The Pilgrimage Centre at Aokpe, Benue State, Nigeria

Come August 4, 2023, the Aokpe community of Benue State, Nigeria shall play host to pilgrims from various parts of the country and beyond. This is celebrated every year as “The Day of Grace”, as promised by The Blessed Virgin Mary, who introduced Herself during her Apparition to Christiana Inebu Agbo in Aokpe as the “Mediatrix of All Graces”. The small village of Aokpe is located in a remote area of Benue State, in the middle-belt region of Nigeria and majority of the inhabitants are Catholic Christians.

On July 1, 1994, The Blessed Virgin appeared to Christiana and said; “The 4th of August of this year is the day of grace to be bestowed on those who will ask”. She urged the children of God to do a nine-day preparation with prayers for the day of grace. After saying this, she said; “Whatever you ask with an open heart will be granted you”. The blessed Virgin gave Christiana the prayer to be recited for the nine days before the 4th day of August on this day and completed the last sentence of this prayer on July 22, 1994. This is the prayer known today as, “The Prayer of Our Lady of Aokpe or The Lady of Purity of Heart” and was approved by late Bishop Fidelis Ogar.(See below).

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Mary was a first-century Jewish woman of Nazareth and the wife of Joseph. She accepted God’s invitation to be the Mother of the Messiah. She gave birth to Jesus and raised Him with St. Joseph. The theology and history of Mary, the Mother of God, followed the chronological order of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the early Christian and Jewish witnesses. Mary is a central figure of Christianity and venerated under various titles such as; Virgin, Mother, Queen and Our Lady.

The first prophecy referring to Mary in the scriptures is found in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis (3:15): “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

Mary’s spiritual motherhood rests on the fact that Christ is our brother, being “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). She became our mother at the moment she consented to the Incarnation of the Word, the Head of the mystical body whose members we are. She sealed her motherhood by consenting to the bloody sacrifice on the cross, which is the source of our supernatural life.

The evangelists connect Mary’s name with three different events in Our Lord’s public life: with the miracle in Cana, with His preaching, and with His passion. Although the Holy Ghost had descended upon Mary in a special way at the time of the Incarnation, He now communicated to her a new degree of grace on the day of Pentecost. Perhaps, this Pentecostal grace gave Mary the strength of properly fulfilling her duties to the nascent Church and to her spiritual children.

On October 1992, the Blessed Virgin Mary began to appear to a twelve-year-old girl, Christiana Agbo. Christiana is the ninth of the ten children born to Mr. Christopher and Mrs. Regina Agbo. The first appearance of Our blessed Mother to Christiana was when Christiana went to fetch some herbs for her parents in a bush behind their home. While in the bush, Christiana noticed a ray of light from above and as she looked up for a better view, she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In Christiana’s words;

“I saw a beautiful woman floating in the sky. The Virgin looked and smiled at me without saying a word, was standing on the clouds, had a dress with a veil, shining a blue color that covered her head and fell down on Her back and shoulders, hands clasped on her chest and clutched a rosary.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary later requested Christiana to pray for the souls in purgatory, for the world and to console Jesus. Christiana willingly agreed to do this. Our Lady continued to visit and encouraged her little Visionary and kept telling her that her day of grace will come and it duly came on the day of first Public Pilgrimage August 4, 1994.

On that day of the first Public Pilgrimage, Christiana received the Holy Communion on her tongue from an Angel. This miracle has been prophesied by Our Lady. Thus, Father Ehatikpo, had arranged for two photographers to be present on that occasion. One of the photographers, Father Emmanuel Idoko, the delegate from the late Bishop Fidelis Ogah of Otukpo Diocese described the event in an interview with the Aokpe Message. He said:

“I went into Christiana’s mother’s room, which is the prayer room next to the room of the Holy Well, and started discussing with Christiana’s secretary. Christiana came in a green dress with a blue head tie and a blue sash. She was a very little timid girl, frightened stiff of the crowd outside, which used her mother’s inner backyard as the assembly ground. She hid behind the doors. I pleaded with her to go out into the crowd, which was actually anxious to see her, but she was afraid. She was often looking up. When I asked her what was the matter, she said she was waiting for Our Lady. Suddenly, she knelt down and said, “Here Our Lady comes.” She was steadily looking up, with her two hands in prayerful position in front of her. She was not talking any more. I was by her side watching her; then looking at her mouth, there was a Host. Then I asked her to bring out her tongue with a Host on it. She did and I photographed it.”

Christiana Agbo receiving the Holy Communion from An Angel

Christiana described how she received the Host from the Angel. In her narration, she said that; “I saw the Angel bringing the Host and the Host was bigger than the one we normally receive. The more the Host came closer to me, the smaller it became and when I received it, it was the normal size. When she appeared, I said; “Our Lady comes.”

Christiana also received some messages from Our Lady during her apparitions to her in her native language which is Idoma. They were translated and documented by secretaries.

  • In the first message, Our Lady, said: “I am the refuge of sinners. I come from Heaven to gain souls to Christ and to shelter my children in my Immaculate Heart. What I want from you is to pray for the souls in Purgatory, for the world and to console Jesus”.
  • In the apparition of July 21, 1993, Our Lady invites Christiana to pray fervently for the world long-corrupted by sin and foretells the coming of the dark days.
  • In the message of March 1, 1995, the Blessed Virgin calls for the recitation of the Rosary, saying: “Those of my children who pray the Rosary frequently with commitment will receive many graces. Satan will not be able to approach them. My children, when you are assailed by great temptations and problems, take your Rosary to me and your problems will be solved. Every time you say “Hail Mary full of Grace” you will receive many graces from me. Those who recite the Rosary will never be damned. “

Remarkably, Father John Bieme has written an account of all that happened in “Am I going to heaven or not: The Aokpe story.”  The book has the imprimatur of Bishop Fidelis Orgah, who described it as “The Second Official Document on Aokpe.”

Picture of the Parish Priest at the time of apparition, a Holy Ghost, Father John Bieme with Christiana Agbo

The First Official Statement from the Northern Bishops of Nigeria was read out by the then Metropolitan Archbishop, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, currently Archbishop Emeritus; at the Public Apparition on January 27, 1996. The apparitions have continued in private though with less frequency.  

There were several other messages given to Christiana by the Blessed Virgin Mary and many prodigies were recorded within this period. Among the prodigies include; the Miracle of the Sun, the blessing of the Holy Spring, Adoration of the Holy Sacrament by the Angels, An Angel giving Christiana the Holy Communion on the tongue in the open and many others.

Lay People, Religious, Priests, Bishops, including the then Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Most Reverend Dr. John Onaiyekan (later appointed Cardinal), as well as the then Papal Nuncio, who was represented by his Assistant, Father Ray Hickey were in Aokpe on the 6th Public Apparition of January 27, 1996. The Aokpe Public Apparition continued from August 4, 1994 to May 31, 1996. They were accompanied by solar miracles, witnessed by thousands of people, including me, Edel-Quinn Agbaegbu. I equally received personal miracles and testimonies within this period.

For the first time in my life, I was able to look at the Sun for more than ten minutes without blinking an eye and I saw “The Dancing Sun”, radiating different colours and rays. It was indeed a wonderful sight to behold and this experience never departed my memories. There was this particular case of a blind man who regained his sight during the solar miracle that day. It was difficult to believe. I had to get closer to him, as he was narrating his experience of the “Testimony of Sight” to a Press Crew that was covering the event. A little crowd followed him and I joined the crowd and listened to his narration. He said that he has been blind for many years, but miraculously regained his sight after passing through an unusual experience during the solar miracle. I became convinced the more at this point that it is pure divine intervention and joined to spread the message.

After this experience, I was inspired to meet with Christiana privately and was privileged through Father Nwabuisi’s intervention, who was one of our Priests then at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Together with the Priest, we visited Christiana at her home as she was then recuperating ,after undergoing a surgery at a hospital. She shared with us some of her experiences and the challenges, especially with her mother Regina, who was very disturbed with her daughter’s strange experiences. She doubted the apparition until the day she received her healing on one of her legs miraculously.

Christiana said that this happened before the public apparitions. She said that on one of the occasions of Our Lady’s private apparitions to her, Our lady came this time with a very large crowd. Christiana said that before that day, her mother had threatened to accost the woman, whom she claimed was tormenting her child. So, when Christiana saw the crowd with Our Lady she reacted vigorously and seeing her daughters reaction, Regina new that the woman has come and dashed out to confront the woman, not convinced that she was indeed Our Lady. Christians said that as her mother made that move, she felt water on one of her legs which she limps and at that moment, the leg was fully restored. I was practically moping at Christiana at this point, trying very hard to comprehend this mystery and she was smiling at me. It was my first day of coming quite close to her and a day I can never forget in my life.

One thing is clear in all the messages. Our Lady has asked us to Pray! Pray!! Pray!!! The message She conveyed to Christiana and to us are urgent plea for conversion of hearts, a renewed emphasis on the importance of praying the Holy Rosary and the centrality of the Holy Mass in our lives. Our Lady was deeply concerned for Her unrepentant children requested us to pray for the conversion of souls.

A unique feature of the Aokpe Apparitions is Our Lady’s request that She be known as “Mediatrix of all Graces.

A unique feature of the Aokpe Apparitions is Our Lady’s request that She be known as “Mediatrix of all Graces. In the Catholic Church, there are reported appearances of Our Lady, to the person or persons who see(s) Mary, visually located in their environment. These are classified as Marian apparitions. Marian apparition is a supernatural appearance by Mary, or series of related appearances during a period of time. They are considered to be expressions of Mary’s ongoing motherly care for the church.

On the other hand, if the person claims to hear Mary but not see her, it is referred to as interior locution, not an apparition. Excluded also from the category of apparitions include; dreams and visions experienced in the imagination, perception of Mary in ordinarily explainable natural phenomena and miracles associated with Marian artwork, such as weeping statues.

In any case, the Catholic Church believes the possibility of real supernatural Marian apparitions, but also very cautious of fake apparitions, or the result of something other than divine intervention. For this reason, the Church has a formal established evaluation process for proper assessment to authenticate reported apparitions. Many apparitions have been approved through this process and have introduced prayers that become incorporated into widespread Catholic practice, such as the case of the Fátima prayers and the legendary revelation of the Rosary to Saint Dominic.

May 13, 1917, the first Apparition of our lady of Fatima to Lucia, Francis and Jacinta

Some confirmed Marian apparitions have only one purported seer, such as that of Our Lady of Lourdes (France, 1858). Other apparitions have multiple seers; in the case of Our Lady of Fatima (1917), there were only three seers of the apparition itself, but miraculous phenomena were reported by a crowd of approximately 70,000 people, and even by others located miles away. In other cases, the entirety of a large group of people claims to see Mary, as in the case of Our Lady of La Vang (Vietnam, c. 1800). Some modern mass apparitions, claimed to have been witnessed by hundreds of thousands, have also allegedly been photographed, such as Our Lady of Zeitoun (Egypt, 1968.1971).

The purpose of any apparition is to draw attention to the Christian message, given the needs of a particular time and place. Apparitions are often accompanied by other alleged supernatural phenomena, such as medical cures and solar miracles. However, such miraculous events are not considered the purpose, but are alleged to exist primarily to validate and draw attention to the message. Believers consider apparitions to be real and objective interventions of divine power.

This explains why the Catholic Church in Nigeria has been organizing Pilgrimages to the Aokpe apparition ground annually. Experiences and testimonies of visitors and pilgrims abound over the years. People often walk on their knees on the penance track, visit numerous sites of importance at the shrine and participate in activities preceding the “Day of Grace”, 4th August, every year.

The Catholic Church in Nigeria has started preparations to mark this day and registration is currently ongoing for those who are interested to participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Aokpe. Every year we prepare for the day of grace with a Novena prayer from July 26 to August 3. The 2023 9-day Novena prayers have already commenced in various Parishes and online as well, for special prayers to prepare for this day as requested by Our Lady. 

The program for the 2023 Pilgrimage to “Our Lady of Aokpe – The Mediatrix of All Graces runs from 1st to 4th August. This year’s celebration calls for active participation, particularly from the Catholic faithfuls, to pray for the souls the devil has captured and for our country Nigeria. Indeed, Nigeria is lucky to make the list of countries with Marian Apparitions and legendary revelation. Let us therefore, appreciate the value of this divine visitation and approved pilgrimages, with approved contemporaneous miracles, wide spread liturgical veneration and positive judgement of related effects; and consolidate this grace bestowed upon our nation. “Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.” – Hebrews 4:16

Prayer to Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces

“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Lady of purity of heart, Lady of good heart, Lady of honour that humbles herself, sweetness of Angels, your heavenly wisdom and your patience, surpass all others. The whole of your life, is a purity of heart that has no stain. Lady the Mediatrix of All Graces, help us to do without delay the will of Jesus. Make us worthy to receive the gift that has been given to us, so that we will be Holy. Give us the Grace to go and greet Our Lord Jesus. Help us to be pure so that we can see Heaven. Help us always to do the will of Jesus, so that we can share in His glory. *Father, fill us with the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Our lady said that we should bow at the last line – Father, fill us with the Grace of the Holy Spirit).

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