The Correspondent of ECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA attached to the city of the Vatican has reported that his Holiness, Pope Francis has recently in the Vatican given Thanks to Young Nigerian Priests and Nuns who Answered God’s Call and accepted to follow Jesus.

Pope Francis gave thanks on Monday for the many young Nigerians who have answered God’s call to the priesthood or religious life.

In a meeting with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, the pope said he was grateful for all that Nigerian Catholics have done to bear witness to the Gospel, especially as many parts of the country are experiencing insecurity and Christian persecution.

“I also join you in thanking Almighty God for the many young Nigerians who have heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood and consecrated life and responded with generosity, humility, and perseverance,” Pope Francis said.

“There are some here among you, young priests and young nuns,” he remarked. “May you always be missionary disciples, grateful that the Lord has chosen you to follow him and has sent you to zealously proclaim our faith and contribute to the construction of a more just and humane world.”

Nigeria has had a vocational boom in the past 50 years. In 2019, more than 400 diocesan priests were ordained in the West African country, which also sends priests to serve dioceses facing priest shortages in the United States and Europe.

Last year, Nigeria was recognized as having the highest Mass attendance in the world. A study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University found that 94% of Nigeria’s 30 million Catholics say they attend Mass at least weekly or more, while only 17% of American Catholics attend Mass weekly.

Nigeria has also been recognized as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. According to Open Doors International 4,998 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2023 amid attacks by Islamic militants, kidnappings by armed bandits, and overall insecurity.

Catholic bishops in Nigeria’s Ibadan ecclesiastical province issued a statement last month lamenting the country’s recurrent and pervasive security challenges. “Our dear country Nigeria is fast becoming a hostile killing field,” the bishops said.

Kidnappings from seminaries, monasteries, and other places of religious formation have been on the rise in Nigeria. While some victims of the kidnappings have been killed, seminarians who survived the ordeal have shared in interviews with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, how they have come back stronger — and ready to die for their faith.

Pope Francis addressed Nigeria’s security challenges during the audience and assured the Nigerian community of his prayers for security and unity in their country.

“Unfortunately, many regions of the world are experiencing conflict and suffering, and Nigeria is also experiencing difficult times,” the pope said.

“In assuring you of my prayers for the security, unity, and spiritual and economic progress of your nation, I invite everyone to encourage dialogue and listen to each other with an open heart, without excluding anyone on a political, social, and religious level,” Francis added.

The pope also encouraged Nigerians to be “heralds of the great mercy of the Lord, working for reconciliation between all your brothers and sisters, contributing to alleviating the burden of the poor and the most needy.”

“In this way, all Nigerians will be able to continue to walk together in fraternal solidarity and harmony,” he said.

“I entrust your community to the loving protection of the Virgin Mary, queen and patroness of Nigeria, and I heartily bless you. And please don’t forget to pray for me,” Pope Francis said.