BENIN-CITY: PASTORAL CONGRESS REPORT (3) Proceedings of Day 2
“We must never be afraid to take a definitive decision” – Bishop Ajakaye
By Padre Mike Nsikak Umoh, CSN
The proceeding of Day-2, November 9, 2022, of the 3rd National Pastoral Congress in Nigeria, started as scheduled with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration during which the official morning prayer of the Church (the Lauds) was also prayed.Later, the Opening Mass held at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Benin City, was said by the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, while Bishop Felix Femi Ajakaye, the Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, gave the homily. In his homily, Bishop Ajakaye lamented the many aberrations in the liturgy. “We must treat God’s places of worship, the Church buildings, the temples, with reverence. The same thing is applicable to our celebration of the Liturgy and any form of worship. They must be solemn,” admonished. In this light, he said that there is a tendency that many parishes in Nigeria are losing the spiritual aspect of harvest due to several unorthodox practices introduced in order to induce money from the people. The Bishop of Ekiti Diocese regretted that “it is very unfortunate that in the Catholic Church in Nigeria today, there is proliferation of these so-called private or personal ‘Healing Ministries’ and ‘Adoration Ministries’. Unfortunately, with this great increase in number in such ‘ministries’, many unorthodox practices are being introduced into the Catholic Church’s worship and Liturgy through some people’s whim and caprices.”The Homilist called on the Bishops Conference to take more decisive steps in curbing the ugly fallouts of private ministries, as he reminded the entire assembly that “Our gathering here is a unique opportunity to address the sickening and embarrassing situation in the Catholic Church in Nigeria.” He thus charged that “We must never be afraid to take a definitive decision as God’s temple with the Spirit of God dwelling in us. It is now or never.”On his part, the Archbishop of Benin City Archdiocese, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, in welcoming the Congress-delegates to Benin City expressed the optimism that the Pastoral Congress should lead to an active participation of the faithful in civil politics. He urged Nigerians to be weary of politicians when they come around campaigning. “Let us listen to them when they come to make promises, let us match their words with their past actions and make informed decisions with our Voter’s Card, that will lead to a leader who considers every Nigeria as his brother and sister; a leader who has the capacity and will power to take us out of poverty and lead us to prosperity.” The immediate past CBCN President concluded his address by reminding the delegates that “A Eucharistic Church in Nigeria will be an agent of social and economic transformation.”The Opening Mass was followed by the official opening ceremony of the Pastoral Congress in the Hall of the Bishop Kelly Pastoral Center in Benin, under the Chairmanship of Rt. Hon. Chevalier Engr. Dr. E.J.S. Uujaamhan, who was represented by Sir Joseph Enarhome, KSM. In their addresses, while Archbishop Akubeze enjoined all to cultivate the true habit of listening, Archbishop Ugorji, harped on the need for the Church to strengthen dialogue with other denominations at all levels and foster cooperation with people of other faiths. He further affirmed that it is sacrilegious and blasphemous to kill in the name of God, as such Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria must be taken very seriously. The President of the Bishops Conference of Nigeria emphasised the need for the Church in Nigeria to pay greater attention to the place of social Media in the life and mission of the Church. He advocated that in the new world and culture, the Church cannot afford to pay lips service to the role of the media if she must truly be herald of the gospel in this age and time.The morning session ended with the Royal visit of the Oba of Benin, HRM Oba Ewuare II, who was personally present in his full regalia, royal contraptions with his palace High Chiefs and palace accompaniments. In his remark, among other things, His Royal Majesty confessed to having been baptised in the Catholic Church in Benin as a young man, but advocated that Nigeria can solve the endemic problem of corruption by subjecting public officers to the African Traditional method, which he testified to be very prompt and ruthless in dealing with erring people and situations.At the evening session, chaired by the CBCN Vice President, Most Rev. Matthew Ndangoso, the President of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priest Association (NCDPA), Very Rev. Fr. John Bosco was the moderator while the Rector of the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Very Rev. Prof. Jude Asanbe presented an evaluation of the 2012 propositions. The Bishop of Aba Diocese, Most Rev. Augustine Echema, gave the Relator’s Overview which was followed by two Papers by Bishop John Bakeni and Fr. Collins Ahiegbe, OP. The topics were on “Cooperation and Unity among Christians: Challenges and Prospects of Ecumenical Movement in Nigeria Today” and “The Church and Youth Empowerment: Building a Community to Buid the Society,” respectively.The day’s session ended with the Vespers and a final blessing by the Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke.