he cardinal Arinze thought him philosophy. He prayed that God gives the entire catholic community the fortitude to bear the loss.
The celebrated funeral ceremony held at Ahiara Catholic Cathedral drew almost all the catholic Bishops in Nigeria including the Archbishop of Lagos Anthony Cardinal Okojie as well as Governor, Ikedi Ohakim and his counterpart from Rivers state Governor Chibuike Amechi.
Other dignitaries include the Imo State deputy governor Dr. Ada Okwuonu, Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, frontline politician and Aha eji aga mba Ndigbo, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former Military Administrator, Delta State, Air Commodore Luke Ochulor, Senator Osita Izunaso and Hon Emeka Ihedioha of the House of Representative etc.
Preaching at a funeral church service held at the cathederal shortly before the cleric was buried, the catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, Most Rev. Dr . Anthony Obinna described the late Bishop Chikwe as a disciplined and dedicated servant of God. Archbishop Obinna pointed out that Bishop Chikwe as pioneer bishop of Ahiara Diocese started from the scratch and worked with dedication to build the church to its present status.
Also Archbishop Felix Alabaju, President of Bishop conference of Nigeria said the catholic community will miss Bishop Chikwe dearly given his personality and human attributes.
He said in an emotional-laden tribute: "The contest is over. There used to be a contest between me and Bishop Chikwe. Both of us were born same day, same month and same year. We were ordained priest same year but I was ordained Bishop seventeen years before him. I used to tell him that I am his elder because I was born in the morning and he was born in the evening of the day. Today he has died before me. He is now my elder. We love you Victor. We miss you but we will meet on the last day".