May 30, 2024
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ARCHBISHOP AUGUSTINE O. AKUBEZE’S WELCOME ADDRESS AT THE THIRD NATIONAL PASTORAL CONGRESS IN BENIN

ARCHBISHOP AUGUSTINE O. AKUBEZE’S WELCOME ADDRESS AT THE THIRD NATIONAL PASTORAL CONGRESS IN BENIN ON NOVEMBER 9TH, 2022 AT BISHOP KELLY PASTORAL CENTRE  AIRPORT ROAD, BENIN CITY

 

  1. Introduction:Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who has made it possible for us to see this day. A day that provides us, the Church in Nigeria the opportunity to sit as a family and dialogue together. On behalf of the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Benin City, I welcome you. As the Archbishop of Benin City, I welcome your Eminences; John Cardinal Onaiyekan, and Peter Cardinal Okpaleke. We recognize and welcome in a special way the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev. Dr. Lucius Ugorji. To my brother Archbishops and Bishops, who have come for this congress, I acknowledge your presence. In a unique way, I recognize the presence of the Governor of Edo State, His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki. I profoundly and respectfully, recognize the presence of His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin Kingdom, together with his Palace Chiefs and entourage. I salute the members of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, as well as all Priests, Religious and delegates from the 56 Archdioceses and Dioceses in Nigeria. I welcome the Representatives of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Muslim Representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, other traditional rulers and representatives, Government officials, security men and women, press crew, brothers and sisters in Christ. To all of you, I say welcome to this Third National Pastoral Congress. I say welcome to Benin City, Edo State the Heartbeat of the Nation and welcome to the Archdiocese of Benin City.
  2. We are all gathered here for the third National Pastoral Congress. A congress that borders on Synodality with the Theme, “Towards a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”. In October 2021, the Holy Father, Pope Francis called the Church to begin a synodal Journey, a process that will climax in the synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2023. It is our prayer that the fruit of this synod on synodality would have its positive ripple effects in the Church in Nigeria as well as throughout the world. Amen.
  3. On November 29, 2019 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, the Pope remarked that “Synodality is a style, it is a walk together and it is what the Lord expects from the Church of the third millennium”. This synodality of the Church is achieved namely through, communion, participation, and mission.

Communion means to walk together, encountering the Lord and encountering ourselves. It is to listen, not only with our ears but with our hearts, knowing that each one of us has a story to share. To listen is not to judge, rather to allow people feel free to recount their own experiences and spiritual journeys. Frankly speaking, many of us today are good speakers but poor listeners, we do not often allow people around us to express themselves, we sometimes think that the best way to express our intellectual superiority is to dominate every conversation, even the ones we know nothing about. Listening is therefore an integral path of synodality, for it is only by hearing can we discern properly as a Church. Thus, the Holy Father in his Homily at the opening Mass for the 2021-2023 Synod on Synodality in St. Peter’s Basilica, encouraged all the baptised, Bishops, priests, religious and laity “to avoid artificial, shallow and pre-packaged responses. The Spirit asks us to listen to questions, concerns and hopes of every Church, people and Nation and to listen to the world, to the challenges and changes that it sets before us. Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties. Let us therefore listen to one another”.

  1. During the periods of this Congress, we are all called to participate actively. Participating in a synod means placing ourselves on the same path as the Word made flesh. It means following in his footsteps, listening to his word along with the words of others. It means discovering with amazement that the Holy Spirit always surprises us to suggest fresh paths and new ways of speaking. It is important for everyone to see his/herself as active participants not as passive spectators.
  2. Finally, we must note that the Church by its very nature is missionary. Thus, having through our listening discerned the voice of the Holy Spirit for the Church, we must be charged for mission to continually advance the course of Christ on earth.
  3. Once again, I kindly and warmly wish to reiterate our firm sentiments of welcome to all of you. May the Lord grant us a grace-filled journey together, and may this synod on synodality, bring blessings to each and every one of us, blessings to the Local and Universal Church and indeed to the world. I wish you all safe journeys to your various destinations at the end of a fruitful deliberation.

Thank you and God bless you!

 

 

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