Missio Immaculatae International is pleased to present a special report on the solemn re-consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, made by the country’s bishops in union with thousands of faithful in Benin City, Nigeria, on October 13, 2017, one hundred years to the day after the famed “Miracle of the Sun” at Fatima. Did history repeat itself in Benin City?
The Country of Nigeria, known as the “Giant of Africa” (due to the vastness of its land, the diversity of its peoples and languages, the highest population in Africa, and its oil and other natural resources) boasts a diverse landscape that includes deserts, sweeping plains, swamps, mountains and tropical jungles. Three quarters of the land is agricultural, enjoying lush grasslands, which display their grandeur, while trees and shrubs are scattered among the verdant panorama. Interspersed among the varying terrain lie bustling, crowded cities preparing to expand beyond their boundaries. Coursing through the southern part of Nigeria is the Niger River, the third longest river in Africa that extends almost 2,600 miles. Located in western Africa, the country borders the Gulf of Guinea to the south, Benin to the west, Cameroon to the east, and Niger and Chad to the north. Overall, the climate is tropical with temperatures in the 90s and 100s during the summer months, but there are wide climatic variations throughout the country. There are two basic seasons; the wet season, which lasts from April to October; and the dry season, which lasts from November until March. The hot and dry Harmattan wind from the Sahara sweeps across the northeastern areas, while the southwest wind brings cloudy and rainy weather near the coast. Nigeria is the most important country politically and economically in West Africa. It is richer than all the other West African nations and maintains substantial power. There are at least 250 languages spoken in the country, but English is the official language. Even though Nigeria is rich in resources (petroleum, gold, gems, rubber, cacao, talc, and salt), sixty percent of the Nigerians live below the poverty level, surviving on less than one dollar a day, due to political corruption. A little over half of the residents live in rural areas, where they endure hardship due to sporadic or no electricity, unsanitary conditions and the lack of industry; less than half have access to clean drinking water. Nigeria is a nation that has endured much suffering. From the latter 1500s to the early 1800s, many Africans became victims of the European slave trade. During this period, more than 3.5 million slaves were shipped from Nigeria to the Americas and the Caribbean colonies. In the early 1800s, an Islamic jihad swept Nigeria. In the 1850s, Britain began its colonization of the country and prohibited the slave trade. Britain completed its control of the country in 1914 and called it the “Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.” They ruled the country until 1960, when Nigeria attained independence. Since then, civil war, political upheaval, ethnic violence, gang riots and coups have resulted in turbulent and violent years. The year 2009 saw the uprising of the Boko Haram Islamist movement (designated as a terrorist group in 2013 by the U.S.), seeking the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. At its height the movement, based in northern Nigeria, was in control of a territory of about 31,000 square miles (about one tenth the size of the country), but it has been pushed back to a small area in the Sambisa forest, located in northeastern Nigeria. The adherents to this jihadist movement have committed atrocious crimes, including conducting terror and suicide attacks killing more than 50,000 people, attacking schools, separating families and displacing more than two million people. Additionally, poverty, unemployment, hunger, and disease (including malaria and aids) continue to plague the nation. Heroic European missionaries, who were on fire for love of God and their brethren, left their homes in the 1800s to teach the Igbo people the Gospel and spread the love and joy of Christ. Christianity did not gain a firm foothold until 1862, when the Society of African Missions arrived. Subsequently, The Holy Ghost Fathers arrived in 1885 and worked among the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria. Currently, Catholicism in Nigeria is vibrant. In just five years (2005-2010), the Catholic population grew by twenty-one percent, and the number of priests increased by sixteen percent. In spite of the difficulties facing them, the Catholic Nigerians remain a happy, faith-filled and enthusiastic people. They maintain an indomitable confidence in the assistance of Divine Providence and an ardent devotion to Our Lady. This devotion inspired the leaders of the Ijebu-Ode diocese to organize a four-and-a-half mile long Marian Procession on October 2, 2017. Though the Procession, which ended with Eucharistic Benediction, took seven hours to complete, joy radiated from the faces of even the aged ones who willingly undertook this penance out of love for the Virgin Mary. A similar Marian Procession was organized in Adamawa State, in the diocese of Maiduguri, under the leadership of Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme. This Procession ended with a climb up a hill of almost forty feet. On top of this hill is mounted the tallest cross in western Africa, which extends forty-nine feet from base to top. Here the faithful prayed for peace and forgiveness of the crimes committed against the people. The Bishops, wishing to foster love of the Virgin Mary and to honor the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, dedicated 2017 as a Marian Year. Included in the year of celebration, they planned a three-day, third annual Marian Congress with a special re-consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (Nigeria was first consecrated to the Immaculate Heart by the country’s Catholic Bishops Conference on October 1, 1960.) The Congress and re-consecration took place in Benin City, capital of Edo State, on October 13, 2017, the centenary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima. It is both inspiring and edifying to learn how the leadership prepared their flock for the re-consecration of the country. Recognizing the urgency of the times, the culmination of the Congress was to consist not only in the re-consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but also in individuals’ consecration to her Immaculate Heart. The bishops asked the parishes across the country to participate in a thirty-three-day preparatory prayer, from September 8 to October 10, preceding the re-consecration of the country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Each day was dedicated to a title or event in the life of the Blessed Virgin, beginning with a hymn and opening prayer, followed by the Rosary and a reading from Scripture, and ending with a pre-consecration prayer of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart, asking Our Lady for help to renew and rectify “the vows of our Baptism, rejecting Satan and all his works and empty promises.” According to the theologian Garrigou-Lagrange, personal Marian Consecration to Our Lady occupies the highest place among Marian devotions. The Marian seed was planted in the early church when the faithful were accustomed to pray to Our Lady for Her protection, entrusting themselves to her care. The seedling began to sprout and blossom throughout the centuries and flowered with the teaching of St. Louis de Montfort in the early 18th century with his teaching of “True Devotion to Mary” and his program of Marian Consecration. St. Maximilian Kolbe fervently promoted Marian Consecration and founded the Militia of the Immaculate to further the devotion. This practice has been highly recommended by various popes of the Church. On the 50th anniversary of Fatima, May 13, 1967, Bl. Pope Paul VI urged all members of the Church to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The motto of Pope St. John Paul II, Totus Tuus, was inspired by total consecration to Mary. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, issued on October 16, 2002, John Paul II stated, “The more a soul is consecrated to her (Mary), more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.” These exhortations of the Vicars of Christ emphasize the importance of Marian consecration. The Fatima apparitions were perhaps one of heaven’s clearest and most authoritative calls for consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One of the main messages of Our Lady of Fatima was both Our Lord and Our Lady’s desires for consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. On October 22, 1940, when World War II was raging, Our Lord Himself confirmed His desire for Marian consecration when He responded to a question Sr. Lucia had asked Him in prayer. He said: “Tribulation will grow. I shall punish the nations for their crimes with war, famine, persecution of My Church, persecution, which will fall especially on him who is My Vicar on earth. His Holiness will obtain the shortening of these days of tribulation if he meets my wishes and makes the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the entire world with special mention of Russia.” The three-hour Holy Mass of Re-Consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, celebrated at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital Field (U.B.T.H.), began at 10:00 a.m. on October 13, 2017. Leading the special prayer for Nigeria at the huge gathering of clergy, religious, lay faithful and non-Catholic Christians, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and the Chief celebrant at the Holy Mass of the event, the Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, in unison with his co-Bishops proclaimed thus:
We the Bishops of Nigeria, joined with the clergy, religious and the lay faithful today, re-consecrate our country Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In entrusting to you our country, O Mother, we beg you to place it in your motherly heart. Help us to conquer the threat of evil which so easily enters and takes root in the hearts of people today And whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our country, and seem to block the paths towards the future.Archbishop Kaigama prophesied that “something great and good will happen to Nigeria and Nigerians” to which the huge crowd responded with a resounding: “Amen.” Just before the 3:00 Divine Mercy Chaplet, a light rain fell for a few minutes. After the Chaplet was recited, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred in the sky: history repeated itself, exactly one hundred years to the day after the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal! Between 30,000 and 55,000 people attended the Congress, and all who gathered in this area witnessed this sign. According to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Cbcn facebook page, (added on October 14, 2017): “History has repeated itself here in Benin City, Nigeria during the National Marian Congress. Just like what happened 100 years ago at Fatima, Portugal reoccurred on 13th October 2017. What a great miracle from our mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.” The sun surged and pulsated—growing larger, then smaller, dashing here and there. The brilliant globe displayed spectacular colors—colors luminously reflected on the people. According to the November 2017 edition of the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Ijebu Ode, The Partner, “The size of the sun increased and decreased; its brightness also dimmed and brightened the more; its color alternated between egg yolk, pink, blue and white; its shape also interchangeably became oval and spherical as the sun dilated and finally took its normal composition.” The miracle lasted from 20 to 40 minutes; staring at the solar spectacle for such a long time did not harm one’s eyes. The people responded with great excitement: there were great cries of joy, heart-felt prayers offered, sobbing as tears glistened on cheeks, and the singing of hymns. A great many fell to their knees in gratitude, supplication and wonder, their jubilation filling the air:
The energy and gaiety with which the pilgrims danced around the massive statue of the Madonna and within the arena to the beautiful Marian tunes was awesome. The unexpected vision automatically prompted the pilgrims comprising men and women, boys and girls, young and old to form groups of praise singing to the glory of God but particularly in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Songs like “Our Blessed Mother, Oh Mary ooo…,” “Carry me dey go, Mama Mary carry me dey go, dey go, dey go…” spontaneously sounded from their hearts.It is to their credit that the Nigerian Bishops planned this celebration with a preparation that involved all the dioceses and their parishioners. Without a doubt this program drew down a blessing of affirmation from heaven. Our Lord Himself asked that the entire human race be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Holy Fathers have also encouraged the practice. St. Maximilian Kolbe said: “However, assumed into heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, who will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of God’s kingdom upon earth.” It behooves the faithful to consider making this act of consecration themselves; through this act, Mary our Immaculate Mother will draw them closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and will hasten the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart.
Accounts of EyewitnessesFollowing are eyewitness accounts related by various individuals of the events which unfolded at Benin City, Nigeria, on the afternoon of October 13, 2017, the day of the Nigerian Bishops’ re-consecration of their country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- A remarkable thing happened on the 13th of October, 2017, between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., at the field where the celebration took place. The Holy Mass ended around 2:00 p.m., after the Post-Communion prayer and the prayer to re-consecrate Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary were said…
- I give thanks to God the Father almighty for giving me the opportunity to be present at the apparition ground in Benin City in Nigeria, at the just concluded Third Marian Congress and the re-consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Because it helps my faith to reaffirm the message of Fatima and even more, the… importance that the Holy Mother Church attaches to it.
- The program was going on and suddenly the weather changed. In fact, I told someone by my side that I [had] a feeling Our Lady wants to appear; and as if I knew it immediately the cloud started to change: light showers fell and stopped. The wind also came on, and immediately we all left our places under the canopies, and we began to look up at the clouds, because [the sun] was changing in colors. Everyone fixed their eyes [on the sun] and were at prayer asking for her [Our Lady’s] intercession. I saw it! [I am not sure whether to] call it image or structure, but as one looked one saw it well that it was her… We were all calling out at her and telling her our problems. It was a great experience…
- I heard screams from those praying around the statue of Mary. I saw them all looking at the sky and shouting and praying with excitement. I looked up and saw what they saw! The dancing sun emitting different colorful rays. I looked at it directly, excited, and became emotional. Tears flowed freely from my eyes, I instinctively dropped on my knees, sobbing and praying. Thank you, Mother Mary, for this wonderful experience…
- Immediately after the 3:00 p.m. Divine Mercy prayers, there were brief showers of rain. Then came sudden brightness of the sun, which was hitherto hidden behind layers of dark cloud. We also observed rather surprisingly the mysterious shooting of the sun forward and backward. Intermittently emitting of powerful bluish and golden colors of light from “Our Lady clothed with the Sun.” The sight was indescribably beautiful.
- After the Holy Mass which started by 10:00 a.m. and lasted for about 3 hours, there was a downpour, about 30 minutes after the Mass, then the Divine Mercy prayers by 3:00 p.m. At about 3:45 p.m., there appeared some strange view on the sun. Suddenly, the bright dazzling sun turned into [a] sky-blue color sun (beautiful) that made it easy to look [directly at] the same sun. And I saw the sun dancing, turning round. After some minutes, it [stopped and started] again as if it was amusing us… The miracle lasted for about 40 minutes. It was awesome! I saw and believed that Our Lady is real.
- When I saw the miracle of the sun, I shouted, “Mother Mary! If this is you, please let me see you.” Behold I was overtaken by an irresistible force that forced me on [my] knees and, behold, there in the sky was Mother Mary in different colors and the host, white in color; and Ibelieve our Lord Jesus Christ was in that host.
- The manifestation only happened in the field, and not in any other place around the venue… As the sun was zooming in and out, all the people were praising and singing different hymns of Mary, especially those locally composed hymns that express joy, confidence and faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary. I joined in this wonderful expression of faith, and was also praying as well, especially, thanking her for hearing the prayers of her children and accepting our consecration of Nigeria to her Immaculate Heart. Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!
- With my own eyes, I saw the sun shining brightly [with an] intensity that I have never seen before… [Afterward,] the sun was dancing, revolving and displaying many beautiful colors such as blue, red and purple. After some minutes or perhaps an hour and some minutes of dancing, the sun displayed a white color [like a] cloud. Then, the most extraordinary thing happened to me: I saw her beautiful, shining and unimaginable face. Words are not enough to express her beauty. I have usually been told, and have read about her showing herself to different saints; this occurred to me as well… I still have those memories living in me; it helps my faith, and [I will] never forget.
- After the Divine Mercy prayer was recited we went for lunch, and on my way coming back to the field for the next program, I saw people from afar shouting, wailing and running… I saw the sun, and there [were] different colors coming out from it. It was so bright, and big. I felt so happy and blessed, especially as the Blessed Virgin Mary gave me the opportunity to see her clearly with her crown of twelve stars in the sun waving at us. I was so touched, and I was shedding tears. I began to also think of my sins, and [I desired] not to commit them again. After the moment, I joined the people in singing and dancing to honor her and shouting her name.
- I looked up and, behold, I saw the sun revolving and emanating beautiful colors, and the apparition of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, Our Mother Mary took place in the sun. I saw her in her glory, [the answer to] our prayers and our consecration to her Immaculate Heart. She stretched her hand as a sign of receiving our prayers and her children away from [the] crises in which we found ourselves as a nation.