July 22, 2024
Diocese News News Nigeria Warri Diocese

A bishop must be a man of prayer and a servant of the Word of God – Archbishop Filipazzi

Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh, CSN

It was a jubilant mammoth congregation at the ordination and installation Mass of Most Rev. Anthony Ovayero Ewherido as the fifth bishop of Warri Diocese on 9 February 2023 at the open field of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda Minor Seminary in Effurun, Warri.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, who was the principal consecrator and homilist, admonished the people of God that the primary duty of a bishop must be that of shepherding the sheep rather than being an administrator.

The Italian-born prelate reiterated that the office of a bishop is not to be seen as an honour but a call to service. As such, “there should be no place in the Church for a worldly mentality” which views the episcopacy like a career. “In the Church there must be no place for this mindset,” he asserted.

“Therefore, a bishop is one who is called to live and give his life for the sheep, as the Lord Jesus, the ‘Chief Shepherd’, said and did.

“Every pastoral commission in the Church is connected with the question, Do you love me? Not: Are you a skilled administrator? Are you a great speaker? Do you enjoy power? Rather: Do you love me?

“The vocation to a life fully dedicated to God and the Christian life itself must have no other motivation than love for the Lord Jesus,” he affirmed.

According to the Papal envoy, being a loving shepherd entails two major responsibilities: first, the availability to always provide the flock with what it needs, leading them to pastures… giving life; and secondly, a bishop must be ready to protect, lead, guide and reprimand. It will be almost impossible for a bishop to carry out these two–fold responsibilities unless he is a man of prayer, giving pre-eminence to the Eucharist, and also a servant dedicated to the service of the Word – spreading the message that gives direction and meaning to life.

Quoting Pope Francis, Filipazzi acknowledged that the practice of prayer and service to the Word are not easy, “but it is precisely these two tasks that strengthen the pillars of the Church. In fact, should these pillars be weakened, because the bishop does not pray or he prays very little or forgets to pray; or because the bishop does not proclaim the Gospel, occupying himself with other things, the Church also weakens, she suffers.”

In concluding his sermon, the Apostolic Nuncio encouraged the new bishop not to be afraid of the task before him, like the young prophet Jeremiah. He assured him that the Lord is with him to grant him all the strength and grace in spite of all limitations, if in humility like Peter he learns to say: “Lord you know everything, you know that I love you.”

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