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Nigerian bishops: Cultivate values of accountability and transparency
The Catholic bishop of Nigeria have made a strong appeal to the country’s citizens to cultivate values of accountability and transparency as they serve the nation and their communities. The bishops made the appeal for the genuine growth in democratic culture in the final statement released at the end of their September 5-13 second plenary meeting held in Otukpo in Benue State.
Below is the full statment...
Subject: COMMUNIQUE, CBCN 2ND PLENARY, 2013.
Our Faith Commitment in Action
Communique at the End of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Double K Resort, GRA, Otukpo, Benue State, September 5-13, 2013.
We, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), held our Second Plenary Meeting for the year 2013 at the Double K Resort, GRA, Otukpo, Benue State. Having prayerfully reflected on events with the Church and the nation, we present this communiqué entitled, Our Faith Commitment in Action.
2. Events in Our Church
We witnessed the canonical erection of the diocese of Katsina Ala with the Ordination and Installation of Most Rev. Peter Adoboh as the first Bishop, and the canonical erection of Gboko Diocese with Most Rev. William Avenya, former Auxiliary Bishop of Markurdi, installed as the first bishop. We also witnessed the ordination of Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke as Bishop of Ahiara who is yet to be installed in his See. Most Rev. Godfrey Onah was ordained as bishop of Nsukka, while Most Rev. Joseph Ekuwem was installed as Archbishop of Calabar. His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese and Most Rev. John Ayah, the Bishop of Ogoja, appointed Apostolic Administrator of Uyo diocese. We wish them fruitful service.
We also celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Oyo and Yola Dioceses and the 70th Anniversary of Ondo Diocese. We felicitated with Archbishop Felix Alaba Job on his 75th birthday, 42 years as a Bishop, and 47 years as a priest. The Silver Jubilees of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Athansius Usuh of Markurdi Diocese and Bishop Camillus Etokudoh of Port Harcourt Diocese were celebrated. The Golden Priestly Jubilee of the following Emeriti also were celebrated: Archbishop Patrick Ekpu, Archbishop Peter Jatau, Bishop Francis Alonge and Bishop Simon Okafor. We welcome to Nigeria the newly appointed collaborator of the Apostolic Nunciature, Rev. Fr. José Antonio Rodríguez García. We wish him a happy and fruitful apostolate.
We announce the first graduation ceremony of students from Veritas University, Abuja (VUNA), the Catholic University of Nigeria, which took place on 18th April 2013. While we intensify our efforts and call for financial assistance towards moving the university to its permanent site in Abuja, we pray for greater days ahead.
3. The Year of Faith
As the Year of Faith inaugurated by His Holiness, Benedict XVI in October, 2012 comes to an end, we express our gratitude to God for the opportunity of this moment of grace and renewal. We commend the People of God for their numerous spiritual, catechetical and social activities during this Year of Faith. We pray that these activities might bear fruits of peace, charity and reconciliation in their lives. We urge all to continue, even beyond the Year of Faith, to intensify efforts towards the deepening of faith through pilgrimages, retreats, seminars, workshops and vigils, as well as through artistic and literary works.
We welcome the first Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith). We also appreciate the striking connection between Faith and Light as a guide into the full communion of the sons and daughters of God, made possible by the blood of Jesus and his abiding spirit. “In God’s gift of faith…we realize that a great love has been offered to us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along the way on wings of hope” (Lumen Fidei, no. 7).
4. Renewal of Priestly Commitment
Inspired by the light of Faith, we explored the grace of this Plenary to also reflect on our commitment to the Catholic Priesthood. In order to have a more wholistic view of our ministry as Bishops, we invited our immediate collaborators, representatives of priests from all over Nigeria for an interactive session. During the session, we fraternally renewed our mission of teaching, sanctifying, and leading the people of God. We also made a firm commitment to consistently pledge our unalloyed loyalty and obedience to the Holy Father.
We regret and condemn the attitude of those priests in Ahiara Diocese who rejected their new Bishop. We consider their attitude as an affront to the Holy Father who has the sole prerogative of appointing bishops. We call on the priests to review their position, recant and accept in love their Shepherd, Most Rev. Peter Ebelechukwu Okpaleke. We urge members of Christ’s faithful, priests, religious and lay, never to relent in Catholic piety, especially loyalty to the Holy Father and Bishops who are his immediate collaborators in the work of shepherding the Church.
4. Good Governance
That Nigeria is abundantly blessed with resources which do not reflect in the lives of her children is very disconcerting. Fraudulent use of public monies rob the citizens of basic amenities like quality education, befitting health services, pliable roads, steady electricity, portable water supply, etc. Cost of governance is proportionately high, compared to funds released for development of infrastructure and provision of services. With regard to some public authorities, abuse of power with impunity has been elevated to an art of governance.
We continue to appeal to the consciences of our people to cultivate values of accountability and transparency as they serve the nation and their communities, for genuine growth in democratic culture. We urge our leaders to be guided by moral and ethical principles of good governance. Good governance is characterized by animating development and improving the lives of people. As Pope Paul VI observed, “development cannot be authentic until it is complete, integral and promotes the good of everyone and of the whole person” (Populorum Progressio, no. 14).
5. Respect Life – Reject Anti-Life Laws
We have observed with keen interest the continuous attempts made by foreign agencies to introduce unwholesome values to our society in their campaign for abortion, supply of condoms and promotion of same-sex unions. We hereby condemn such moves. We appeal to the good people of Nigeria to also reject such moves, lest we stand to lose our faith, cultural identity and pride. We reiterate our commitment to the sanctity of life from the very moment of its conception to the time of natural death.
We reject vehemently the slightest attempt by anyone to promote the culture of death and call on such people to repent of their ways. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI affirmed: “Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good…the acceptance of life strengthens the moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help” (Instrumentum Laboris, 2nd Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops No: 20).
We sincerely congratulate the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for her firm stand and outright rejection of the Bill on Same-Sex Marriage. Natural law and our faith tell us that same-sex marriage is truly unnatural, unwholesome, and contrary to the plan of God.
The use of capital punishment as the easiest way to rid the society of dangerous criminals is improper. The lives of condemned criminals remain sacred and demand deep compassion. Capital punishment does not offer criminals the opportunity for repentance in accord with the vision of God about man’s salvation. Given modern developments for the safety of citizens, public authorities are increasingly called upon to explore practical measures to prevent criminality and to foster humane ways that would lead to the reformation of criminals.
We congratulate the government for the bold measures to combat terrorism which drastically reduce the Boko Haram terrorist attacks, especially in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. We observe at the same time that a lot still needs to be done to obviate the menace of armed-robbery, kidnapping, etc., perpetrated throughout our land. We note the illegal importation and dangerous circulation of small-arms among our citizens.
We sympathize with all families who have lost their loved ones since the Boko Haram menace began. We call on the Federal and State Governments to step-up security networks and measures to proactively arrest such insurgencies, than wait till they happen. We also appeal to government to assist deserving victims and relatives of the deceased.
7. Current Impasse Between ASUU and Federal Government
University students have been once again made to roam about following the indefinite strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who are protesting the level of the implementation of the 2009 ASUU/Government Agreement. We are disturbed by the crippling effect of this strike. As stakeholders in the education of our youths, we cannot stay aloof. We appeal to the Federal Government and the ASUU to take the higher ground of mutual exchange and shifting of grounds, for the collective responsibility of saving our university education and getting our youth back to the classrooms. We, the Catholic Bishops, willingly offer ourselves as a Conference to mediate, in order to bring this deadlock to an end and usher in a harmonious, viable and sustainable environment for university learning.
8. Chaplaincy of Tertiary Institutions
Chaplaincies play important roles in Tertiary Institutions. However, the effort of chaplaincies to acquire land is denied to Christians in Universities existing in some parts of the country for the erection of places of worship. This denial contributes to the weakening of sound morals in Nigeria’s future leaders, which, if it is to be deeply genuine and sustainable, should be rooted in personal faith. We call on Government at Federal and State levels to foster the right to religious freedom by allotting land for places of worship and removing all barriers to land acquisition for de facto citizens of the country.
9. Inspiring Leadership of the Popes and Prayer for Peace
We hail the Holy Father, Pope Francis who continues to astound the world with a leadership model of humility, modesty and simplicity, becoming a beacon of hope for the poor. We equally admire his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who, by his historic and heroic resignation, showed that true leadership is selfless and that good leadership creates space for others.
Pope Francis on 7th September 2013, invited the world to pray with him for peace in Syria, highlighting the constant need of prayer for peace. Prayer for peace is not an afterthought to the work of peace, but the very essence of building the peace of order, justice and freedom. Indeed, to pray for peace is to pray for justice, for freedom, for a right-ordering of relations within and among nations and peoples. Above all, it is to seek God’s forgiveness and to forgive those who have trespassed against us (see John Paul II, 2002 Message for the World Day of Peace, n. 14).
10. Catholic Health Summit
We happily announce the first National Catholic Health Summit planned to take place at the Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, 23 – 24 October 2013. This Summit is aimed at enhancing partnerships between the Catholic Health Services, Government and other Agencies. All Catholic health institutions and men and women of goodwill are invited to this summit for better coordination and intensity of this apostolate.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first disciple and Mother of the Church, be our model and intercede for us in this Year of Faith.
Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama Most Rev. William Avenya
Archbishop of Jos Bishop of Gboko