… Invests Papal Awardees
By Constaincia Uruakpa
The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos was agog, Tuesday, September 14, 2021, when three religious and 10 lay faithful were invested by his Grace, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, on behalf of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who awarded the recipients with Papal honours of Chaplains of His Holiness, knights and medalists in the Church. The event which coincided with the celebration of the Feast Day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, took off with the Mass, as the Homilist, as well as the Chief shepherd charged the awardees and all present not to relent in their service to God and humanity, even in the face of difficulties. Very Rev. Msgr. Paschal Nwaezeakpu, Parish Priest, Catholic Church of the Divine Mercy, Lekki, Dean, Lekki Deanery and homilist on the occasion, said more than anything else, the Feast of Exaltation of the Cross is the celebration and commemoration of the greatest work and act of God.
He said that the sacrificial death of Jesus, on the cross; the cross, the symbol of Christian faith represents Christ’s victory over death, as the gates of heaven that was shut after the fall, were thrown open to mankind once again. He noted that before the coming of Christ, the cross was a symbol of humiliation, dehumanization, torture, violence and shame, but Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, changed all that, and transformed the cross into a symbol of victory and redemption. “The Feast of Exaltation of the Cross of Jesus celebrates this victory and this redemption that is redemptive transformation of the cross, from being an instrument of shame and death, to being the instrument of life”, he said. Msgr. Nwaezeakpu urged the people to appreciate the acts of Jesus on the cross by their attitude, personal adherence to him, the gospel, his values and mission.
He called on all baptized Catholics to participate actively in Christianizing the society, through their active witness and proclamation of the gospel. He noted that the reason the Papal awardees have been given special recognition by the Pope is an acknowledgement of their contribution in the growth of the Church, and Archdiocese of Lagos. He reminded the awardees that the reward of hard work is more work, adding that the honour bestowed on them should not lead to retirement, but to greater commitment, and active service in the church. “When the Church is celebrating you, the Church is saying thank you, and at the same time asking for more, more action, greater service, and greater commitment at service”, he emphasised.
Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos tasked Christians, and indeed Catholics to live lives that give testimony to the faith that they profess, in addition to being models of good Catholic faith and Christian living, in their parishes, the Church and every where they find themselves. Speaking on the Papal awards and the awardees, Archbishop Martins disclosed that the Church has its own ways of recognizing and acknowledging the contributions that people have made to the life of the Church, in terms of the services that they render. He said: “Many of these men and women have taken active part in the life of their different parishes, as members of councils, members of committees, and as people who have distinguished themselves in acts of charity, within their different parishes.
But of course, they have also helped the Archdiocese in its so very many works, with regards to education, with regards to health, with regards to social services. So, these men and women have been of great help. There are many more of such persons, gradually; people will get the acknowledgement they deserve.” On expectation of the awardees, he said: “First of all, we pray that they live lives that give testimony to the faith that they profess. Now, we expect that they will in many ways be models of good Catholic faith, and good Christian living; models of that, more than ever before, and that secondly, they will also continue to work in their different parishes , for the different areas of life, that include education, health, and social services. And we expect too, that their families will be model families that everyone can look up to, by the way they conduct themselves in business, in social life and other areas. Speaking on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Archbishop said it is one day in the life of the Church that they focus attention on the instrument that Jesus used in bringing salvation to the world.
“Jesus came into the world, to save the world, and the instrument he used is the Cross; his death on the Cross. So, that is what we are celebrating today, acknowledging the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made, for the sake of giving us salvation, and then, of course, encouraging ourselves that if you have crosses that you must carry, you must look unto Jesus , and see how he carried his own Cross, and the result of carrying that Cross, which is salvation. So that is the whole purpose of this celebration”, he said. Speaking further on the Papal awards, Archbishop Martins said that it is good to serve the Lord, adding that when you serve the Lord, you get many more blessings than you ever would consider yourself being worthy of. “This award of Papal honours is a blessing; it’s a blessing that the Lord has given to these people for the efforts that they have made before.
So, in general therefore, when we serve the Lord, the Lord certainly will reward us. But most importantly, we look to the reward that comes at the end of life, the joy of heaven”, he noted. On the frequency of the celebrations, he said: “The Exaltation of the Cross is annual, 14th of September, every year, we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, but of course, Papal knights and medals come once in a while. Speaking on the economic situation of the country, Archbishop Martins said these are very hard times for Nigerians, as he added that Nigerians are carrying more crosses now than ever before because of the challenges confronting the country.
He submitted: “We can only ask that in spite of our challenges, we should never lose focus of who we are as a people; a people who should be united more than we are, a people that should make efforts to support one another and be united with one another. But of course, it’s also important for us to say that some of the crosses that we bear have been imposed on us by bad leadership, by bad governance, by corruption. “And so, we want to also challenge those who lead us, to try and see what need be done, in order to lift the challenges that Nigerians are facing now; the insecurity and all of that, we expect our government to do much better.
The event which drew a large number of personalities from far and near, comprising religious, lay faithful and non Catholics alike, saw the investiture of Very Revs. Gabriel Amolegbe, Peter Oke and Patrick Obayomi as Chaplains of His Holiness. Chief Sena Anthony and Mrs. Chinelu Amangbo were conferred with the title of Papal Medal of Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice. Messrs Patrick Igwilo, Anthony Idigbe, Cyril Pinheiro, Patrick Amaechi and Mrs. Winifred Akpani were conferred with the Knights of St. Sylvester the Pope, while Messrs Robert Soji Olagunju, Eward Hughes, Gregory Enahoro were conferred with Knights of St. Gregory the Pope.