Redouble efforts to end threats to life, ensure security, Catholic Bishops urge Govts
…enjoin citizens not to relent in holding leaders accountable for their actions
By Emmanuel Kwada
Governments at all levels have been urged to redouble their efforts to provide adequate security and stop the incessant threats to life of the citizens across Nigeria.
On the other hand, the citizens were enjoined never to give up on praying for the country while not relenting in holding the nation’s leaders accountable for their actions and inaction in the course of their stewardship.
These calls were contained in a communique issued by the Catholic Bishops of the Lagos Ecclesiastical Province comprising of Lagos Archdiocese, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta Dioceses following their first plenary meeting for the year 2024 held at St Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland Lagos recently.
The communique was jointly signed by the Chairman and Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins and the Secretary and Bishop of Ijebu Ode, Most Rev. Francis Adesina.
After a fruitful interaction with the leadership of the clergy, the religious, and the various lay organizations and societies in the province, and having reflected on issues affecting the Church and the nation, the clergymen issued the communique, which began with appreciation to God for another year.
“We thank God Almighty the Giver of life for keeping our country as one despite the numerous challenges that characterised the better part of the year 2023 and we urge the people of God to look beyond the numerous lapses in the polity and work together in unity to ensure a more prosperous and fruitful year 2024”, the communique stated.
On the State of the Nation, the bishops expressed deep concern about the state of the nation as exemplified in the increasing poverty, insecurity, kidnapping, and worsening economic situation. “We are very saddened that the living conditions of people have deteriorated. Thus, we urge government to show greater determination to alleviate the suffering of our people beyond the current unsustainable palliatives.”
We are very saddened that the living conditions of people have deteriorated
“We sympathise with all victims of insecurity: the continuous slaughter of people in their villages since the killings on Christmas Eve in Plateau State, in Southern Kaduna among others; the activities of kidnappers in Federal Capital Territory; the Unknown gunmen in South East and so-called bandits in North etc. We pray God to grant eternal rest to the dead, healing to the injured and restoration to the displaced.
“We however call on our political leaders and security agencies to redouble their efforts and bring these threats to life to an end. People are already tired and dismissive of the assurances that come from government and security agencies after each destruction of life and property. We urge citizens of our country never to give up on praying for the country but also never to relent in holding our leaders accountable for their actions and inaction in the course of their stewardship”, the bishops advised.
The communique noted the unveiling of the Marriage Preparation Curriculum, adding, “We give thanks to God for the unveiling of our Provincial Marriage Preparation Curriculum which will serve as a guide for preparation of couples for marriage in the Province. We commend the Inter-Diocesan Marriage Tribunal officials and the Provincial Marriage and Family Life Units for their hard work in preparing this document. We direct that the curriculum shall be followed strictly by instructors and intending couples in marriage preparation programmes of all Parishes in the Province.”
On the increase in Shepherds for the Church, the Bishops acknowledged God’s bountiful blessings on the church in Nigeria. They also thanked the Holy Father Pope Francis for the appointment and installation of a bishop for the newly created Diocese of Katsina in the person of Most Rev. Gerald Mamman Musa; the ordination of an Auxiliary Bishop for Ahiara Diocese, Most Rev Simeon Okezuo Nwobi, and the installation of the Bishop of the Diocese of Warri, Most Rev. Anthony Ovayero Ewherido.
Others include the appointment of the Auxiliary Bishop of Orlu, Most Rev. Thomas Ifeanyichukwu Obiatuegwu; the creation of Aguleri Diocese with Most Rev. Denis Isizoh as its first Bishop and the appointment and installation of Most Rev Dr Habila Tyiakwonaboi Daboh as the new Bishop of Zaria Diocese. They expressed hope and desire that the same sort of joy and celebration shall be experienced in their Province in no distant future.
On the Steady Growth in Evangelisation Efforts, the Bishops observed the steady growth of the Church in the Province as shown in the significant increase in the number of parishes, deaneries, and catechumens. “While noting that it is God that gives the increase, we express our appreciation for the evangelisation efforts of the Clergy, the religious, and the lay faithful in the province and urge them to remain committed to the mission of the Church with unity of purpose and collaboration for continued growth of the Church”, the communique added.
We affirm that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as the union of a man and a woman
On the issue of Same-Sex Unions, the Bishops expressed their total agreement with the position of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and that of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) concerning the blessing of homosexual unions or same-sex couples. “We affirm that the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as the union of a man and a woman in a stable and exclusive relationship, open to bearing children, remains the same. We also affirm the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and urge the faithful to be guided by it”, the communique stated.
In conclusion, the bishops admitted that Nigeria is at a crossroad. “However, in the midst of all these, we must never lose sight of the fact that the true security and prosperity of our country lies in the hands of the Almighty God. As the Bible says, unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1).
“As we navigate the challenges of the time, we must remember that the solution to our woes begins when we recognise that in various ways, we have sinned against God and our country and we express willingness to turn away from our evil ways. “If my people…humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)”, the communique added.