One of the major responsibilities of diocesan Bishops (local ordinaries) is to provide adequately for the elderly priests of the diocese. Opus Securitatis was founded with the aim of assisting the bishops of mission territories dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in fulfilling the responsibility of adequately providing for the elderly priests of their dioceses. The idea originated from some mission countries and was adopted by Missio Aachen, Germany as a project of inter ecclesial help and launched in May 1976 with the approval of the “Superior Council” of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS). After partly achieving its original purpose of providing welfare for elderly priests in many Churches, it was considered that the time was ripe for the local Churches to assume full responsibility for this duty. The Superior Council of the Pontifical Mission Societies considered this proposal extensively and resolved to decentralize the scheme. Consequently, the Opus Securitatis was now transferred to these local Churches, giving them full responsibility for this duty.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, (CBCN) after deliberating on the matter, decided to approach this responsibility in a cooperative spirit, aware that individual diocesan administration of the Opus Securitatis fund might be cumbersome for many dioceses and that a collective approach would be more conducive for security, high aggregate returns and flexibility in its management profile. What is more, it will further enhance and strengthen the spirit of solidarity and unity of the different dioceses in Nigeria.
Consequently, the new Opus Securitatis Fund for the Church in Nigeria was established to continue to provide this assistance to retired priests as far as condition allows, in accordance with the rules established by these statutes.
II. The Obligation of Assistance
Art.1 Retirement assistance to the elderly is a duty declared by the ILO (International Labour Organization) for all workers, and recognized by the laws of the State for every citizen. In fact, all citizens regardless of their social status have a right to this assistance. The extended family system in Nigeria recognizes the need for this service and has been, and to some extent is still providing it, in some limited cases.
Art 2. The Catholic Church, a perfect society with its own laws, in its Canon Law affirms the right of Priests in every Church throughout the world to have “the remuneration that befits their condition” and it declares that “suitable provision is likewise to be made for such social welfare as they may need in infirmity, sickness or old age” (can. 281 §1,2). This right to a “suitable and worthy provision” is also recognized for the Bishops Emeriti, and it is a duty of the Episcopal Conference, bearing in mind “the primary obligation which falls on the diocese which he served” (can.402§2).
Art 3. Responsibility for providing this Pension Fund and the expression of priestly solidarity, belongs to the Bishops of the local Church: “Where there is as yet no properly organized system of social provision for the clergy, the Episcopal Conference is to see that a fund is established which will furnish adequate social security for them” (can.1274 §2).
Art 4. This responsibility may be exercised by the Bishop of each individual Diocese as well as by Bishops jointly (in solido), gathered in the Episcopal Conference. The purposes of social welfare for the clergy depending on differing local circumstances might be better achieved by amalgamating various diocesan funds, or by cooperation between various Dioceses, or even by setting up a suitable association for them, or indeed for the whole territory of the Episcopal Conference itself” (can.1274 §4) For Nigeria, the Opus Securitatis Fund shall be organized at the level of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in order to achieve higher professionalism and flexibility in management, greater security and high aggregate returns, better protection for dioceses that will otherwise find it difficult to operate the system on their own, consolidate priestly solidarity and unity as well as cooperation within the CBCN.
III. Administrative Structure
Art 5. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria shall establish a National Opus Securitatis Board which, working under the supervision of the Finance Committee of the CBCN shall govern the Opus Securitatis of the CBCN and administer the funds. The members of the Board shall be appointed by the CBCN and also determine their number. The membership must include an accountant and a person who is conversant with Insurance Business. The Chairman of the Finance Committee of the CBCN shall be an ex-officio member of the Board.
Art 6. A member of the Apostolic Nunciature in Nigeria shall be on the Board as an observer.
Art 7. The Board shall be responsible for the management of the Opus Securitatis Fund. In doing so, it shall avail itself of the services of the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd, especially in the areas of the investments and disbursement of the funds.
Art 8. Investment proposals shall be made to CBCN for consideration and approval. It shall be the duty of the Board and the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd to seek and recommend ways of achieving capital growth through investments.
Art 9. Each diocese should retain its own account on the Opus Securitatis and statements shall be regularly rendered to each local ordinary, as shall be regulated by the Board.
Art 10. The Board shall see to it that the pensions accruing to each priest are promptly paid to the appropriate diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee for proper administration. On no account will that money be paid to the individual priests directly by the Board.
Art 11. The Opus Securitatis Board shall meet at least twice a year and shall report to the CBCN at least once a year.
Art 12. All the Bishops, priests who have been members of the centralized Opus Securitatis, shall automatically become members of the Opus Securitatis of the CBCN, with full entitlements.
Art 13. Participation in the “Opus Securitatis Fund” is open to all those who are members of the diocesan clergy: diocesan Bishops, Priests incardinated in the Diocese, and Permanent Deacons where they exist. Participation is reserved to clergy “incardinated” in the Diocese for the whole time that this situation persists.
Art 14. The age necessary for drawing the pension is normally 65 years on the advice of the insurance company through the CSN Investment Concept, taking into account the civil laws in force and local customs.
Art 15. Should a member of the “Opus Securitatis” die before reaching retirement age, his contribution goes to increase the “Fund”, which is an expression of the priestly solidarity of his Church.
Art 16. The capital of the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, to be transferred from the collective Opus Securitatis, or obtained through the contribution of members or offered by other Institution or persons, must be used exclusively for the purpose for which it was given.
Art 17. The constitution of the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, through the contribution of its members may be made in various ways and with different structures. The simplest way is a contribution to the “premium”, due annually and established by the CBCN on the advice of an insurance company through the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd, with a percentage offered jointly by the Diocese and by its Clergy. The percentage should be defined by the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee. The contribution must be such that it must be suited to the financial possibilities of the Dioceses. Dioceses may however decide on other ways of raising this contribution provided that the per capita contribution established by the CBCN is met.
Art 18. The “Opus Securitatis Fund” shall be open to the contribution of ecclesial Organizations and lay Institutions that are in a position to give their help and their assistance, but it is not conditioned by anyone and is totally free in its financial management.
Art 19. Each diocesan Bishop shall set up a diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee, which shall operate under the direction of the Bishop. It shall be responsible for managing the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, of the diocese and must ensure that this Statute is observed and that the benefits due to contributing members are disbursed promptly and properly.
Art 20. The Diocesan “Opus Securitatis Committee” should meet, at least, twice a year to examine matters concerning the administration of the “Fund” and fix times and ways for the distribution of the sum due to Priests of pensionable age who have contributed to the “Opus Securitatis Fund”.
Art 21. Enrollment in the diocesan “Opus Securitatis Fund” with the ensuing duties is an obligation for every priest in the Diocese and the pension benefits are reserved to those who have faithfully observed the obligations and the necessary requirements.
Art 22. Retirement assistance through the “Opus Securitatis Fund” may be provided either with the direct disbursement of the quota due to participating members, or through institutions, such as the “House for the Clergy” or an “Old People’s Home” which take care of them when they are sick or disabled.
Art 23. For no reason whatsoever may the pension contribution be disbursed to family members, unless, through the pensioner’s free choice, they take care of the elderly priest and only during his lifetime.
Art 24. If for any reason a Priest leaves his Diocese, he has no right to any compensation, apart from what he has contributed annually to the “Fund”.
Art 25. The diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee” shall work in close collaboration with Opus Securitatis Board of the CBCN.
IV. Amendment of the Statutes
Art 26. The statutes can be amended or reviewed by the CBCN provided that such a review shall not compromise the aims and objectives of the Opus Securitatis nor approve the application of any of the funds accrued to Opus Securitatis for any purpose other than the welfare of the priests.