Rising from its 33rd Annual General Meeting (AGM), held from October 25 to 29, 2021, at St. Leo Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos, the Nigeria Catholic Diocesan Priests’ Association (NCDPA) , after prayerful deliberations on the theme, “The foundational and holistic reorientation of the Nigerian person: An urgent imperative for the Church and State”, presented its resolutions. Giving their blessings, in a paper signed jointly by Very Rev. Fr. Sylvester Onmoke, National President and Rev. Fr. Francis Ikhianosime, Secretary, the priests thanked God for the creation of the new Diocese of Ekwulobia, with Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke, as her first Bishop. They also noted the appointment of three Bishops in the Church in Nigeria, namely; Most Rev. David Ajang, Catholic Bishop of Lafia, who until his appointment was an active member of the association, as the Provincial Chairman of Jos Ecclesiastical Province; Most Rev. Sylvester Gopeb, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Minna and Most Rev. Peter Nworie Chukwu, Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese, who was the immediate past Chairman of the NCDPA of the Diocese.
The priests congratulated the Emeriti Archbishops/Bishops who celebrate their Golden Episcopal Jubilee; Anthony Cardinal Okogie of Lagos, Archbishop Felix Alaba Job of Ibadan, Archbishop Patrick Ekpu of Benin and Bishop Michael Fagun of Ekiti. On the call for a holistic reorientation of the Nigerian person, the paper read, “Although there are many reasons for great admiration of the Nigerian character or person, there are, however, ample reasons to be apprehensive about the Nigerian person. Being a Nigerian today comes with a high cost, which includes distrust, suspicion and rejection in many quarters, occasioned by the prevalence of high-powered corruption, religionized nepotism, uninhibited banditry, police brutality, loss of hope in the Nigerian dream, and so on. These are causes of grave worries. “The advent of COVID-19 with its attendant challenges has further heightened this worry, not just for the Nigerian person, but also for the Church.
The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic among us has necessitated the re-examination and revitalization of the Mission of the Church, that all men are called to belong to the new people of God (Lumen Gentium #13]. We note with great concern that, not only were Churches and places of worship locked down, as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the services of religious leaders, as essential workers, were also excluded. However, the gathering of families and small Christian communities has reawakened the consciousness and fidelity of the Church to her roots (Acts 2:46) and traditions with the family, as its smallest unit (FamiliarisConsortio #17). ” According to the priests, at the mention of a pandemic, COVID-19 comes to mind. However, a more devastating, deadliest, and oldest pandemic in human history is sin.
“This is most captivated in the expression of St. Augustine, ’the pandemic of self-centered love that treats God and neighbours with contempt’ (City of God #14.28). Sin disfigures the human person. The Nigeria person is exposed to these different pandemics and sin like other social vices that beleaguer the Nigerian man, disfigure him, making the need for a reorientation an imperative. Beyond medical vaccination, education, rightly conceived, is the vaccination needed to overcome the pandemic of self-centeredness that has befallen humanity. ” The priests resolved to maintain unalloyed loyalty to the Church, uphold their true priestly identity, and promote the unique fraternity of the Catholic Priesthood, adding that without equivocation, they resolve to intensify their passion for transforming lives, through the Gospel, by feeding God’s people with well-prepared homilies and catechetical instructions.
They resolved to keep reorientating the people, especially the youths, through quality education, formal and informal, in their ministry. While urging the state to assist the citizen in their effort to get quality education, they noted that the state, consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, is to fulfill this role, not by overbearing interventions in the education sector, but by providing an enabling environment for synergy for the family, voluntary agencies like the Church, ensuring that the average Nigerian gains access to good and quality education. Among other things, they recommend right to good, unrestricted access to basic formal education namely, Primary and Secondary education for Nigerians, that Church and State collaborate to bring about the holistic formation of the human person, which could be achieved through the implementation of the aspects of curriculum that are meant to inculcate virtue in learners.
They advised that educationists must be well equipped with sufficiently qualified and meaningfully remunerated teachers for the task of forming the students, adding that parents as first and primary educators must live up to their responsibility, in the formation of their children. They urged religious leaders to be innovative in their ministry with the appropriate use of the new media for evangelization, advising that caution, self-control, and moral discipline be taken into cognizance, in the use of social media by all.