Catholic Bishops meet in Abuja, demand Nigeria’s turn around – The Sun Nigeria

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Catholic Bishops under the umbrella of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) have arrived Abuja for their first plenary of the year, expected to last for one week.

Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, in his homily at the opening mass of the CBCN conference held at Saint Gabriel’s chaplaincy, Durumi, Abuja, welcomed the Bishops ahead of the one week of extensive meeting where spiritual, economic, political and other national issues would be discussed.

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He said: “Abuja Archdiocese warmly welcomes the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria and other invited guests. Despite the petrol scarcity, the insecurity and the seeming difficulty associated with traveling at this time, you made it to Abuja. Bravo!

“The COVID-19 pandemic did not only disrupt economies, interpersonal relationships, distanced many from the warmth of fraternal encounters, but also threatened to cripple cherished ecclesiastical programs and traditions.

“People were at times left exhausted, impatient, stunned and confused. Parishioners experienced a frustrating time, being unable to participate at Holy Masses, with some confined to watching Masses on television.

“Also, no thanks to the same pandemic, we had to skip our CBCN meetings. The fact however is that the COVID-19 pandemic, and not even terrorists’ attacks, kidnappers’ menace, biting hunger in the face of spiraling prices of commodities, dehumanizing corruption, etc, could cripple our faith and commitment to serve our country as ministers of the Catholic Church. If anything, all these bad news have sharpened our faith and fast-forwarded our resolve to do all that is possible for the love of God and neighbors.

“We thank God that our nation was spared from the grim predictions of a colossal health disaster. Today, the opportunity to return the first plenary meeting of the Bishops’ Conference to its traditional home is a big sign of hope; hope that things are beginning to get better even if we are still far away from the light at the end of the tunnel. God knows how to bring good out of evil. God is good!”

Archbishop Kaigama, however, lamented the increasing social and moral decadence in Nigeria, highlighting the fact that different forms of corruption is being passed to the younger generation by the current crops of leaders.

He said: “It should worry us that our young people have learned the bad ways of corruption from the elders. When some of them tell stories of what they have to do to graduate, or to get a good NYSC posting, or to be recruited into security bodies, it is indeed very sad.

“The declining sense of sin and guilt has elevated corruption almost to a cultural status, so that even when our leaders are asked to respond to the threats of terrorism, combat pandemic, build roads, houses, bridges, etc, corruption is the arithmetical determinant .

“Our politics is mainly determined by the two factors of religion and tribe, and governance is also tainted with dishonest practices. The #EndSARS protests were honest demands of the youths for a better Nigeria. I hope we can transcend selfish parochial interests.”

He maintained that Nigeria needs a complete turnaround, where God-given resources are shared equitably; merit take priority in everything, and all Nigerians aspire to be patriotic citizens.

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“Regrettably, we are yet to find leaders who are prepared to die for our nation, as in the case of the late President of Chad, Idriss Deby, who died leading his people in battle, or recently, like the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is courageously leading his people and stoutly defending the territorial integrity of his nation by an invading hostile power.”

He challenged leaders of both the Christian and Muslim communities to foster a new and sincere way of dialogue, friendship and interaction; break the barriers that keep them apart, and remain pillars in worship communities and not yield to the
temptations of the evil one through the greed for possessions and worldly powers.

“These are the weapons in the arsenal of the devil to destroy our nation and indeed, humanity. We urge our over 50 million Catholics in Nigeria to be instruments of change, not only spiritually, pastorally, but even politically, using our preparations for the Synod on Synodality as a new spring board.”

Chairman of the occasion, Kanu Agabi, in his speech acknowledged the efforts of the Bishops, Priests and other officials of the Catholic church to reshape the society, uplift morals and keep political leaders on their toes.

He said: “In a nation where the opposition, instituted by the Constitution, has failed in its responsibilities, there’s no doubt that had you, the leaders of the church being silent, the nation would long since have perished. We thank God for your courage, your perseverance and your resilience. It is you who teach us not to despair.

“No institution has done more for the advancement of the nation than the Catholic Church. And no individual or institution has done so for a longer time. You work hard to ameliorate our condition.
You work tirelessly to secure and to extend human rights. You work hard to strengthen and advance the principles of human liberty.

“Your sacrifices and self-denial far exceed that of any other congregation. You work under circumstances of great distress, but you never complain. You have shut yourselves out from all participation in the political rights and privileges of the nation. You depend entirely on our voluntary contributions.

“By your learning and your intelligence, you have demonstrated that the wisdom which comes from above is superior to all other wisdom. In your attitude to those who have wealth and power you have demonstrated that nothing can alter the principles of the church.”

“The reason we suffer is because we refused to heed the warnings of the church. On the journey to Rome, the Apostle Paul was put into a ship among thieves and other criminals so that he might save them. Had the sailors not rejected his advice the ship and all its cargo might have been saved. In like manner, this conquering nation has been put into the hands of the Church.

“So far, like those mariners, we have rejected the good advice of the church. Even then, the church remains our hope. It remains our hope even when we take refuge in it and are killed. The world does not honor the meek. It honors those who are vindictive. The world commands, not those who turn the other cheek, but those who render evil for evil. Those who are being exalted today are not the humble but the arrogant and the proud. Social and political forces have carried the spirit of violence to extremes beyond our imagination.

“It is extremely difficult now to remain silent when people throw stones at us. It is extremely difficult not to react now when whole communities are attacked and wiped out because they are of a certain religion.”

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