Key Nigerian evangelical leaders were surprised and disappointed by the actions of some Protestants during Pope John Paul II's March visit.

Rick Calenberg, Nigerian director of the Society of International Ministries, says he was amazed by the wide variety of people who overreacted to the pope. "Just about anybody who wanted a special spiritual experience showed up," Calenberg says. "They wanted to have the chance to touch the seat where the pope had sat, thinking they could get such blessings from that," Calenberg says. Many Nigerian Protestant leaders in pursuit of a papal blessing traveled to the cities of Abuja and Onitsha, where the pope was speaking.

Calenberg says the Protestant overreaction "reaffirms the need for sound biblical teaching and training for the African continent."

Victor Musa, president of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, was troubled by the pope's beatification of the first Nigerian, twentieth-century priest Michael Iwene Tansi. Musa says, "We should exalt the Creator, the Savior more than the person that is a beneficiary of the grace of God." Just before the papal visit, Tansi's body was exhumed and prepared for beatification, a step toward canonization. Thousands of Christians, many seeking a miracle, struggled to touch the body lying in state at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Onitsha.

Catholic leaders called the pope's visit a dynamic success. More than 4 million Nigerians attended two papal masses. In addition, John Paul II called for Nigeria's military dictators to release political prisoners.

With a total population of 107 million people, Nigeria has 42 million Muslims. The country includes 10 million Roman Catholics, 6.7 million Pentecostals, and 5.7 million Anglicans, according to World Churches ...

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