The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses have just ended their second meeting during which they discussed issues regarding the Church and their nation. Please find the final communique below.
THE CHURCH AND THE TRAVAILS OF A GROWING NATION
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE SECOND MEETING OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF IBADAN PROVINCE FOR 2017 HELD AT SAINT KIZITO PASTORAL CENTRE, OKE GADA, EDE, OSUN STATE.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses, after our second meeting for the year 2017, having prayerfully deliberated over pertinent issues in the Church and the nation, hereby issue the following communique:
1. The Ongoing Marian Year
As our Catholic faithful in the Province continue to celebrate the Marian year in prayer, spiritual activities and praise to Almighty God for the gift of faith, we call upon all Christians to unite in the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary whom God chose to be the mother of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us teach by our words, prayer and example that wherever the Church is, there Mary is. We urge all Catholics to participate wholeheartedly in the spiritual and pastoral programmes laid out for the Marian Year, and thus inspire others to imbibe the virtues of Mary. The message of repentance, reconciliation and peace which Mary brought to us at Fatima, Portugal, 100 years ago is more relevant now than ever. All Catholics must turn up during this celebration to model that message in our families, communities and nation.
2. Enduring Commitment to Liturgical Rules
We highly commend priests, catechists, evangelizers, the choir and other agents of the Church’s liturgy for striving to heed our call for strict adherence to the Liturgical rules and regulations. Liturgical worship is the lifeblood that flows through the veins of the Church gathered as the body of Christ. When it is contaminated or diluted, the body of Christ suffers in its authentic identity. We urge all agents of liturgical worship to study well the Church’s instruction on Liturgical worship and humbly adhere to them in deference to the Holy Spirit in the Church of God. The Church does not gain anything by promoting a pop religion which accommodates every fad and whims generated by the entertainment industry.
3. The Sad Incident in Nnewi Diocese
We commiserate with the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Reverend Hillary Okeke, and the faithful of the Diocese, the government and people of Anambra State and several families directly affected by the mass murder which occurred on Sunday 6th August, 2017, at St Philip Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State. We uphold still the sanctity of every human life given by God and not to be taken away by anyone and therefore can never denounce enough the evil of such a horrendous and callous killing of innocent worshippers right in the Church during the Holy Mass. Different accounts have been given to analyze the mayhem. The bottom line is that the security situation in Nigeria remains at best, tenuous. We strongly condemn whatever may be at the root of this and similar occurrences. Those who are charged with securing human life and property in the nation must simply do more to protect the citizens. One must ask how murderers like the perpetrators of the Ozubulu mayhem came about such deadly weapons. The proliferation of arms in Nigeria deserves urgent and decisive action. We call on all our faithful to pray that the souls of the departed may rest in perfect peace and that God may bring enduring peace to Nigeria. We also reiterate that the right of all Nigerians to freely adhere to any religion of their choice is sacrosanct and must be protected by all legitimate means.
4. The Resurgence of Terrorism
We regret the recent resurgence of Boko Haram activities in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. The criminal group seems to have returned with double strength. We commend the Presidential order that has returned the Nigerian Military Service Chiefs in full force to the centre of the battle. Sadly the wanton destruction of lives and property in Southern Kaduna is also yet to abate. While commending the military and other security agencies in Nigeria for their commitment to the integrity of the nation, we urge them to eschew all forms of corruption, nepotism and betrayal and fight for the unity and integrity of Nigeria. History and humanity will honour their sacrifice and commitment. All Nigerians have the responsibility to collaborate with the security agencies by giving information where necessary and obeying the rules of vigilance and personal security at all times.
5. The Restructuring of Nigeria
The ongoing discourse about restructuring in Nigeria has gathered considerable momentum. In the process, different definitions have emerged on what restructuring could mean and what form such a process should take. It is regrettable that an issue of such importance that should be an issue of justice can be subjected to so much intellectual gymnastics, political sentiments and personal interest. Most people in Nigeria agree that, as it is currently constituted, our country is simply not serving the development and self-realization of most of its citizens and therefore needs to be revisited. In other words, let all of us, leaders and people agree to jettison political machinations and self-serving interests and restructure Nigeria according to the laws of equity and justice. We will thus be saving our own lives and the future.
6. Moral Decadence in our Society
We decry the degeneration of the moral fibre of our society due to many internal and external factors. The aggressive assault of new age, decadent ideologies, particularly from the Western world threaten to overwhelm our cultural and spiritual values. These seem to gain momentum everyday through strategies of intimidation and inducement of even political, traditional and religious authorities by foreign countries, international organizations and powerful individuals. The socializing institutions of society like the family, the school and the media too have been considerably weakened by economic and political forces. We appeal to families, guardians, religious, traditional and political leaders to be vigilant and work together to protect and strengthen our cultural, moral and religious values. These constitute our God-given African identity. Our youth and people need clear guidance and assistance in the face of a deluge of information and ideologies available to them through the social media and the internet. To throw up our hands and leave them to find their way alone is to shirk our responsibilities.
7. Lingering Challenges in the Education Sector
The education sector in our country remains in crisis. The Catholic Church, long before Nigeria’s independence, has invested her resources in education because of her commitment to the holistic development of the citizenry. This has brought great benefit to many individuals and institutions of Nigeria. We therefore demand that government at all levels recognize the status of the Catholic Church as a Missionary, non-profit institution. It is unfair and unjust therefore to penalize such an institution which serves the people, irrespective of creed or tribe, through multiple taxation and debilitating laws. We also call on the authorities to be vigilant and curb the encroaching sexualization of the education sector which is effected through the so-called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and dubious Maternal Health procedures. Government should not spend public money on the proliferation of artificial contraceptive methods to the neglect of basic infrastructure and the grassroots health needs of our people.
8. Rights of Workers and Unpaid Wages
Regular remuneration for work done is a matter of justice. We lament the current situation in many States of Nigeria where workers are not promptly and regularly paid for work done. Pensioners also continue to languish in painful expectation of their entitlements and many families and individuals are deprived of their legitimate livelihood. This has brought untold suffering and resentment within the society. We strongly urge the governments of affected states to rectify this miserable situation. A resentful citizenry cannot be effectively mobilized for any meaningful development.
Finally, we give thanks to God for His mercy upon Nigeria as we continue our daily journey of life as individuals and communities. As People of God, called to be ‘Salt of the Earth and Light of the World’ (Matthew 5:16), we are called to confront our challenges concretely as Christians with joyful hope and complete trust in God that our collective efforts will still lead to a meaningful life and a happy end. May Mary, Queen of Nigeria intercede for our country for justice peace and harmony both now and in the future.
Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin (President)
Most Rev. John Oyejola (Secretary).