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Viral photo of Catholic priest getting married not from Nigeria

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Claim: A Facebook user shared a photo claiming that a Catholic priest recently had a wedding against religious doctrine in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State. 

Viral photo of Catholic priest getting married not from Nigeria

Full Text 

Over the years, different controversies have surrounded clerical celibacy worldwide. Clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Catholic faith by which only unmarried men are ordained to the priesthood. 

The proponents of this sacred doctrine describe it as a special gift of God that enables sacred ministers to more readily dedicate themselves to the service of God and their neighbours and to remain close to Christ with an undivided heart. However, not all ministers embrace this doctrine. 

Amidst this divide, a Facebook user identified as Okoronko Ejike posted a photo asserting that a Catholic priest has just wedded a woman publicly in Abakali, Ebonyi State capital, after having prolonged years of relationship. 

He added that the Reverend Father, popularly called a Catholic priest, acted properly by refusing to live a life of deception. He wrote:

“This is Reverend Father Jude Obasi, who hails from Afikpo North local government area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria, who got wedded publicly to his long-time lover of over (six) years just this last Saturday at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Abakaliki.  In an interview, Father Jude stated that he refused to live a life of lies and deception that other Reverend fathers are secretly living.

“Do you know that a lot of these children of the majority of most single mums were fathered by these pretentious priests that hitherto have sworn an oath of celibacy(?)

“How do you mount a pulpit and condemn adultery and fornication, kidnapping, prostitution, banditry, and yahoo yahoo when you are neck deep in it? If you cannot hold your body as a priest serving in the Lord’s Vineyard, please choose from amongst your church members and get married. It’s more honourable and biblical as a reverend father to marry your church member{s}.”

Over 1,000 accounts have reacted to the post, garnering over 1,000 shares and 420 likes as of May 26, 2024.

The comment section was inundated with different views, some suggesting the photo was real while others raised questions.

A Facebook user, Adolphus Godstime, queried: “I’m not a Catholic, but I don’t believe this story if it is true…” 

Another Facebook user, Lawson Tagbo, said: “God will bless and protect your marriage.”

“Judging by a man’s biological nature, no man, including priests, should be forced to live their lives without a woman. Period! said Keep On, another commenter. 

DUBAWA checks show that the claim has been posted by different users with the same narrative. See here and here

The sensitivity of the claim and the mixed reactions trailing it led DUBAWA to conduct a fact check. 

Verification 

DUBAWA conducted several keywords to check if a Nigerian priest named Jude Obasi had recently married in Ebonyi State but found none. 

A reverse image search showed that the photo of the protesting bishop first surfaced on the internet on October 23, 2023, contrary to the claim that it was a recent photo.

It was taken during a wedding ceremony between Reverend Father Edwin Gathang’i Waiguru, an ordained Catholic priest, and Margaret Wanjira Githui in Ikinu village, Githunguri, Kiambu County of Kenya. Father Waiguru decided after leaving the Roman Catholic Church to join the Catholic Charismatic Church, a Roman Catholic splinter group. 

The key distinction between the two religious groups lies in the sacrament of marriage, as priests from the Charismatic Church are allowed to marry. 

Our findings were corroborated by media reports from Pulse Kenya and several other outlets here and here

Further research was done on the Catholic Church of Abakaliki’s official website, but no post was linked to the claim. We called the website’s phone numbers to inquire about the post but received no response. 

Conclusion 

The claim is false. DUBAWA’s research discovered that the picture used to depict the alleged marriage was posted in 2023 and linked with Kenya. Moreover, no report is available detailing the marriage ceremony of a Nigerian Catholic priest in Ebonyi State. 

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