INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN THE SERVICE OF PERSONAL AND PUBLIC SECURITY WELCOME ADDRESS BY BISHOP BADEJO
It gives me great pleasure to be here again today to welcome you all, especially our invited guests and participants to our 5th general gathering of religious leaders and stake-holders to sincerely discuss how best to maintain peace and harmony in our territory. The topic; INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE IN THE SERVICE OF PERSONAL AND PUBLIC SECURITY concerns everybody. Although we can thank God that in our context, we enjoy far greater peace and harmony in our area than in other parts of Nigeria, we cannot afford to be complacent. In fact, our rural, agrarian people share much the same security problems as others in Nigeria. I have experienced 4 break-ins in my residence in the last one year and I hear that a few other Christian leaders have experienced the same. Maybe even leaders of other religions can say the same. Thus is to say nothing of general social and moral delinquency at different levels all around us. We all know that religion is a great mobilizer and so we must deploy its power to achieve positive ends. We can use religion to advise, educate and admonish the authorities and our people alike for a better society. May God continue to help us in this regard.
Dear distinguished guests, the religious landscape of our world today leaves no one in doubt about the necessity for harmonious interaction, dialogue and peaceful coexistence among people of various religions and confessions. We see conflict and violence in so many countries of the world. The diocese of Oyo, so collocated among diverse Religions and Confessions, is committed to provide from time to time a platform like this for sincere Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue interactions that can help and promote a better society. Thus together we can explore avenues of study, interaction and collaboration with Muslims, adherents of traditional religion, and other Christians to see areas where we can work more together. We therefore appreciate the openness and collaboration of Christians and Muslims who have a similar vision. This kind of an encounter does not threaten any other structure like the Christian Association of Nigeria or others to which we are committed, rather it strengthens their relevance.
As we reflect together today on issues of security around us, I urge that we do so without consideration for superiority or precedence among us. Our elders say “Omode gbon, agba gbon ni a fi da ile ife”, “owo omode ko to pepe ti agbalagba ko wo keregbe”. May I throw some practical issues into the fray! First, let us shun religious discrimination especially when it concerns social mobility and access to jobs and opportunities. I say this because the high level of insecurity today in Nigeria can be linked to unemployment which is sometimes linked to such discrimination. When we keep opportunities and privileges away from one another based on religion or confession, we generate bad will and rancor among our people and especially the youth. This too can generate insecurity and could be one of the things to discuss at this forum. On the other hand, if we show fairness and accommodation of others in this regard, more public goodwill can be generated. Baptists should be able to work with Muslims, Muslims with Catholic, Catholics with Pentecostals and Pentecostals with Traditional Religion worshippers and so on for the common good. As is often said, good neighbourliness is the best form of security. After all, in the market our people do not sell their vegetable, yam and ponmo according to religious beliefs. This does not mean a loss of our identities at all, but a realization that we are all called to work for peace and harmony and security. This is also our traditional Yoruba value.
Another desirable area is that we can speak with one voice for the truth to the government and security agencies when the occasion occurs. A good example is the education policy of the present Oyo State government which has been largely commended by everybody. Same for the anti-corruption bill which has just been signed into law by the governor of Oyo State, Engineer Seyi Makinde. If we find these as objectively good things, we should be able to commend such important steps together and recommend their fair application for the common good. Thee are just examples of collaboration open to us.
I am sincerely grateful to the Missionaries of Africa, otherwise known as White Fathers, represented here for collaborating with us for a long time now in our inter religious relations efforts. The Missionaries of Africa are a religious group founded precisely for this kind of apostolate in the Universal Catholic Church and they have been doing great things all over Africa in this regard. Thank you very much.
The Inter-Religious Dialogue Committee was revived in Oyo diocese in the year 2008, but this is our 5th annual symposium. We hold meetings and activities every year as a diocese, but our open and general symposium is limited because of funds and support. We welcome collaboration in this aspect as we all know that there can never be any meaningful development in an unsafe environment.
Dear distinguished guests, the Catholic Church strongly believes in this project of interreligious and inter church relations which it has clearly outlined since Vatican II especially through its documents, Nostra Aetate and Unitatis Redintegratio. For Catholic leaders, the goal of such dialogue is for people firmly rooted in different faith traditions to explain their beliefs to one another, grow in knowledge of and respect for one another, and help one another move closer to the truth about God and what it means to be human. All Catholic Bishops try to pursue that essential reality with their faithful and their resources for the realization of one humanity created by God. Some evidence of this can be seen in our effort through the Justice Development and Peace Commission work, our schools, hospitals and empowerment institutions.
I think that whatever we learn and decide today in the way of promoting peaceful coexistence and collaboration will be a fitting tribute to our Yoruba culture and heritage. Our ancestors were highly religious but also highly accommodating. They say “Je kin je lo nmu ayoo dun”, “Oju orun to eye ifo lai fi ara kanra”. It will also be an important legacy of solidarity and collaboration to leave to our children.
In conclusion, let me wish all participants a fruitful deliberation here for a safer environment where everyone can serve God in truth and freedom. I thank the Director and members of the IRD committee in Oyo for their efforts at making sure we have this symposium and the members from all our Parishes, Institutions and Religious Houses for participating. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020. Once again, you are all welcome. Thank you and God bless you. Amen.
+MOST REV. EMMANUEL ADE BADEJO
CATHOLIC BISHOP OF OYO DIOCESE
WELCOME ADDRESS BY MOST REV. EMMANUEL BADEJO ON 14/12/2019
POLITICIANS WHO LIVE BY HATE SPEECH AND FAKE NEWS CANNOT LEGISLATE ON IT
The proposed hate speech bill waiting to be passed at the National House of Assembly, recommending death by hanging for anyone found guilty of hate speech, is an attack on Nigerians and what decency is left of the country by the very people supposedly elected to work for Nigeria’s progress. Nigeria should not be proposing capital punishment at this period when other civilized country are abandoning it because life is inviolable. Capital punishment really just makes society more violent and does not really work as a deterrent. That Nigerian lawmakers would contemplate the death penalty for hate speech in a country where hate crimes like political assassination, violent political rhetoric, ethnic cleansing, kidnapping for ransom etc. have occurred for years without much response from government and security agencies is very distressing. The lawmakers should be fighting to decrease the harvest of death in parts of Nigeria. In any case human life is sacred and belongs only to the Creator to take.
One wonders at the enthusiasm and passion with which our lawmakers are pushing this bill. Could it be for self-preservation rather than national interest? To even suggest that the bill could be retroactive is evidence of how much Nigeria seems to retrogress while other countries progress. It is a vestige of past governments’ strategy to victimize perceived enemies and muzzle free speech. The people know then and it is “déjà vu”.
While it seems necessary to exercise some control over the menace of fake news as a few countries have done, I believe that the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution should suffice to protect citizens and prosecute those who fall foul of the law. A draconian provision like the death penalty for hate speech would be an invitation to anarchy and chaos which will be provoked by an almost certain misapplication of such laws by government and overzealous security agents. The Nigerian government has poor credibility for even and fair application of the law. The country can ill afford a law as this one. The selective treatment of groups allegedly threatening Nigeria’s sovereignty and the case of Omoyele Sowore, being detained after fulfilling bail conditions and despite a court ruling to release him hang on the government like an albatross and compromise the trust that this government greatly needs from the people in this democracy.
If this bill is passed, Nigeria might as well bid bye to press freedom. anyone who has power and has something to hide could invoke the law and conjure such punishment for perceived enemies. Nigeria might as forget the much-touted fight against corruption for the same reasons. Rater than pursue this obnoxious law let the government seek to redress past injustices, provide basic infrastructure, treat all groups and interest in the country fairly according to the rule of law, provide an enabling environment for jobs and be transparently accountable. Then it can watch Nigerians quickly change from being a pain in the neck to a proud, patriotic, productive, hardworking population. Was there not a period of better governance and social sanity when Nigerians were not so difficult to govern? There certainly was!
Most Reverend Emmanuel Ade Badejo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo
SECAM: PLATFORM FOR AFRICAN PASTORAL COMMUNICATION
(The Catholic Church in Africa recently celebrated in Kampala Uganda, the 50th anniversary of the first visit of a Pope to Africa. SECAM took the opportunity to celebrate its own establishment ushering in a new era of evangelization in the continent. On that occasion Pope PAUL VI enjoined the Bishops, Clergy and the faithful: “Africa, you must now be missionaries to yourselves”. Here Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo Diocese, President of CEPACS Nigeria captures in a nutshell the journey of SECAM and the challenges of the present).
THE STORY OF SECAM
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) was borne of the wish of African Bishops attending the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), to establish a forum in which they could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the Church in Africa, a continent of 54 sovereign countries. The Bishops launched SECAM during the visit of Pope Paul VI to Kampala (Uganda) in 1969. It was the first ever visit of a Pope to Africa. They established SECAM headquarters and secretariat in Accra, Ghana and adopted three official languages for the symposium namely, English, French and Portuguese. SECAM was established to make the Church in Africa fully committed to its mission of evangelization and emerge as a fully-evangelized Family of God in Africa.
SECAM works through two major Commissions, the “Commission for Evangelisation” and the “Justice Peace and Development Commission” (JPDC). By Pontifical recommendation, SECAM also established in 1973 a Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS). Its work reaches the whole Church in Africa, “through the Regional Conferences” of Bishops (SECAM Statutes, Art. 2).
COMPOSITION OF SECAM
SECAM comprises of all juridically-established Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar. Its highest body is the Plenary Assembly which unites. every three years. all member Conferences, through their elected representatives. The eight Regions of SECAM are:
Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC),
Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC),
Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO);
Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE);
Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA);
Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA);
Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA)
Episcopal Conferences of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI)
SECAM AS PLATFORM FOR COMMUNICATION
Catholic communication is essentially a relationship. This is why SECAM itself can be seen as a product and forum of communication in the Church in Africa. It is the only organ that enables and promotes relationship among national conferences on a continental level and seeks to project same to the entire world. Members of SECAM share pastoral experiences and resources and sometimes act together on same. SECAM established its own news agency a few years ago and currently has observer status at the African Union (AU).
The AU is an important platform for bringing issues concerning the Church to the attention of African governments, organizations and the entire world. Situations of conflict, migration, disease or even bad governance which infringe on human dignity no longer have to remain the concern of only those who are affected. SECAM also serves as an important forum for the coordination of professional media bodies and practitioners and helps them to align more effectively with the Church’s mission. Associations like UCAP, the Union of the Catholic Press, and Signis are good evidence of this fact. This is in addition to more basic pastoral services of making continental activities, communication facilities and opportunities more accessible to the needs of member conferences.
Among the biggest challenges of the Church in Africa today is surely the aggressive encroachment of decadent Western cultural norms and practices on the sanctity of human life, the family and faith. The promotion of the culture of life for which Africa is well known is threatened by a certain “cultural imperialism”. Some of this is fueled by the intense proliferation of new age churches which sensationalize prosperity and success at all cost. This is done through a powerful engagement of the means of the communications media. No doubt the church in Africa needs to increase efforts to engage the media more in her evangelization mission to more effectively disseminate the truth about human life, family and authentic Christian doctrine to the peoples. The Church must invest more in training, facilities and incentives that will turn catechesis into resource material for the work of professionals and practitioners of communication at all levels so remain a strong force and voice in today’s marketplace of ideas and ideologies.
Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo
Chairman of CEPACS
Final Message: The 18th Plenary Assembly and Golden Jubilee of SECAM
“That they may know Christ and have life in abundance” (Jn 17:3; 10:10).
1. The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and its 18th Plenary Assembly took place from 19 to 29 July 2019, in Kampala (Uganda), on the theme “Church Family of God in Africa, celebrate your jubilee, proclaim Jesus Christ your Saviour”. At the end of this Plenary Assembly, which was devoted to pastoral reflections on the theme “That they may know Christ and have life in abundance” (Jn 17:3; 10:10). We, the Pastors address this Message to the Church Family of God in Africa and Madagascar
I. The Jubilee, a Time of Thanksgiving
2. We give thanks to God the giver of life for all his goodness bestowed on Africa, “the new homeland of Christ” (Pope Paul VI); strengthened by his word and the sacraments, we surrender ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
3. We are grateful to God for the pilgrimage of Pope Paul VI to Kampala in memory of the Martyrs of Uganda in 1969, during which he addressed a strong message to Africa: “You Africans are now missionaries to yourselves, the church of Christ is well and truly planted in this blessed soil”. “You may and you must have African Christianity.”
4. We give thanks to God for the missionaries past and present who have helped Africa to know Christ “the Way the Truth and Life” (Jn. 14:6).
5. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Holy Father Pope Francis. In his Message he encourages SECAM to continue to be of valuable service to the local churches throughout the entire continent of Africa. We are also thankful to the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples.
6. We express our sincere thanks to the Catholic Church in Uganda, which through her pastors, men and women religious, the lay faithful, and the youth, has shown us very generous hospitality.
7. We are sincerely grateful to the people of Uganda, the President of the Republic with his Government and the Parliament for their warm welcome, hospitality and support during our stay here in this beautiful country.
8. We equally grateful to the media, security agents and all the bodies that have contributed to the success of this Jubilee.
II. The Jubilee, a time of communion
9. Since the launch of the Golden Jubilee, we have experienced with joy a true communion of Christian communities, priests and religious congregations of the continent with SECAM.
10. This communion is rooted in our common faith in Christ our Saviour through the Holy Spirit. The prayer of the Jubilee and the reflections proposed for each month have given rise to a spiritual dynamism, reinforced by the memory of our holy martyrs of Uganda.
11. The presence in Kampala of Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, men and women religious and lay faithful from various countries in Africa, Madagascar and Islands, Europe, America and Asia, demonstrates the universality of the Church which is rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ.
12. This Jubilee was also a time of ecumenical communion, as witnessed by the presence among us of the representatives of our sister Churches. In giving up their lives to and for Christ, the martyrs of Uganda of all Christian denominations had already invited us to live according to the will of Christ: “May all be one, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21).
13. The Golden Jubilee of SECAM is a commitment to the service of reconciliation, justice and peace which promotes communion and pastoral solidarity which enables us to stand together against: ideological colonization, land grabbing, political and democratic destabilization, human trafficking, terrorism and arms trafficking, etc.
III. Jubilee, a Time of Hope
14. Confronted with the anguish of our people, SECAM from its beginning aimed at being a sign of hope, especially for families and our countries.
15. The family founded on the union of man and woman remains the first place of evangelization; that is why SECAM has kept insisting on its importance, vocation and nature as ordained by God (cf. Gen. 2:24).
16. Through its socio-pastoral instruments such as Caritas, Justice and Peace Commissions and the various bodies and actors engaged in the promotion of integral human development, SECAM continues to commit itself to the pastoral care of migrants and refugees, and to the protection of integral ecology (cf. Laudato Si). It also highlights the socio-political dimensions of evangelization and calls on politicians and governments to work for the wellbeing of their people.
17. The martyrs of Uganda remind us of the importance of remaining faithful to our faith in Christ and to our baptismal commitment. They are also models for all the baptized, especially the catechists.
18. Children and the youth are crucial in the work of evangelization. They need to be given special attention and quality Christian education to make them effective witnesses to Christ.
19. Women have an irreplaceable role and place in the Church and society. Their participation in education and evangelization is indispensable.
20. To keep alive the momentum of the Jubilee, SECAM will issue an important document, the “Kampala Document” which will help the people of God to deepen their knowledge of Christ our Savior and make him known as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
21. We entrust Africa and the mission of the Church to Mary, Queen of Africa; may St. Joseph, the Martyrs of Uganda, and all the Saints of Africa and Madagascar obtain for us a renewed zeal to follow Jesus Christ. May the Jubilee we have just celebrated be for us the springboard for a new life in Jesus Christ, and for service of the gospel in Africa and the world. Amen!
Given in Kampala by SECAM on the 28th July 2019
His Eminence Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo,
Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
SECAM SET FOR 18TH PLENARY ASSEMBLY AND GOLDEN JUBILEE
All is set for the 18th Plenary Assembly and Golden Jubilee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), in Kampala, Uganda, from the 20th (Arrival) to 29th (Departure) July 2019, on the theme: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”
The event will host about 300 participants, including representatives from the Vatican, Cardinals, Archbishops and bishops, priests representatives of Religious congregations, the lay faithful and other dignitaries from the length and breadth of the World, Africa and the surrounding islands who will deliberate on how far the church has come and what the way forward should be for the next fifty or so years.
The deliberations will also lead to the finalization of the “Kampala Document”. This is a pastoral document which will review the journey of SECAM over the past fifty years and will give direction on where the Church in Africa should be in the next fifty years, in terms of pastoral priorities.
Ten thousand copies of the document will be printed in the three formal languages of SECAM; English, French and Portuguese and published on the SECAM website for easy download by all and sundry.
The climax of the event will be a Solemn Mass at the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo, Kampala, on Sunday, 28th July 2019, and united in prayer with all the entire Church in Uganda as well as Masses in various dioceses, parishes and Small Christian communities across Africa and the Islands.
SECAM was born as a wish of African Bishops attending the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), to establish a forum in which they could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the Church in Africa.
The idea/wish was concretised in July 1969, during the visit of Pope Paul VI to Kampala (Uganda); being the first time a Pope was visiting sub-Saharan Africa, the African Bishops saw it as an opportune occasion to launch the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
Fifty years later, on 29th of July 2018, SECAM launched the SECAM Golden Jubilee Year on the theme, Church-family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ your Saviour. It was a deliberate decision to have a year of prayerful preparation towards the Golden Jubilee in July 2019.
The year has thus been a period of Thanksgiving, Remembrance of the progress made, Repentance/Conversion, Reconciliation and a Renewal of commitment to witness to Christ in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands.
The Bishops in Africa continue to invite each faithful, every Christian, all church institutions and religious groups, communities in Africa, Madagascar, and the islands, to let the call to this mission resonate with each and every one and to respond to it with zeal.
SECAM is thanking all Conferences, Dioceses, Parishes and Individuals who have travelled with the Bishops in this journey.
RESOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
We, the Bishops of RECOWA / CERAO (Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa / Conferences Episcoples Reuniies de l’Afrique de l’Ouest) are pleased to hold our third Plenary Assembly in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from the 13th to the 20th of May 2019, on the theme : The New Evangelization and Integral human Development in the Church, Family of God in West Africa. At the end of our works, exchanges and prayers, we have taken these resolutions and made the following recommendations :
1- RECOWA / CERAO
We are pleased with the process that has led to the creation of RECOWA / CERAO. We are committed to capitalizing on the rich experiences and achievements of AECAWA (Association of Episcopal Conferenceof Anglophone West Africa) and CERAO (Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa) in favor of our new institution. We have shared our enthusiasm for the smooth running of this body through the debates aimed at the revision of its statutes. We are committed to supporting those in charge of leading our organization. In the same way, we express our firm resolution to contribute financially to its assumption of responsibility.
2- Collaboration with ECOWAS
We joyfully accept the extended friendly hand of the President of ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Mr. Jean Claude Kassi BROU, during the opening ceremony, to collaborate with RECOWA / CERAO for the pro motion of sustainable human development in the region. We commit ourselves to continued efforts to strengthen our links with ECOWAS, by setting up a permanent consultative framework.
3- Youth, faith and migration
We reaffirm our commitment to the youth ministry which is the biggest advantage of our Church, Family of God. We are aware of their desire for happiness that drives many of them into migration and the tragedies that this scourge entails. We urge our Church, pastors and communities to be on the side of the youth, by listening to them, by encouraging all the initiatives that situate the young people in their land and to find their fulfillment, by promoting their vocational and technical training.
In the same vein, we call on governments to undertake genuine investments in the youth with youth- friendly programs and to protect them from ideologies that draw them into terrorist and criminal networks.
It is with joy that we welcomed the laity through their leaders of the Regional Council for West Africa (CRLAO). We urge them to invest more in politics and economics, building on the Church's Social Doctrine. We are committed to accompany and support in the implementation of their structures in our respective countries. In addition, we ask Christian families to become places of evangelization and education on Christian and African values.
5- The states
We express our gratitude to our political leaders for their efforts to lead our people in peace, unity and reconciliation. Faced with the reality of political turmoil especially during elections, and following the initiatives taken by the outgoing RECOWA/ CERAO officials, we invite them to strengthen good governance, in particular, to respect the constitutions and the common good, to promote political dialogue and the integral and equitable development of people.
6 Consecrated Life
We rejoice in the vitality of the consecrated life in our Church, Family of God and we appreciate its precious contribution to the mission. We express our deep gratitude to all consecrated persons for their prophetic witness. We encourage them and we call for communion with the Church, Family of God in our dioceses. We commit ourselves to a better companionship of the Consecrated Life and the judicious discernment of many charisms.
7- Message from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Welcoming the message of His Excellency Most Reverend Protase RUGAMBWA representing the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, we commit ourselves to take up the various challenges of the new evangelization in Africa which he underlined, especially the economic, religious and pastoral challenges.
8- Workshop with Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal TURKSON and his collaborators
It is with great interest that we welcome clarifications and exhortations of Cardinal TURKSON, Prefect of the Decastry for the service of Integral Human development and his Collaborator. We are convinced of the need to work on the financial and material autonomy of our Churches, to put an end to the mentality of dependency. All the Bishops commit themselves to take initiatives in this direction and to create the conditions favoring the employment of young people in particular. We affirm our willingness to work with partners driven by the concern for social entrepreneurship and social impact investment. We are equally committed to achieve an efficient result, to invest in formation of the necessary human resources.
Finally, we congratulate Christian entrepreneurs and investors and encourage them to continue their efforts to promote social impact enterprises, particularly for the benefit of young people.
Ouagadougou, May 18, 2019
HOMILY AT THE EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF MOST REVD FRANCIS OBAFEMI ADESINA: THIRD BISHOP OF IJEBU ODE DIOCESE: APRIL 25, 2019 AT IJEBU ODE By Most Revd Emmanuel Ade Badejo Bishop of Oyo Diocese
Is 42:1-4, 6-7 Ps. 110:1-4 2: Heb. 5:1-10, Jn. 10: 11-16
Your Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Your Excellencies archbishops and Bishops,
Monsignori, Revd Frs and Sisters, Dignitaries of Church and State,
Beloved People of God from within and outside Ijebu Ode Diocese;
God has gathered us together today to witness another phase in his salvific action in the life of the Universal Church, the Church in Nigeria and particularly in the ecclesiastical Province of Lagos and the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu Ode. In fact, this day will go down as one of the most important days in the life of the Church in Nigeria for many reasons. And what a day on which to preach at the ordination of a Bishop when the rays of Jesus Easter victory are still dazzling us, meant to save us from death, sin, corruption and selfishness…. What a day today as we celebrate the feast of St. Mark one of the great disciples and gospellers in the Bible!
Today, the erstwhile Bishop of Ijebu Ode diocese, our dear “agbalagba tisa”, Most Reverend Albert Ayinde Fasina is formally offered fresh hands to which to hand over the baton of leadership of this diocese so that the work of God and the mission of Jesus Christ here may continue. Today Bishop Albert Fasina can practically sing the Yoruba Magnificat Anima Meam which acknowledges that all power belongs not to God not to anyone else. “Riran no ran mi wa o emi ki mo ma ran ra mi o. Ase dówo eni to ran mi wa”. That means I have been sent, I did not send myself may all authority belong to the one who sent me. Won ni omo kii pa itan Baba re, sugbon ti omode ba gbe oro mi tan, a deni owo. Iru omo bee le pa itan. Ojo naa ree bi ana yi ti won so eru yi kuro lori Baba Sanusi, (Ki Olorun fi orun ke won) a si gbe eru yi le baba Fasina lori, Pelu emi irele nla, Baba fe ba ese re soro nigbana. Sugbon emi mimo Olorun segun. “Sebi won ni Egberun Samueli kole sa mo Olorun lowo” Ogbon wo wa ni egberun lona egberun Albert fe da sii. Yoruba wipe Olorun mu mi o san ju esu mu mi lo, Dafidi papaa wi bee. Baba e ku oriire peOlorun lo mu yin kii se esu. Olorun naa lo mu yin de ebute ayo ti e fi se aseyori loni. E ku oriire.
Looking at the parade of guests here today one can see that by the cross-cultural, cross-lingual, cross-interest and international gathering, God has a lesson to teach us. Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. We can tell the world Come and see o. come and see, Come and see what the Lord has done…. As has happened in other dioceses before now, the clear knowledge of having been sent, being merely a steward, is the reason why no Catholic Bishop can hand power and authority over to his next of kin, or favourite candidate all by himself, except such an individual be chosen by due Catholic process. We ordain a Bishop to govern Ijebu Ode diocese today who knows nothing about how he became the Chief Shepherd here. He paid no gubernatorial ticket fees of 40 million naira, had no campaign team and has no Godfather. Yet those who have built up this diocese and been part of the process are all gathered here to ordain him not to position themselves for contracts or patronage but just to promote God’s work. This is purely about service to God and people This evidence of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church compels us to congratulate and salute Bishop Fasina, the Vicar General, Msgr Valentine Awoyemi, all the priests, Religious, Catechists and pastoral agents who have helped him to steer the ship of this diocese successfully since 1990 till date. May God continue to be glorified in you. What a much needed metaphor for power and leadership in our country Nigeria which should especially be the mantra for all Christians in positions of power, be it in politics, economics, business or even civil service. The church stages this kind of occasions to hopefully transform society for better by it. For you all especially Christian may you be able to pray about your various leadership positions: A o gbe Jesu ga lara mi, ao gbe Jesu ga lara mi, Ao gbe ga ……
Today is truly the day which the Lord has made and we all have every reason to rejoice and be glad in it. Fun eniti o ru eru ayo yi fun opolopo odun to soo kale, ati fun eni ti a gbe ajaga ayo naa le lori, ati fun awa ti oju wa ri ire tatehinwa ti ti ojo oni ayo ni… Awa dupe, e see o e see o Oluwa, We really want to thank you Jesus. Awa naa re Oluwa….
History provides us with facts on how God planted this Church in Ijebu Ode diocese. The first Holy Mass in Ijebuland was celebrated already on the 29th day of May, 1864 at Itasin-Imobi. By Fr Borghero, SMA The first sacerdotal ordination in Ijebuland took place in Ijebu Mushin on 24th December 1966, of a then drop-dead-handsome young man by name Felix Alaba Adeosin Job. He eventually became Bishop of Ibadan Diocese, archbishop of the same diocese, president of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop emeritus of Ibadan among other things. He is present here today among us with a good dose of that comeliness. On 29th May, but this time in 1969, the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode was created by Pope St. Paul IV of blessed memory, having been carved out of the then Archdiocese of Lagos. Bishop Anthony Saliu Sanusi of blessed memory, of Ijebu-Remo who belonged then to the Archdiocese of Lagos was named the first Bishop of the new diocese.
The new diocese of Ijebu Ode was immediately blessed with the ordination of its first priest in December of that same year, 1969 by name Late Fr. Alfred Abolaji Ajayi. He died early in 1971, just after a few months of ministry but God had only just begun through the Church, to bless the people of Ijebuland, because in April 1971, that handsome young man who had remained in Lagos Archdiocese even after the creation of Ijebu-Ode diocese, +Felix Alaba Job, was called upon and ordained auxiliary Bishop of Ibadan diocese. Bishop Sanusi retired in 1990 and Bishop Albert Ayinde Fasina succeeded him as the second Bishop of Ijebu-Ode diocese.
To add to God’s blessings on the Ijebu bloodline, yours truly preaching this homily, I was called in August, 2007 to be Bishop of Oyo Diocese. Today, we see God turn the table around putting Ijebu Ode diocese on the receiving end. NOW, it pleases God that the Ijebus too get to be served by others. Dateline the announcement on 17 January, 2019 by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, appointing Msgr. Francis Obafemi Adesina, from Osogbo diocese to succeed Bishop Fasina as third Bishop of Ijebu-Ode diocese. All glory, praise and honour be unto our God for ever and ever.
The words of today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, define, what we all present here have come to witness. Isaiah wrote:
“I, the Lord, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you: I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon” (Is. 42: 6-7).
My Lord, Bishop elect, that reading clearly enunciates who owns the credit for your choice, and what your mandate must be. We must congratulate your parents, your family, teachers, formators and friends, who have had an input in who you are today but God, the Alpha and omega is the potter who shaped you for this very purpose. A look at the path which he has made you travel to this point speaks volumes. From your time in Sacred Heart Minor Seminary Akure, to the Ss. Peter and Paul Major Seminary Ibadan, as Director of the Renewal programme and training young Evangelizers in the old Oyo and Osogbo dioceses God’s Holy Spirit has led you. You have been parish priest, youth animator, Formator, Scripture Scholar, Rector, sportsman etc. That full time course in discipline, obedience, productivity, teamwork, tenacity, and getting the job done was preparing you for greater responsibilities. Combine those with the already abundant experience, talent and joie de vivre present in the Clergy and Pastoral agents already present here in Ijebu Ode and your work is half done.
Every normal Bishop elect, experiences consternation when the news first hit. You must have had yours when you were invited. Isaiah, Jeremiah Amos and many of the prophets did too as Bishop Fasina did. It is never easy at that point to remember the reassuring declaration we make with God’s people at the hundreds of Masses we have celebrated. “Oh Lord, I am not worthy that you should come to me….but speak but one word and my soul shall be healed” “Oluwa o, emi ko ye ki iwo wábe orule mi sugbon so kiki oro nikan a o si mokan emi larada.
Well, now the Lord has spoken and your inadequacies shall surely be healed! (Heb 4:14-16.) How so very true those words are to the Bishop’s ministry! Pope John Paul the Great, having just been elected Pope, after a succession of Italian Popes, told the crowd at St Peter’s Square almost apologetically: “God has brought you a Pope from the East”. Many who were present then wondered how God could have done such a thing. John Paul II went on to be probably the greatest pope of the Church in modern times. So it was with your predecessor, this Baba Fashina, who at his election, declared to everyone cared to listen how unworthy he was. Yet, God has done great things in Ijebu Ode diocese under his leadership. From 8 diocesan priests in 1990 Ijebu ode counts today 66 priests and one deacon all working abroad and in 38 parishes and quasi parishes and 37 seminarians. These with the 10 men and 14 women religious congregations in this diocese, the 7 secondary schools, 3 Nursery and Primary schools, 3 hospitals, four community health centres and other pastoral agents are the footsoldiers and the arsenal (not the football club) being consigned to you today, My Lord to continue the task of evangelization, and bringing about the kingdom of God. Work then with faith in the one who in the Bible fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, then you will not be confounded.
My Lord, to be called upon to be a good shepherd in the mould of the Master as we read in the Gospels is to be a model of many virtues. Pope Francis, reflecting on the text of St. Paul’s letter to Titus which describes the qualities and role of a Bishop underlines how a bishop must be a blameless steward or “administrator of God, not of assets, power and cliques. He emphasised that the bishop must be “a humble, meek servant not a prince”. Only thus, he said can the Church set right what needs to be corrected. And as a father, teacher, pastor administrator, liturgist and ruler in the Church, there will always be many things to be correct. The Pope insists that what matters to Bishops must be what matters to Jesus Christ – peace, reconciliation, love, solidarity. Nonetheless, it is necessary to be courageous and firm when it is necessary to protect the faith spirituality of God’s children. According to St Paul’s counsel which he wrote to Timothy: “Let no one disregard you because you are young, but be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, in your love, your faith and your purity”. Be conscientious about what you do and teach”. (1Tim 4: 12-16)
My Lord Bishop, Ijebu land is a rich environment for the 5 pillar template chosen for the Church as Family of God during the first Synod of African Bishops. Of those five pillars, Interreligious and ecumenical dialogue feature prominently. Having predecessors and priests from Muslim families and many converts from traditional religion must compel us to teach the world something valuable about peaceful and harmonious living as God’s children. Interreligious dialogue can do a lot to help us banish from these parts the sort of tragedy occurring in Northern Nigeria, Sri-Lanka, Kenya, France etc. Jesus said, “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead those too (Jn. 10:16) Ijebu ode diocese is a microcosm of Nigeria in this regard with a strong presence and expression of other faiths and denominations. We must continue to grow ecumenical and interreligious relationships that can teach the world that all men and women share the same dignity as children of one God. This is why the activities of the JDPM must continue to grow and permeate every institution and activity of the Church.
Finally you know My Lord, that the Ijebus are known for glamour and industry. Were we not the first around here to “have our own money”? (owo ijebu) Who around here knows better the worth or the “eye” of money (oju owo) than the Ijebus? Is it not true that the Ijebu who studies accountancy is only there for the certificates. All Ijebus are born chattered accountants. With the help of the priests and the goodwill of all the faithful, God will help you to convert that genius and energy to spiritual capital to make relevant the teaching of Jesus: “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Matt. 6:33)
“I am doing new things. Can you not see” God said once through Isaiah (Isaiah 43). However those new things often leave some people confounded. At such times the heathens rage but the faithful praise. Ijebu Ode diocese is the most recent move in God’s string of surprises in Yorubaland. Lowelowe la nlulu ogidigbo, mo fe lu okan bayi o Aalo o…With Abeokuta in Lagos, Ijebu in Oyo, Oyo in Ilorin, Lagos/Oyo in Osogbo, Osogbo in Ijebu, if you understand my parable, we are assured that God’s word is alive today as ever… “I am doing new things, can you not see it?”
My dear priests and religious of Ijebu ode diocese, these are truly challenging times for the divine ideals that the Catholic Church holds dear. The vows of priestly commitment especially are under attack from within and from without. We must see all this as an outcry for an authentic priesthood and more coherent service. We must not simply go through these challenges but grow through them. With your cooperation with your new Bishop, the one who has called you will not fail you. This diocese will flourish and blossom as testimony to your fidelity and sacrifice.
Dear lay people of Ijebu Ode, thank you for your exceptional contribution to the growth of the Church here especially in the sustenance of Christian family life. With the Clergy you gave a good account of yourselves by the way you accepted and welcomed your new Bishop. Your reward is surely great in heaven. I wish only to remind you of what you already know, that the Church is not only of the Clergy, religious nor is it of only the lay faithful. It is of all. Your role by now upgraded as co responsible for the Church’s mission must be taken even more seriously henceforth. Mark the words of the letter to the Hebrews pleading for you maximum cooperation: “Obey your leaders and give way to them; they watch over your souls and because they must give an account of them; make this a joy for them to do, and not a grief”. You are not known for failure but for greatness. Please let the trend continue. As Bishop Fasina today yields the baton to Bishop Adesina we pray fervently to the one who holds the key to all doors and can open the way. May all the work and aspirations of the clergy, Religious and Lay people of Ijebu ode diocese, dead or living, be fulfilled during your tenure. Long live the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu Ode and may God bless you all!
CATHOLIC MEN AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION: CHALLENGE WITH GREAT PROSPECTS
The Catholic Men Organisation, Nigeria: 23rd Annual National Conference at Louisville, Itele Ogun State, 27/10/2018
I thank you the Catholic Men Organization of Nigeria CMO for inviting me to address this conference at this venue. The role of men in the society and the Church cannot be overstated. It might be true that a lot more is heard about the activities and achievements of the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) in the Church today but the CMO has enormous responsibilities to further incarnate the message of the gospel. As I make this input I pray that the CMO will come to occupy a higher place of relevance in the Church and society, especially in the task of social engineering in Nigeria. I greet Professor Pat Utomi who is one of the most recognizable catholic men in Nigeria, a veteran of many parts who has never shied away from trying to transform his patch of the Nigerian nation. Congratulations sir and we need more like you who would boldly commit to values that the Catholic Church can identify with even if such a “risk” might cost them mileage in society. On the day I received the invitation to this forum one of the national dailies published an interview with you. It was a good read and anyone could tell that you cherish your Catholic identity.
I have opted to speak today on how the CMO as a catholic organization might engage in the social transformation of Nigeria. In a sense you all know a lot more than I do about that of course. I choose this topic to provoke some questioning of how things stand in our nation and Church vis: “For all that the Catholic Church means and does in Nigeria why does the Nigerian society remain the way it is? How come we seem to have achieved so little?” What can the CMO do to bring the Catholic Church’s mission to greater relief in the society in which we live?
The CMO Vision and Mission
The CMO vision statement defines it as a platform through which Catholic men collaborate with others to work for evangelization and serve humanity. Its mission is to mobilize catholic men for spiritual development, effective leadership and service in the home, the church and society. These very clear statements express the essential characteristics of the CMO namely: spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastical and secular or at least what the CMO would like to be. The key words in these definitions are the ones that made me to choose the topic of today. In my opinion, a catholic organization “working to serve humanity” and to give “effective leadership … in the home, the church and society” makes a commitment to “transform society”. Therefore the CMO, in tandem with the mission of the Catholic Church in the world, has a duty to transform society. That imperative derives from the very nature of the Church herself because evangelization is about bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth and bringing the kingdom of God to the world in which we live. Every member of the CMO therefore necessarily inherits that same task.
The Nigeria of our Times
The Nigeria we live in today is one of the most endowed in the whole world, but it is really a country in serious trouble. On practically every conceivable social index, political, economic and even religious, our country is underperforming or altogether doing badly. It has practically been hijacked by terrorists and kidnappers who don the garb of politicians and rape and violate the citizens by every means including using the constitution to legitimise their crimes. That section of the political class increasingly grows in impunity and hand-wringling arrogance while communal, tribal and religious clashes continue to claim hundreds of lives. Provision of basic infrastructure for which Nigerians have clamoured over many decades has become a huge and permanent siphoning pipe for stealing mind-boggling sums of money only surpassed by periodic elections which the hapless populace dare not reject and the fight against insurgency, an albatross that cannot but be cast off.
As we sit here, only months away from a general elections many cannot see the end of the tunnel talk less of seeing any light there. Test gubernatorial elections and party primaries of the last few months give no reason for joy, having sounded a note of warning on the blatant rigging and manipulation that might be perpetrated, even with the collusion of the security agencies. As things stand, the possibility of change from the incumbent Federal Government which many Nigerians hope for, seems very slim because the few viable options seem uninspiring. In short, it seems that all proposed cure may be worse than the disease. Under these circumstances The Church has a role to play and Christians have a task to carry out. Here is how Fr George Ehusani has some good counsel to give:
“The socio-political and economic circumstances of today's Nigeria truly challenge those of us who lay claim to Christianity to act as the conscience of the nation. We must assume our responsibility as salt of the earth and light of the world. Our faith must become a faith that does justice. We must be forthright and consistent in working against individual evil and evil structures in our society. As the multitude of Nigerians are plagued by poverty and all manner of human degradation, and as our worsening economic fortunes has pushed a lot of our kith and kin unto the slums, where they live subhuman lives, we cannot afford to look the other way. We enlightened Christians must stand alongside the oppressed, the impoverished, the marginalized, the sick, the handicapped, the prisoners, those denied their just rights and those discriminated against. We are called upon to defend the right of poor workers to just wages, to affordable housing, to descent transportation, to health insurance, and to adequate retirement benefits”.
Do we need a CMO Party of Nigeria?
Configuring our nation’s situation with the vision of the CMO one can call on the CMO to seriously consider “partisan politics”, its own brand of “partisan politics”, as a tool for transforming this society in a deliberate, coordinated manner. This is not calling for a “CMO Party of Nigeria” but for a catholic-ideals-driven strategic movement, one which will be “partisan” in its strong commitment to the virtues and values which the Catholic faith cherishes and through these, infect and influence others and confront the challenges of the society. Such a movement will be geared to inspire its members to take political involvement seriously but with a “catholic socio-political agenda” such that one can speak of a CMO bloc of influence in Nigerian politics? This would grow not just “politicians who happen to be Catholics” many of whom I believe we already have in Nigeria, but people who can rightly and confidently be called “catholic politicians”
Such an aggregation of Catholics would give flesh to catholic ideals, would not be aimed at excluding anyone but at assembling people who can be counted on to promote and work for positive principles and values which the Church and all people of goodwill can be proud of for the purpose of the common good. We need lay people, men who can translate the prose of the pulpit and the galvanizing power of the gospel into tangible benefits in the socio-political realm. Honestly, I think that it is impossible to transform society without engaging with it in such a coordinated and deliberate way. I am aware of some effort being made to put together such a movement but whether that effort has made expected impact is doubtful.
The Bible supports such a project. Jesus Christ at the beginning of his mission declared his mission and vision. He said: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Lk 4: 18-19). He then bequeathed the same project to his disciples saying: “You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again?”…You are light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5 13-14). Saint Paul, like other New Testament authors urged Christians to impact on society: “this age may be evil but your lives must transform it” (Eph. 5:16). “People should think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. In such a matter, what is expected of stewards is that each one should be found trustworthy”. (1Cor4:1-2).
The Church Advocates and Teaches Same
The Church, since earliest times through the work of saints and martyrs sought to transform the society and the world. The Fathers of the Church gave abundant evidence of the fact. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII initiated a new era of reconstructing the social order in the Church. He wrote an encyclical on the Condition of Labour (Rerum Novarum) which began a series of teachings by different Popes, councils and Bishops addressing different social issues, which have come to be known as Catholic Social Teaching (CST). Through CST especially, the Church makes concrete proposals to Catholics on how to undertake the re-engineering of the world.
The Second Vatican Council, convened in October 1962 by Pope John XXIII, stands out as a landmark event in opening the Church further to the fresh air of the modern world. It emphasised the role of the laity in making society more compliant with the divine will for the common good. The first phrases of its Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes reads “The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties, of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way oppressed, these are the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the followers of Jesus Christ as well” …… “Laymen ought to take on themselves as their distinctive task, the renewal of the temporal order. Guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, prompted by Christian love, they should act in this domain in a direct way and in their own specific manner. As citizens among citizens they must bring to their cooperation with others their own special competence, and act on their own responsibility, everywhere and always they have to seek the justice of the kingdom of God”. The same document continues…. “The laity are called to participate actively in the whole life of the Church; not only are they to animate the world with the spirit of Christianity, but they are to be witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind”
Call to Holiness
The Vatican II Decree on the apostolate of Lay People, Apostolicam Actuositatem goes even further affirming that the lay people, in order to sanctify the moral order, themselves need to be sanctified. It then defined the special vocation of the laity to participate in the Church’s mission and emphasised that the duty of the lay people to work for the renewal of the temporal order is divinely ordained. “That men, working in harmony, should renew the temporal order and make it increasingly more perfect; such is God’s design for the world” .
Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Gaudete et Exsultate speaks about a spirit of holiness, capable of filling both our solitude and our service, emphasising that for the Catholic lay person, engagement with the world must always be a vehicle of attaining the greatest goal, which is holiness. He wrote: “Just as you cannot understand Christ apart from the kingdom he came to bring, so too your personal mission is inseparable from the building of that kingdom: ‘Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Mt 6:33). Your identification with Christ and his will involves a commitment to build with him that kingdom of love, justice and universal peace. Christ himself wants to experience this with you, in all the efforts and sacrifices that it entails, but also in all the joy and enrichment it brings. You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself, body and soul, to giving your best to this endeavour”
The repeated call to holiness shows that the Church recognises that in the course of history human conduct and institutions have been corrupted and that the world needs men who can establish the proper scale of values and offer a template with which to renew the temporal order. Seems tailor-made for Nigeria!
Call to a higher disposition
If lay you people generally play second fiddle to the clergy in realizing the work of the gospel in the world and in the Church’s mission, Pope Benedict XVI sought to change that during his tenure. He advanced the role of the lay people in the Church when during a pastoral visit to a parish in Rome in 2009 he spoke of the need to stop seeing lay people as mere collaborators with the clergy and rather consider them co-responsible for the Church and for the actions of the Church in the world. In short, lay people are equal partners in making God’s kingdom to come here on earth That qualitative jump, widely disseminated during the tenure of the pope, seems to have been jettisoned but ought to be better exploited by all lay apostolate organizations like the CMO for the benefit of modern society.
A road Map for the Journey
By now it should be clear from the flow of my thoughts that I am not here to propound political theories or economic strategies. My main concern is to re-propose the pastoral and spiritual proposals of the Church’s legacy for the CMO, as disciples of Jesus who believe in the mission and teachings of the Church to express itself and seek to transform the society we live in by pastoral, moral and spiritual tools. In a society fraught with moral crimes and a socio political environment, often infested with players lacking integrity but well versed in the language of double speak, corruption, violence, self-interest, manipulation and other similar vices disciples one really need a navigational aid. Those who seek to transform such a society must master their arsenal. They must possess the correct understanding of who they are and what their task really is. They must show that they understand the overall principle of Christian charity as based on love for God and for the neighbour. They must show that it is only a faith that proclaims and practices love that can challenge social injustice. That understanding can be acquired through a deeper knowledge of the following:
a) The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) contains detailed explanation of what the Church teaches and believes and proclaims. It is authored under inspiration by the Catholic Church for the purpose of opening the eyes and hearts of Catholics to understand the faith. I wonder if any other church has all its doctrines tenets of faith so clearly and fully laid out for use like the Catholic Church has. Unfortunately few Catholics today actually know their Catechism. Catholics who know their catechism have a potent tool for action when confronted with challenges to their faith in social life. “Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have” (1Pet. 3:15). The same can be said for the Code of Canon Law which many Catholics erroneously believe is only for priests, not to talk of the Bible which is the book of life for knowing the will of God and his son, Jesus Christ. It only stands to logic that one seeks to know these basic resources of the faith he professes as member of the Church of Christ.
b) Catholic Social Teaching
However a most important tool for Catholics who wish to engage with society which need to be much better appreciated and promoted is Catholic Social Teaching (CST). In its most basic detail, CST is a collection of teachings by councils, popes and Bishops of the Church over the last century which deal with matters of human dignity and common good in society. The teachings address oppression, the role of the state, subsidiarity, social organization, concern for social justice, and issues of wealth distribution. CST is a rich collection of guidelines for the purpose of building a just society and living holy lives even in the face of challenges that society might present. The main principles of the teachings are 4, namely: Human dignity, Subsidiarity, Solidarity and the Common Good. Some scholars further include also the dignity of work and workers’ rights, Rights and Responsibilities and Care for God’s creation.
Some of the more recent documents which form CST are as follows: Laborem Exercens, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, On Social Concerns and Centesimus Annus on The Hundredth Anniversary, by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate Charity in Truth and Laudato Si on Care for our Common home, by Pope Francis. The understanding of these teachings are very fundamental to Catholic involvement with the social order in these changing times. I am sure that if Catholics knew how rich and useful these teachings are and understand how to apply them, they would become a potent force of social transformation. Unfortunately, majority of Catholics are hardly aware of the existence of CST. I think that CST ought to play an important role in the life of the CMO. CST has been tagged “the best kept secret of the Catholic Church”. It is amazing that such a powerful, comprehensive, socially transforming “working document” Magna Charta can be so little known by all. A summary of the major lessons of CST are as follows:
• There is a link between the religious and social dimensions of life. What is social is not essentially “secular” but essentially connected with the reign of God (Gaudium et Spes)
• The dignity of the human person is based on his being made man and woman in the image of God. The fundamental issue in social development is: what is happening to people? (Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth)
• The poor and the powerless have a special place before God. The option for the poor is therefore to be prioritised.
• Justice and love are linked. Promoting justice in the world is to transform structures which block love. Love of neighbour immediately implies securing justice in this regard.
• The common good must be promoted as the sum total of all the social, political and economic conditions which permit everyone to attain their full potential.
• Political participation is an important tool for respecting the dignity and liberty of people. It is an instrument for achieving the common good.
• Economic justice is indispensable. The goods of the earth are to be equitably shared through just wages and respect of worker’s rights.
• Promotion of peace imposes the imperative of right order among individuals and among peoples. To seek peace is to seek the fulfilment of every human being.
• Human ecology is tied to the survival of the planet. Nothing in the earth is indifferent to us. We have a responsibility to care for the earth our common home. (Laudato Si)
• The traditional family of man and woman remain the basic cell of society and the basis of all authentic civilization. It deserves to be promoted and protected. (Amoris Laetitiae).
The CMO would give very valuable service if it becomes a platform for the education and formation of its members and others on the proposals contained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church the document which compiles the practical proposals of the Church on social concerns as an instrument of evangelization. Through it, the potential evangelising force of members will be activated to match the vision and mission of the CMO. It would be a worthwhile investment for social transformation.
c) Lessons of the Bible: Matthew 20: Master, what must I do?
Many passages of the Bible provide a code of conduct for the task of transforming the world. The best known stories are the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the adulterous woman etc. There are yet others which even more directly address challenges which confront Christians in their effort to live the faith in society. Such challenges include the same vices which today impede and handicap the Nigerian society like corruption, crass competition, tribalism, lust for power, position and money and the instrumentalization of religion. In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 20 Jesus teaches his disciples about the kingdom of Heaven. He likens it to a landowner who goes out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He went out at different periods again to hire more workers. At the end of the day he paid all of them the same daily wage which he had agreed with them. Then bitter complaints ensued from the first comers due to jealousy and greed. The landowner rebukes the grumbling workers since he has not wronged them in any way.
Earlier in chapter 19, a man had asked Jesus: “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life”? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. He replied that he had kept all those. Jesus then challenged him to a higher level of discipleship. “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”(Matt. 19:21). When the young man heard these words, he went away sad for he possessed great wealth. The disciples were frightened by Jesus’s exacting demand and they asked if anyone at all could be saved then. The Lord assured them that for God everything is possible. He then assured them that everyone who would have left houses, brothers , sisters, father, mother etc. for his sake would inherit a hundred times as much and also eternal life.
These two episodes of teaching should have communicated a clear understanding of the teaching of Jesus to his disciples. He was inviting the rich young man to pass from keeping the commandments just for himself to taking transformative action to the advantage of others. The same was true of the landowner who challenged his hirelings not to focus only on their own interest by begrudging the good which he wanted to do to others. “Why should you be envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15).
Nonetheless, immediately after these two elaborate teaching episodes, the apostles acted out the human script. The two sons of Zebedee came with their mother to Jesus making a request of him. Bowing low she requested him to promise that her two sons may sit one on the right hand and the other on the left in his kingdom. His response could not be otherwise. “You do not know what you are asking”. What request could be more selfish than theirs, thinking only of the best for themselves and actually marginalising all the others?
Do we find these kind of weaknesses hindering Christian engagement as well? Have catholic men not listened dutifully to the teaching of the gospel about the kingdom of heaven over many years? Have members not kept many commandments in order to personally please the Lord Jesus? Is it not by thinking that all the commandments we have kept are sufficient that we err? Think about all the scrambling for posts and positions in various church society groups. It is important to admit that craving and power seeking paradigms only destroy the cohesion of organizations and movements. They are associated with the Seven Capital sins: anger, envy lust, pride, gluttony, sloth and covetousness. Can an organization that lacks internal coherence with its belief transform the world outside of it? This is unlikely. The CMO is thus urged to be serious with God and with faith and seek to reach the full stature of Christianity by following the deeper insights deriving from the word of God. The themes addressed in the encyclical of Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudium call for a rejection of the new idolatry of money, a financial system which rules rather than serves and the inequality which spawns violence. He calls on catholics to say no to spiritual worldliness, spiritual sloth and to a sterile pessimism and to say yes on the other hand to the new relationships brought by Christ. As Jesus said: “Salt is a good thing but if salt has become insipid, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another”. (Mk. 9: 50). The
The Transforming Role of the Family.
“The Church has always held it as part of her mission to promote marriage and the family and to defend them against those who attack them, especially today, when they are given scarce attention in political agendas”. The family of one man and one woman is the basic cell of society, the foundation of all authentic civilization and the paramount transformer of society. It therefore deserves the priority attention of the CMO. The role of men in the family cannot be underestimated. If men play their role well as fathers every family can be turned into a laboratory of social transformation. The family offers a platform which members of the CMO must promote and energize for the project of social transformation. That Saint Joseph was chosen to be a foster father to Jesus Christ raises the profile of Catholic Fathers to an eminent degree. Taking the family seriously and playing a good Fatherly role, helps the social and emotional development of children and optimises many positive societal virtues in them, like respect for the sanctity of human life, self-discipline, tolerance, empathy, endurance service and sacrifice. Men can then grow children who will have them as models, having the inspiration to transform their own world as well. The extent to which the family and family values have been undermined, it is to that extent to which many societies suffer moral and spiritual decadence and societal dysfunction today. Well-adjusted children develop into balanced adults who are an asset to any society.
d) Investment in the Formation of the Youth
The youth occupy a place of priority in the mind of the Church especially in this age. The most eloquent evidence of this is the Mission Sunday theme of this year focused on the youth and the Synod of Bishops on the youth currently ongoing at the Vatican. The laity concerned for the future and the transformation of the society must make the choice of investing in the young people even though this is becoming an arduous task. The youth however have a lot to give in return. Pope Francis entitled his message for The World Mission Sunday, “Together with the young people, let us bring the Gospel to all”. He admonished young people to deploy their art, energy, and creativity into the digital and cyber world and spread the faith with hearts that are open. To harness the energy of youth for social transformation passes through the same door and will yield enormous results.
e) Continuous Study of Subjects of Interest to the Church and Society
In order to transform a society, adequate understanding is requisite. Society is dynamic and therefore requires constant appraisal by those interested in transforming it. It is noteworthy that many members of our CMO are highly qualified people in many walks of life as Economists, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Judges, Business Experts, Bankers, Engineers, etc to mention just a few. It is necessary to exploit this great resource seeking to learn from one another to achieve a common purpose. Through its members, the CMO can constitute itself into an in house institution of learning. Members are thus better equipped to deal with challenges of socio-political involvement and become more confident in standing up to be counted. In addition, Catholics are slowly turning to obtaining degrees in ecclesiastical subjects like theology, philosophy and moral theology or even Canon Law. This ought to be encouraged also with the CMO. That Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world may have been said with less noble intentions but we could turn that to our advantage. True or false as I have heard, one of the reasons for which President Obasanjo’s became consultant to so many scrambling politicians is that he is a graduate of theology, which ever type that may be. Such catholic courses are available under different formats at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) the major seminaries at Ibadan, Enugu, Ikot Ekpene from the Veritas University of Nigeria and practically everywhere there is a Catholic university or seminary. Transformation effort need such enrichment as it confronts the challenges of the day.
f) Networking the Structures of Transformation
The CMO must constantly rally together its members working in important areas of society where it has credible presence. At some point in the past I observed for example a high number of Catholics occupying top positions in the public media. I often wondered whether they influenced the media in a particularly catholic way is doubtful. Did they realise they could have together made a difference? Again, I doubt it. One could say the same for the important sectors like the economy, the judiciary Business, Academia, Education, Banking, Sports. Can the CMO play the role of a mobilizing platform for these potent but latent forces? So many occupy position on important boards etc. Can they be made to identify with the vision of the CMO?
In the same respect why does it seem impossible to work out a synergy among the Catholic Church’s lay apostolate organizations in order to reach a socially-transforming consensus for our objectives. The Knights of St John, the Knights of Saint Mulumba, the Catholic Women Organization, the Justice Development and Peace Commission and especially the Catholic Youth Organization CYON, seem to me potential assets for social mobilization. How can these be co-opted for the realization of a value and virtue based vision in Nigeria? How can those who are endowed be convinced to make resources available for such an exercise?
g) A Commitment to Media Advocacy
It is important for the CMO to constantly engage with the media on matters that matter in order to secure a social profile and the attention of public opinion. I do not think this is that difficult to do judging from the calibre of some other organizations which manage to be heard from time to time. Issues that relate to strong catholic belief like the sanctity of human life, the family, the death penalty, freedom of religion etc. provide content for such advocacy Democracy feeds on public opinion among other things and public opinion feeds on the media. Most Catholic organizations do not have a credible media profile and this is necessary for influencing society. Members of the CMO who are active in the media should be enlisted in this task so that the CMO can promote their members who are achievers at various levels in the nation and the church and can promote its principles and values as well as make its voice heard on salient issue of public interest.
A Change of Attitude
The CMO must provide credible leadership for the implementation of its vision and mission but also for other Church organizations who ordinarily look up to men for leadership. Since there are so many “urgent” interest calling for attention, unless good leaders emerge who are committed to the social transformation agenda and the formation of members for attaining clear goals, much cannot be achieved. John Cardinal Onayekan in his numerous interventions and speeches all over the world, on numerous subjects has also called on lay Catholics to believe in their capacity to take the destiny of Nigeria on and make a difference. Only at the beginning of this month at the closing ceremony of the Interfaith Conference in Nigeria he called for a change of orientation and attitude which will translate into changing the current paradigm of grabbing resources and territory: I tend to agree “There is need for a moral revolution, a change of mind set, attitude and behaviour patterns. This means addressing the heart and soul of Nigerians, and leading them into a spiritual combat. This is what religion, any genuine religion, is supposed to be all about…. to deploy our religious values and forces into this spiritual combat for change and moral revolution”.
There is no doubt that today there are forces trying to relegate God, religion and faith into the irrelevance. People of faith know that this is a dangerous proposition and must therefore keep putting their faith in the position to have influence on societal and national life. Overall, I propose therefore that such social transformation project a la the CMO be driven by catholic virtues and values. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed or intimidated for as Pope Francis asked in Evangelium Gaudium: “Who would dare to lock up in a Church and silence the message of St Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? Showing concern and engaging with the building of a better world is a task that must be done so that as Catholics, members will be able to approach the throne of judgment with a clear conscience of having tried to impact on society. It is the guarantee to hope to hear those divine words of Jesus. “Well done, O good and faithful servant, come into the joy of your Master.
Thank you all for your attention.
LIKE LEAH FROM CALVARY AND EASTER
Hurray! Easter is here! Alleluia concludes the pains of Good Friday and Calvary. Easter challenges Christians to be faithful and authentic under every circumstance. Jesus remained true and authentic and he achieved our victory over evil, betrayal and death. Darkness yields to light, sorrow to joy and death to life! Though the entire world opposed the faithful man, God will vindicate him. That is why Jesus makes the difference. No matter what we face in the course of life, we must be steadfast. Christianity teaches us to be truthful, peaceful, forgiving, generous and God fearing, otherwise we cannot be salt of the earth and light of the world. Trouble must come and tribulations may occur but through it all we must not allow anything to take all that goodness away from us. That is why Saint Paul exclaimed. “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8) Nothing! This should be the summary of Christian’s principle and Christian living. He said to the Philippians and to us, “Let all the good character seen in Christ be seen in you (Phil 2:5).
Through the sad abduction and non-release of teenager Leah Sharibu God reminds us what it really means to know him. How wicked can people be to a mere innocent teenager in the name of religion? But through her example what excuse can believers in God have not to do what they know to be right and just? None! No matter how things go, Leah has become a blessing and model to her family and to our generation. May she be released soon and un-harmed to a glorious Easter! Christianity needs many more Leahs in its fold. So does Islam every authentic religion which claims to seek freedom and peace. Let us shun the false religion that says once you believe, you will never have trouble. Let us reject the false religion that forces people to believe anything. Let us respect the rights of each other. God is not party to violence and wickedness.
I call on all families and all Nigerians do more to teach young people to be God-fearing, truthful, persevering, and honest in order to save the future. Let our politicians, business men, civil servants and everyone emulate Jesus Christ through the example of teenager Leah. Be courageous in doing what is right and pleasing to God. At the end of it all God will vindicate you. May God hear the prayers of Nigeria for the release of all who are in captivity! May God release all Nigerians from greed wickedness and false religiosity! May our land come to know peace and victory which Jesus Christ won for us on the cross of Calvary so that we all go from this Calvary of sin to the glory of Easter! Amen Happy Easter to everybody!