Pope at Easter baptises Nigerian migrant beggar turned hero
Amid a backlash against migration in Italy, John Ogah has endeared himself to the nation for tackling a thief wielding a cleaver and disarming him with his bare hands as he witnessed a supermarket robbery on September 26, 2017.
According to Italian news reports, Ogah had been begging for spare change outside the Carrefour market in Rome’s Centocelle neighborhood when a masked thief, armed with a meat cleaver, tried to make off with 400 euros ($493) he had stolen from the cashiers. The 31-year-old was praised for his example of bravery and good citizenship.
Pope Francis on Saturday led an Easter vigil service, baptising eight adults, including a formerly undocumented Nigerian migrant beggar who became a hero when he disarmed an Italian thief wielding a cleaver. The baptism took place during a long Holy Saturday or Easter Eve mass for some 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica.
The church, the largest in Christendom, was dark at the start of the service before lights were turned on, signifying the passage from darkness to light when the Bible says Jesus rose from the dead.The pope traditionally welcomes new members of the church during the Saturday night service. This year, among those he baptised was John Ogah, 31, who Italian newspapers last year dubbed the “migrant hero” and held up as an example of bravery and good citizenship.
Ogah was begging for change outside a supermarket in a Rome neighbourhood where many migrants live last September when he stopped a 37-year-old Italian who had just held up the store with a cleaver and was getting away with about 400 euros, according to the Catholic television station TV2000.
The Nigerian, who did not have permission to stay in Italy, held the man down until police arrived and then left the scene, fearing it would be discovered he did not have documents, according to La Repubblica newspaper.Security cameras captured Ogah’s courageous next steps: With nothing more than his bare hands, he confronted the thief, wrested the cleaver away and held him by the collar until police arrived, after the man fell from his attempted getaway motorcycle.
Ogah then disappeared, fearing he would be deported because he didn’t have his papers in order. But Rome police authorities sought to reward his courage and within a month had given him a coveted Italian residency permit that had been denied him when his asylum bid failed.
According to the ANSA news agency, he now has a job with the Italian Red Cross and a place to call home. In preparing for his baptism, he reportedly asked the Rome police captain who handled his case to be his godfather.
An Italian Carabinieri police captain who worked in the neighbourhood, Nunzio Carbone, was his godfather or sponsor, at Saturday’s baptism service. Carbone and his fellow policemen helped Ogah get his immigration papers.The Nigerian also works as a stockman at a warehouse for a charity organisation. The other newly baptised at the service came from Albania, Peru, Italy and the United States.
In an interview soon after the theft, Ogah told La Repubblica newspaper that his dream was to be legally resident in Italy and have a job so he wouldn’t have to beg to support his child back home in Nigeria. Ogah had left Nigeria and, after a stay in Libya, set off for Italy on a migrant smuggler’s boat in May 2014.
“If Pope Francis or the president of the republic could do something for me I would be the happiest man in the world,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t want to be a hero. I just want to be legal, work and have a dignified life in Italy.”
On Saturday, Francis baptized him during the solemn pomp of one of the holiest nights in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Ogah chose as his baptismal name “Francesco.”
Pope Francis on Saturday urged Catholics not to remain paralyzed in the face of the injustices around them as he baptized eight adults, including a Nigerian beggar who became a hero in Italy for having disarmed a thief with his bare hands.In an Easter Vigil homily, Francis challenged Catholics not to remain silent, as Jesus’ disciples were after his crucifixion. Rather, he urged Catholics to “break out” of their routines and let God in.
No comments yet