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The Director-General of the All Progressives Congress, Presidential Campaign Council, and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, on Friday, tendered his apology to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria after he was accused of making alleged ‘blasphemous’ comments about the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
He pleaded for pardon and understanding from the Catholic Church via the Bishops’ conference while acknowledging that it was a mistake on his behalf to have connected the Catholic Pontiff with Nigeria’s politics.
Even as a Papal Knight of St. Gregory, the worried church members had earlier scoffed at his choice of words and requested his immediate expulsion from the institution.
However, in a letter to the CBCN President, entitled, ‘Letter of Apology,’ which was dated August 12, 2022, Governor Lalong restated his commitment to the Catholic faith and promised to continue upholding the banner of the Christian faith in public life.
The letter which was made available to Africa Daily News, New York read, ‘I have followed with some shock and deep regret, the reactions that have trailed my appointment as the Director-General of the Campaign Council for the presidential candidate of our party, the APC, Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Ibrahim Shettima.
‘The appointment, understandably was received with mixed reactions across the Christian community, who genuinely feel aggrieved by the decision of our party to settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
‘While many people commended me for the appointment and saw it as a way of remaining within the system to fight for our own interests, others cast aspersions on it on the grounds that our faith had been insulted and denigrated.
‘In the course of this, many of my opponents turned the issue into a political weapon with some spreading rumours and questioning the integrity of my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight.
‘In trying to make my case, I have granted interviews to justify why I believe that the appointment did not in any way undermine my commitment to the Catholic Church.
‘During the week, in the course of defending myself, I had cause to make reference to my credentials as a Catholic and a Papal Knight. In the process, I made reference to the Holy Father.
‘I now realise that this was an error on my part and has caused some level of concern and even embarrassment to many, especially the Members of the family of Papal Knights to which I belong.
‘I now understand that I may have overreached myself in the course of trying to defend my personal decision in accepting this appointment and thus, the reference to the holy father was not intended as an act of disrespect to his exalted and revered office.
‘Your Grace, by this written letter, I wish to tender my unreserved apologies and ask for their understanding and forgiveness from my brothers in the Catholic faith and, through you, the entire members of the Bishops’ Conference, our Fathers and our leaders.
‘My commitment to the Catholic faith, to which I belong, remains unreserved and undiluted. I will continue to uphold the banner of my faith in public life as I have done over the years.
‘You may recall, Your Grace, that in the last five or thereabout years, I have been at the forefront of facilitating our dialogue as politicians with you our fathers in the faith. I remain committed to this and pray that you will continue to encourage us as we ascend the slippery slope of politics.’
The same ticket of the ruling party has continued to generate widespread reactions from Nigerians.