By Constaincia Uruakpa
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins has called on Catholic Priests to be faithful to the Church, by ensuring that they are dedicated to the message of Christ, and living a life of sacrifice, which they vowed at their ordination. Archbishop Martins gave the charge at the 2021 Chrism Mass of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos held on Thursday, at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos. The Archbishop also urged the priests to ensure that they live out their vow as priests, not only in the external, but also in their private hearts and thoughts. He said: “As priests we should ensure of being faithful to God, being faithful to the Church, ensure that we as priests are priests, not only in the external, but also in our private hearts and thoughts. We should ensure that we are faithful to the message of Christ, and generally, recognize the fact that the priesthood is sacrifice, and therefore, live that sacrifice in all the ways that is required.” On what the Chrism Mass is, and its significance, the Archbishop said: “The Mass of Chrism is an annual event, during which we celebrate our priests, and the priests renew their ordination promises to the Church, to their Bishops, to the people of God. It is also a day that we bless the oils that shall be used for administering the sacraments, that is, the oil of the Catechumen, anointing of the sick, and then, we consecrate the oil of Chrism.
So, it is a day for bonding so to say, between the priests and their Bishops, and among the priests themselves in the presence of God and God’s people.” When asked of the Church’s announcement on kidnapping of students, measures put in place in Catholic schools, and what the Church has done to safeguard the students, Archbishop Martins said: “In the first instance, the announcement that was made about safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons, is not an announcement concerning security of institutions, of children, rather, it is an announcement concerning how to ensure that boundaries are kept in relationship with children, and in relationship with vulnerable persons. “In fact, of course, kidnapping of children is a sad event of our time; it’s a very sad part of our time, and we are hoping that as we have new Security Chiefs in place now, that they will work out new and more proactive systems by which they will ensure that children in our different schools are protected. It’s not only happening in the North anymore, it has gone as far as we heard in Edo State. So, it’s a problem that has to be really addressed seriously: one would have thought that if the Military Chiefs were being changed, the police that have the needed responsibility for securing civilian life would also see a new lease of life. But that has not happened so far.
And we are hoping that this anomaly would be addressed.” Speaking on what to do, for the country to remain one indivisible entity, the Archbishop advised government to pacify those who feel neglected, and give them a sense of belonging in the nation. He said: “I think we can just look at what it is that precipitated people asking for their own different nations. There was a time when there was no talk about secession, no talk about having new nations or another nation from the country, but what has brought it about is the inequity that we find in the system. What has brought it about is people feeling completely powerless in the state, such as they thought the only way is to start new nations; and so, what I believe is necessary is that everyone is given an equitable share in the life of the nation. In a situation where some parts of the country feel completely left out, where they feel they do not have a sense of belonging, naturally, elements such as those who are clamouring for secession will rise and it’s only if government takes the right steps to pacify them, to assure them that they are part of the nation, that these things will seize to arise.
Of course, where there is no good governance, and people are hungry, people feel left out, then, naturally, these things will continue. But, secession or breaking up is not the solution to our problem, rather, good governance and equity is.” On the state of Bethlehem College, and what the Church is doing about it, he said: “Well, the children are not just simply there, the students in that school have been shared out into other Catholic schools, the children have been advised to choose whichever of the other schools they wish, and they have being absolved into those schools. In fact, some of them did their final exams last year, others are in the process right now; so, they have not been left simply like that. But as for rebuilding the school, that’s a function of very many things, including availability of land because we cannot build the school again on that site. “Recently, the Lagos State Government offered us a portion of land on which to build a new Bethlehem Girls’ College, but, obviously, it is not land only that is going to make that to happen.
We are still discussing with government, in order to know exactly how to go about this because lots of things are needed: road infrastructure to get the place done, ensuring that the land is vacant, ensuring that the swamp is filled up, and all of those are still big issues that we still have to address. But, our focus is it will come up at one time or the other. And, so, we shall continue to keep that focus because there was a reason why that school was located in that area, and we don’t want that reason to be obliterated. But as I said, there are many other issues that are involved, and gradually, we will deal with that.” In his Easter message, the Archbishop advised Christians not to lose hope in the face of the problems that they are facing in the country “Christians must not lose hope in the face of the problems that we have. In the first instance, the victory of Christ over sin and death is not a fluke. If it is not a fluke, then, we cannot lose hope. Only that those who need to do one thing or the other, should do it, in order that our hope can be energized”, he said. About 400 priests renewed their vows at the 2021 Chrism Mass celebration.