Pope Francis greeted a group of activists from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, who are campaigning for secession from Nigeria, after they gathered at the Vatican on Sunday.
During his weekly Angelus address—where the Pope addresses crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace—Francis extended a word of welcome to the indigenous people of Biafra. The Pope’s statement was greeted with cheers and celebration by the Biafran group, who were waving flags during the address.
The Pope traditionally greets travelling groups of pilgrims during his weekly addresses and the Vatican has not publicly commented on the Pope’s position on Biafran agitation for secession. Nigeria opened an embassy to the Holy See in August 2012 but diplomatic relations go back to 1976 and were conducted through Nigeria’s embassy in Spain prior to 2012.
IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a U.K.-Nigerian dual citizen who is currently detained in Nigeria, is facing trial for treasonable felony. Kanu’s trial is due to commence in the Nigerian capital Abuja on March 7. The charges against the activist, who is based in London, carry a potential life sentence.