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CBCN NEWS:

Contents:-

  1. Onaiyekan is new CAN president - June 19
  2. Opus Securitatis ends meeting/ workshop – June 6
  3. HOLY FATHER CREATES SHENDAM DIOCESE (June 4, 2007)
  4. Veritas University: Board of Trustees and Governing Council Inaugurated (May 30, 2007)
  5. Veritas University (Catholic University of Nigeria) Abuja (May 17, 2007)
  6. That Our Hope May Not Be In Vain (CBCN Communiqué)
  7. CBCN President Calls For Understanding Of Value Of Life
  8. Papal Nuncio Calls For Positive Thinking About Nigeria
  9. Nigeria Owes Much To CBCN – Obasanjo
  10. Archbishop Onaiyekan On Importance Of Elections
  11. CARDINAL DIAS ENDS 13 DAYS VISIT TO NIGERIA
  12. Ekpenyong Advocates National Catholic Newspaper
  13. Workshop For Directors Of Social Communications
  14. Text Of The International Press Conference Addressed By The President Of The Catholic Bishops' Conference Of Nigeria (CBCN) On The Findings Of The JDPC At The Competition Of The 2007 General Elections
  15. World Communications Day 2007


Onaiyekan is new CAN president - June 19

Abuja, June 19, 2007, Archbishop John Onayeikan, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, was today elected President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

With 72 votes to 33 votes, Onayeikan defeated the incumbent and Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Peter Akinola.

All 105 delegates of the National Executive Council (NEC) of CAN Comprising of 10 delegates from each bloc, one delegate from each State of the Federation including FCT, the 10 CAN National officers, 5 Zonal representatives and the chairpersons of the Women and the youth wings participated at the election which witnessed some tense moments.

``The rules and regulations of the election process of CAN after some heated arguments, were followed and everybody was satisfied,'' Onaiyekan said.

``There is a human element; there was no panic really because we knew we were going to get it done. Everybody has accepted the result of the election, '' Onaiyekan told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Asked whether arguments were expected in a Christian gathering, the CAN president said: ``Even the apostles argued. We have to understand the arguments as ways of making your honest point strongly.''

On his vision for the next three years, he said: ``It is too early. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic about the position of the president.''

 The 304 member General Assembly of CAN is expected to ratify the election at its July 5 to July 6 meeting in Abuja.

According to the constitution of CAN, Onaiyekan, who won majority of votes of the NEC, shall be deemed nominated as President while Akinola the runner-up is vice-president (VP).

However, sources at the NEC said: ''Akinola is not likely to accept the position of VP. It may be a bit condescending for him. I will be Surprised if he accepts that position when the General Assembly meets on July 6.”

CAN is made of five blocs including the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) for Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, First African Church; the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) a group for Catholics and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN/PFN) for Pentecostal Churches. Others are Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) for Celestial Church of Christ  and Cherubim and Seraphim Churches; and the Evangelical Fellowship of West Africa (ECWA/TEKAN) with 15 denominations like ECWA, EYN, HEKAN, NKST, COCCIN and LCCN. 

It will be recalled that in a previous election by the Electoral College constituted by CAN NEC, May 24, 2004, Most Rev. Onaiyekan defeated the incumbent CAN president by 10 votes to 4. The 2 candidates who emerged 1st and 2nd in that elections by the college were those presented for election into the posts of President and Vice president respectively by NEC. The college is made up of 3 members from each of the 5 blocs of CAN.

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Opus Securitatis ends meeting/ workshop – June 6

Major coordinators of the Opus Securitatis scheme in the various dioceses ended the two day meeting/workshop with the National Coordinator of the scheme, Msgr. Hypolite A. Adigwe at the Conference Room of Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) building, Abuja.

Addressing the participants, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Alaba Job, emphasized the duty every Priest owes the Church and the PMS in particular, which is to remit all monies collected for specific purposes to the appropriate centers and not to keep any for their personal use. He further reminded them that it is the responsibility of the Priests in Nigeria and other Mission territories to secure their future by proper management of the Opus Securitatis Scheme. This was also the solicitude of the Chairman of Finance Committee of the CBCN, Most Rev. Hilary Odidli Okeke.

Msgr Adigwe in his paper traced the history of the scheme and offered a detailed account of its philosophy and operations. He further explained the draft of the regulations governing the workings of the scheme at both the National and Diocesan levels. He also fielded questions on the project.

The Opus Securitatis is a Pension Scheme for Diocesan Priests. The retirement or maturity age for the scheme is 65 years.

Present at the workshop were Very Rev. Fr. Mike Ekpenyong, the Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat Nigeria CSN who delivered the welcome address; Mr. Emmanuel I. Ejewere of the CSN Investment Concept who spoke on the need for proper management of funds at the diocesan level; Msgr. B. Okodua of Lagos Archdiocese; Fr. Ralph Madu of the Communication Directorate CSN, Abuja; Sr. Lucella Ukaegbu of the PMS Directorate and 36 Priests from the different dioceses in the country.

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HOLY FATHER CREATES SHENDAM DIOCESE (June 4, 2007)

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has created the diocese of Shendam out of the Archdiocese of Jos. At the same time, he has appointed Most Rev Dr James Daman, OSA, as the first bishop of the new diocese. Bishop Daman who was until his appointment the bishop of the diocese of Jalingo, has also been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Jalingo.

Born in Miket, Qua’an Pan LGA, Plateau State on April 10, 1956, bishop Daman was accepted into the Augustinian Monastery in Jos in 1975. He studied Philosophy and Theology in St Augustine’s Seminary Jos and was ordained priest by John Paul II in Kaduna on February 14, 1982.

He served at the Augustinian parish community in Bekaji, Yola (1982-1985), there he was Director of Christian Radio Programmes in the then Gongola Broadcasting Service. From 1985-1987 he studied in Rome where he received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the Alphonsianum. He later proceeded to Birmingham University in the UK where he was awarded a diploma in communications.

Back to Nigeria in 1988 he lectured in St Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos, and the newly-opened St Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Makurdi. He then returned to Rome where he received a doctorate in Moral Theology in 1994. On his return to Nigeria, he rejoined the staff of St Augustine’s Seminary, Jos. In 1997 he was elected first Nigerian Vice Provincial of the Augustinian Order in Nigeria. At the expiration of his first term (four years), he was re-elected for a second term by his brother religious. He was appointed second bishop of Jalingo-in succession of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama- and was ordained bishop on February 24, 2001.

The new diocese of Shendam covers about 12,496 Sq Km with a population of about 980,810. It has a catholic population of about 149,051, 17 parishes, 30 diocesan priests, 6 Religious priests, 7 Religious Sisters, 728 Catechists, 16 Major Seminarians, 90 Minor Seminarians, 6 Educations institutions and 1 health centre.

It may be recalled that it was in Shendam that the Catholic faith was first preached to the people north of the rivers Niger and Benue, when the SMA opened a mission station there in February 1907. The centenary celebration in February was presided over by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, Evan Cardinal Dias, and is now further marked by this happy development.

Rev Fr Mike Ekpenyong                                      Rev Fr Ralph Madu

Secretary General,                                                  Director, Social Communications(CSN)

                          Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN)

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Veritas University: Board of Trustees and Governing Council Inaugurated (May 30, 2007)

The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job on Wed May 30 inaugurated the Board of Trustees and the Governing Council of the Veritas University Abuja at the Knights of St. John International Hall, Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja.

 

In his speech shortly before the inauguration proper, Archbishop Job pointed out that the inauguration of the two bodies was the very first necessary step towards the actualization of the license. He charged the laity to be prepared to carry out the full development of the Catholic University, reminding them that the Catholic Church is not a new comer in the founding of universities even though the Veritas University is its first in Nigeria.

 

Further more, he challenged the Board of Trustees and the Governing Council to see to it that the Permanent Site in Abuja admits its first batch of students by the 3rd year of the existence of the Obehie Campus. Dissolving the provisional council, the Archbishop thanked the Chairman Prof. Afolabi Ojo and the members for work well done. Also thanked in absentia was the former project director Prof. Charles Ofoegbu.

 

Among those present at the function were, Rtd. Gen. Chris Garba, Bishop Martin Uzoukwu of Minna; Msgr Hypolite Adigwe Director, Mission and Dialogue CSN; Fr. Mike Ekpenyong, Secretary General CSN who gave the vote of thanks; Fr. Patrick Ariwale, the Interim Project Director; Fr. Peter Okonkwo CMF, Director, Pastoral Agents CSN; Msgr. Felix Adeigbo, Rector, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt; Sir David Osunde and Lady Theresa Obiakor, Grand Respected President of the Abuja Grand Ladies Auxiliary KSJ International.

 

Members of Board of Trustees

His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal O. Okogie, Chairman

His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. F. Alaba Job (President CBCN), Chancellor

His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. John Onaiyekan, Pro-Chancellor

His Excellency, Sir Dr. Peter Odili, Member

Ambassador Mrs. Judith Attah, Member

His Royal Highness, Professor Edozien, (The Asagba of Asaba), Member

His Royal Highness, Sir A. E. N. Izuwa, (KSJ, KSG), Member

Chief, Mrs. Felicia Onyeabor, Member

His Excellency, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, Deputy-Gov. Kaduna State, Member

The Vice-Chancellor 

 

Members of the Governing Council

His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. John Onaiyekan, Pro-Chancellor/ Chairman

His Grace Most Rev. Dr. A. J. V. Obinna, Member

The Vice-Chancellor 

Professor G. Afolabi Ojo, Member

Professor Olu Aina, Member

Professor Gabriel M. Umezurike, Member

Professor Mike Kwanashi, Member

Mrs. Catherine Hoomkwap, Member

Professor Patrick Ebong, Member

Chief Felix Nwarie, (Rep. Host Community), Member


Veritas University (Catholic University of Nigeria) Abuja (May 17, 2007)

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Thursday, May 17, 2007, was issued provisional license for the commencement of the Veritas University (Catholic University of Nigeria) Abuja. Preparations are being made towards the take-off of the university in September, 2007, using the facilities at Obehie which have been completed to the full satisfaction of the National Universities Commission.

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That Our Hope May Not Be In Vain

 

Communiqué at the end of the First Plenary Meeting of the

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the

Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre, New Lugbe, Abuja.

February 26-March 3, 2007.

 

 

I. PREAMBLE

 

1          We, members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, held our First Plenary Meeting for the year 2007 at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), New Lugbe, Abuja, from February 26 to March 3, 2007.  During the Plenary, we prayerfully reflected on and discussed the theme, Good Governance, Democracy and Christian Responsibility. We now present our communiqué to the Church and to the nation. 

 

 

II. SIGNS OF HOPE

 

2.         Our faith in God inspires us to see signs of hope in the life of the Church in Nigeria and in the life of Nigeria itself.  We believe in God, and we believe that God’s blessings have not and will not elude our Church and our country. 

 

Growth in the Church

 

3.         Among the signs of hope we see is the growth and the attainment of maturity of the Church in Nigeria.  We note that our first plenary this year is taking place shortly after the centenary of the arrival of Catholicism in Uyo Diocese, and in the dioceses north of the Rivers Niger and Benue.  The centenary celebrations in Ekeya, Uyo Diocese from December 7-9, 2006, and in Shendam, Jos Archdiocese on February 10, 2007, bear eloquent testimony to the growth and maturity of the Church in our country.  In Shendam, we were blessed with the presence of Ivan Cardinal Dias, Prefect, Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

We have also witnessed an addition to the number of Catholic Bishops in Nigeria in the Episcopal ordination of Most Rev. John Ebebe Ayah as Bishop of Ogoja, and the appointment of Msgr Paulinus Ezeokafor as Auxiliary Bishop of Awka.  Msgr. Ezeokafor’s Episcopal ordination will take place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka, on April 28, 2007. 

While we rejoice in the growth of the Church in our country we pray, hope and work that this will translate into the formation of Christians who will participate in public life with maturity, honesty and utmost responsibility.

 

Positive Developments in the Nation

 

4.         Some of the recent interventions by the judiciary and the National Assembly, insofar as they stood by the side of the rule of law and good governance, helped to avert deepening the crisis in our fragile democracy.  May such firm interventions become the norm and not the exception in the life of our country.

 

5.         Even though we have witnessed religious and ethnic conflicts in the distant and recent memories of our country, we see hope in an increasing number of Nigerians who initiate and nurture friendship across ethnic and religious divides.  There are reasons to believe that Nigerians can live together as members of God’s family in peace and harmony.

 

6.            Nigerians freely express themselves perceptively and with civility on matters which pertain to the common good.    This demonstrates their profound desire for good governance.  This very desire is a sign of hope.  This hope is reinforced by the granting of licenses to thirty-five private radio stations this year.  Government is demonstrating its willingness to enter into partnership with private organizations in the information and education sectors.  We therefore hope that government will soon begin to grant licenses to religious bodies as it is done in other countries.

 

7.         Living in very difficult conditions, deprived of functional infrastructure like good roads, good transportation, reliable supply of electricity, Nigerians, despite being highly critical of the situation in the country, remain resilient and joyful.  Those who describe Nigerians as the happiest people in the world have good reasons to say so.  Our people have shown that they do not give up in the face of obstacles to their welfare.  This resilience is nourished by faith in God, even when the way and manner in which religion is practiced remains a challenge for us as pastors of the people.

 

8.         The hope that Nigeria represents has already been beautifully described by Pope John Paul II of blessed memory who, at the end of his first visit to Nigeria twenty-five years ago said: “I take away with me very vivid memories of a great nation, a generous people, a dynamic Church, a richly endowed and warm-hearted youth, a country which honours the family, respects the elderly and regards children as a blessing. In short, I take with me an unforgettable memory of a country which is a credit to Africa, to the world and to the Church of Jesus Christ” (Address at Departure from Nigeria, 1982, n. 2).

 

.

III. AREAS OF CONCERN

 

9.         If our hope is to be realized and not become a vain illusion, there are areas of concern which we need to identify and address as pastors and as citizens of our country.

           

Another Election Year

 

10.              The fact that this is another election year is a matter of grave concern for us and for most Nigerians.  Past experiences make Nigerians enter this season of elections with heightened trepidation.  If every election in the history of Nigeria has ended on a note of controversy, Nigerians wonder if it would be different this time around.  They long for free and fair elections.  The level of preparedness of security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) makes many Nigerians doubt if the electoral process will reflect their will and produce a credible leadership.  If the political parties are incapable or unwilling to conduct credible primary elections, what guarantee have Nigerians that the April 2007 elections will be credible? 

 

11.              At the heart of our electoral crises is the belief that politics is about the acquisition of wealth, of oil wealth, by the political office holder.  In a curious paradox, our country is rich but our people are poor.  That a country of great abundance is inhabited by people who labour under dehumanizing deprivation is a source of major concern. 

 

Disregard for the Rule of Law

 

12.              Yet, it is not only our leaders who are culpable.  The led also have questions to answer.  Disrespect for the rule of law, has become a common feature of our life.  It shows itself in various forms of indiscipline, by the leaders and the led, by the mighty and the lowly in the land.  It shows itself in the scandalous disregard for court orders, even by government.  Lawlessness and indiscipline make good governance difficult.  Selfishness inspires disregard for the law and thus works against the common good.  To work against the common good is to work against the dignity that pertains to us as human beings.  It shows itself at the heart of a culture of death that is spreading across the length and breadth of Nigeria.  It shows itself in the crime wave that continues to be on the increase while law enforcement agents appear helpless or, in any case, unhelpful. 

 

Crisis in the Niger Delta

 

13.       The lingering crisis in the Niger Delta remains a major source of concern.  Oil exploration has brought wealth to oil companies and to a few. The staggering cost to millions of inhabitants of the region, who are yet to benefit from the wealth, is a death-dealing ecological degradation and a gross violation of fundamental human rights.  It is a grave sin that the Niger Delta, a region that has contributed immensely to the wealth of this country, remains a region of dehumanizing poverty, unemployment and a destroyed ecosystem.

 

Turmoil in Family Life

 

14.       The turmoil in our society cannot be separated from the turmoil in family life.  The family is the nucleus of the human society.  A just society is a happy society.  But a just society is an aggregate of just citizens.  Such citizens are born into and nurtured in just families.  Family life is vital to the continued existence of the human society as a whole.  When family life is sick, its consequences are felt in the society.  That is why we view with grave concern threats to the traditional sacredness of family life such as the evil of abortion and the attempt to legalize same sex “marriages” in our country.

 

IV. EXHORTATION

 

15.            Twenty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II’s description of Nigeria as a credit to Africa, to the world and to the Church of Christ laid before us what we are called to become and can become if we seek the path of virtue.  This is already being realized among the signs of hope we enumerated earlier.  At the same time, the areas of concern we have identified warn us not to relent in our efforts until we become the type of country the Lord wants us to be.  As Pastors, our prophetic duty is to exhort with the word of God, the word which the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to address to dry bones so as to resuscitate them (Cf. Ezek 37:4-10; Ps 104:30).  Christ confirmed this word by sending the Spirit to renew the face of the earth (Cf. Jn 20:19-23).  We believe this same Spirit will renew the face of our beloved country Nigeria.  That is why he moves us to present the following exhortation.

 

 

The Virtue of Love and Good Governance

 

16.            Techniques of social, political and economic re-engineering are necessary but not sufficient in transforming a country.  Virtues are necessary.  We therefore urge that the virtue of patriotism, that is, of love of the land and of its people, be reawakened in every Nigerian, leaders and led, young and old.  This evocation of patriotism is done in the name of love which every religion advocates.  True religion promotes patriotism (Cf. James 1:27). Politics itself, despite its many misconceptions, is the concretization of the love of God in the city of man.  The love that true religion motivates makes one to see politics as striving for a just city of man in preparation for the perfection of justice in the City of God. 

 

17.       Good governance is not just about elections.  It necessarily involves consultation and dialogue between the people and their representatives.  It requires the participation of all. We therefore appeal to all Nigerians to participate in the political process of this country.  Leaders and policy makers, no matter how intelligent and well intentioned, must listen to the people they claim to serve.  Those who lead the land at every level of governance must not become overbearing masters but humble servants of the people.  Lest we languish in tyranny, government must not become more powerful than the people.  For in a democracy, the people put the government in place.  Those who govern are not lords, those they govern are not subjects.  All are equal citizens, and none is to be taken for granted.

 

18.       If virtue is needed for good politics, how can we fail to mention that good role models are needed for the acquisition of virtue.  We sing in our National Anthem, “The labors of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”  Nigerians, especially the younger generation, need good role models in politics.  Role models are also needed in every sphere of our life.  Where there are no heroes, heroic achievements are hard to come by.  This country needs heroes who exemplify the virtues of courage, wisdom, justice, self control, hard work, humility and honesty.  It is not a case of calling on others to be heroic.  It is a case of each of us striving to be good role models in and out of our country in whatever sphere of human endeavor Divine Providence has placed us.  We pray for the emergence of “holy politicians and saintly heads of state who profoundly love their own people and wish to serve rather than be served” (Ecclesia in Africa, n. 111).

 

Peaceful, free and fair elections

 

19.       The whole world is watching to see how we will conduct the elections this year.  The 2007 elections provide Nigeria and Nigerians a momentous occasion to resolve to return to the path of honour in the conduct of elections.  These elections will either increase or diminish the respect that the international community has for Nigeria.  To our politicians, we ask: what does it profit a politician if he steals the mandate to rule and looses the trust of the people?  We cannot afford to fail, and there must be no rigging. 

Nigerians deserve and demand free and fair elections from the ruling and opposition parties, from INEC, and from the security agencies.  In the build-up to these elections, mistakes have been made already.  But a number of things can still be corrected in the days that remain before the elections.  We therefore make a passionate appeal that all political parties, INEC, security agents and the judiciary ensure that there be a level playing ground for all.  We appeal to all politicians to exhibit a more positive attitude to the concept and practice of politics.  Power must be handled with great care and must not be misused by those in authority. We therefore call on the ruling party not to use the power of incumbency to subvert the wishes of the people.  Free and fair elections are in the interest of the common good.  Such elections are not do or die affairs.  In fact, when elections are free and fair there are no losers.  All are winners.

 

20.              As they campaign for public office, we urge our politicians to refrain from intemperate and uncivil language and address issues that affect the lives of Nigerians.  Nigerians want to know how our politicians will address issues of poverty, unemployment, energy, education, insecurity, religious disharmony, marginalization of women etc.  Instead of a campaign marked by character assassination, we need a campaign that discusses how economic reforms can lead to economic independence and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

On their own part, Nigerians should vote according to their consciences in the coming elections.  This is a necessary condition for the enthronement of a credible leadership at various levels of governance.

 

Just war on corruption

 

21.       There cannot be good governance where there is corruption.  All of us must join hands in erasing the stigma of corruption on this country.  There is justice in a war on corruption.  Yet, a just war must be fought justly.  That is why we call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be comprehensive, just and fair in its treatment of cases of corruption.  The manner of releasing information by the EFCC may amount to trying people in the media where the burden of proof is lighter than in a well-constituted court.  We urge that utmost respect be accorded the principle that no one is guilty until proven in a well-constituted court.  All semblance of lynching should be avoided.

Any government that professes to fight corruption sets for itself the high ideal of fighting injustice.  Any government that professes to fight injustice must itself be just.  Prompt obedience to court orders is a requirement of justice.  When the courts of the land are disrespected, peace and stability can no longer be guaranteed.  We appeal to government and its agents to respect the judiciary, while we urge the judiciary to dispense justice promptly and without fear or favour.  

 

 

Peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta Crisis

 

22.       The Niger Delta issue is a question of justice and good governance that concerns all. The degradation caused by oil exploration threatens the livelihood of present and future generations in the Niger Delta.  At the same time, violence is scaring away companies that provide means of livelihood for many.  We urge relevant agencies of government to call political office holders in the region to account for the way resources accruing to the region have been used.  Where there are proven cases of misappropriation, appropriate laws should be applied.  We appeal to our youths in the Niger Delta to eschew violence.  Violence will not provide any lasting solution to the problem of the Niger Delta.  For violence is a journey to a land of no return.

 

 

V. Conclusion

 

23.       We call on the Justice Development and Peace Commissions at diocesan and provincial levels, all Catholics, and indeed all civil society organizations to be protagonists in the quest for free, fair and peaceful elections.  We call the attention of the clergy, consecrated persons and our lay faithful to the theme of the Lenten campaign for the year 2007: “Justice: An Imperative for Democracy.”  We declare that the  Fifth Week of Lent be set aside to fast and pray for peaceful, free and fair elections.         

 

24.       That our hope may not be in vain, and that this generation of leaders and the led not weep on its death bed, we as Bishops appeal that we all work together to lay a foundation for a future when generations yet unborn will bless and not curse our memories. 

 

25.       Our hope will not be in vain because, with the psalmist, we too say: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  Our Christian faith strengthens our hope that we can build a better country by the power of the Almighty who has blessed us with such a wonderful land of wonderful people.  We commend our country and its people into his hands through the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job                                                     Most Lucius Ugorji

Archbishop of Ibadan                                                              Bishop of Umuahia

President                                                                                  Secretary

 

 

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CBCN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR UNDERSTANDING OF VALUE OF LIFE

 

The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Archbishop of Ibadan Archdiocese, Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job has called on Nigerian politicians to have deeper understanding of human dignity and value of life as well as as disown corruption and avoid money politics.

 

Archbishop Alaba Job made the cal in his opening address to the First plenary Meeting of the Conference held in Abuja from February 27 to March 3, 2007; at the Divine Love Retreat and Recreation Centre (DRRAC), Lugbe, Abuja.

 

Reviewing the political situation of the country, the CBCN President regretted that the politicians have been making moves that are detrimental to the democratic progress of the country. Prominent among these were the failed  third term agenda which attempted to elongate  President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure; attempted review of the 1999 constitution, gale of impeachment over trivial issues, use of official immunity for crime, power intoxication and flouting of rule of law.

 

He noted that this situation made the bishops to choose the topic Governance, Democracy and Christian Responsibility as the theme for the CBCN’ Plenary meeting adding that: “We are leaving no stone unturned to bring justice and fair play to the life of our nation.” The Archbishop urged the politicians to emulate the Catholic bishops in their election process which was peaceful, smooth and unrigged as the CBCN elected new officers to run the affairs of the conference for the next four years. 

 

The CBCN president also called on the country’s legislators to avoid “the temptation of filthy lucre, be true authentic Nigerians and legislate against and prohibit same sex marriage in Nigeria.

 

Archbishop Job called on all Nigerians, particularly the people of Niger Delta to eschew violence in the process of demanding for their legitimate rights. He commiserated with the Catholic laity on the death of their National president, Chief   John Iredia and congratulated the Church, North of Rivers Niger and Benue for attaining the mature age of a century.

 

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PAPAL NUNCIO CALLS FOR POSITIVE THINKING ABOUT NIGERIA

 

The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini has called for change of heart in respect of thinking about and happenings in Nigeria. “We should be more positive and not always criticizing what is wrong here. It’s better to stress some good steps in the right direction in the last few years, to have an attitude of hope and encouragement underlining the gradual improvement of the situation in certain areas”.

 

Archbishop Fratini made the call in his goodwill message to the First Plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for the year 2007 held at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRRAC), Lugbe, Abuja, from February 28 to March 3, 2007.

 

According to him, pessimism is not in the interest of the country as there have been some progress made in some areas of the country development as a nation. He remarked: “ Certainly, there are problems in Nigeria, social, and political problems ... like corruption, insecurity, democratic fragility, poverty and unemployment”. However, “sometimes, I feel that if we are not careful, we could become cynical and too pessimistic in Nigeria with reference to good governance, democracy and Christian responsibility”.

 

The papal Nuncio pointed out that the majority of people are trying their best, showing signs of patience, signs of honesty and respect for the basic values of life with the hope of a better future. He continued: “This society in spite of the endemic corruption, is still open to religious values. Family life is highly appreciated. The people are patient and are able to cope with serenity and even with joy, in spite of the trouble and the struggle of their difficult daily life.”

 

Archbishop Fratini remarked that there is progress in the macro-economy, which should affect also the common people; strong commitment to international affairs and interest for peaceful resolution of conflict and a new democratic stability that needs to be reinforced with social reforms, more attention to education , to social justice and basic needs of the people.

 

While wishing the bishops a successful deliberation the Papal Nuncio concluded: “Let’s look at the world around us in a spiritual perspective and let’s give some positive indications with trust in the aspirations of the human being for goodness and happiness, which can be achieved always trusting in the Lord”.

 

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NIGERIA OWES MUCH TO CBCN – Obasanjo

 

The President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has declared that the Nigerian nation owes much to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) for its consistent and insistent advocacy for peace and good governance.

 

President Obasanjo gave the commendation in his address to the 2007 First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria held from February 28, t0 March 3, 2007; at the Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja.

 

According to the president, the government strongly believes in the wisdom of religious authorities while himself and other people in authority are willing to profit from the historic resources of the Church in the efforts to make Nigeria a great nation.

 

While commending the bishops for the choice of the topic Good Governance, Democracy and Christian Responsibility as the theme of their conference, President Obasanjo expressed the hope that this will help deepen the Christian values that will guide politicians and temporal leaders on the part of peace and prosperity.

 

The president contended that “we know that the victory of Christ on the cross symbolizes for us the inevitability of the triumph of good over evil both in our public and private worlds adding that the voice of the bishops had been heard loud and clear in defense of the rights of the poor against the “culture of dearth” whether in the form of unbridled corruption of public officials, hostage taking in Niger Delta or religious or sectarian violence.

 

Chief Obasanjo commended the bishops for their constructive comments in times of crisis but advocated for more patience in obtaining the side of government in such situations. Urging the Church to remain a strong ally of government and partner in the quest to build a new Nigeria, the president implore all to preach “those cardinal virtues which Christ and the Apostles modeled for us”.

 

While wishing the bishops a successful deliberation, President Obasanjo expressed the joy in the fact that “the Catholic Church shared passionately in our vision of redeeming the image of Nigeria and making her a dignified place to live”.

 

President Obasanjos’ message was delivered by National Secretry of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Ojo Maduekwe

 

 

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ARCHBISHOP ONAIYEKAN ON IMPORTANCE OF ELECTIONS

 

The Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan has described election as a very important exercise which gives the people the opportunity to assess the programmes and policies of government and not only to elect their rulers.

 

Archbishop Onaiyekan made this declaration while delivering his homily at the votive Mass to mark the opening of this year’s first Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, held at the \Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja on February 26, 2007.

 

He declared: “Elections are not only for the choice of rulers. It is also an opportunity for the people to assess programmes and policies of government. Again here, the people must be allowed to decide, whether to continue the programmes of government, or to change direction. Even the best intentioned reforms, especially if they are far reaching and drastic, must be subjected to the sovereign decision of the people.

 

The Archbishop continued: “But the people will be able to choose only if and when there are viable and real alternatives of candidates and political manifestoes. The rights of the people in this regard is subverted if a dominant party crushes all opposition and pushes for total political control by all means, fair or foul, and mostly foul.” He admonished those who think they are doing very well, and cannot see anyone better than  themselves to leave the people to judge.

 

Archbishop Onaiyekan expressed fear on the forthcoming general elections pointing out that “ the records of the immediate past are anything but "encouraging". He continued: “Having tolerated in many places elections marred by massive rigging and violence, we have been reaping the sour and bitter fruits of the political crisis that has characterized governance and government since those last elections”

 

The metropolitan of Abuja See averred that the nation is living through turbulent and confused times stressing that “we need the light of the Holy Spirit to see our way through the darkness and confusion, to make a correct analysis of the situation around us, to see the truth and have the courage to proclaim it”.

 

While calling on Catholics and Christians of proven integrity to go into politics to correct the anomalies in the polity and save the nation, Archbishop Onaiyekan urged the people to storm heaven with prayer because, “as Christians, we must be imbued with the Spirit of hope in the goodness of our Lord and God. He has continued to pull our country through one crisis after another. With His divine help, we can still fashion for ourselves a history of peace and progress.”

 

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CARDINAL DIAS ENDS 13 DAYS VISIT TO NIGERIA

 

The Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, Ivan Cardinal Dias, has ended a 13- day visit to Nigeria, (8-20 Feb. 2007).

During the period, the prefect presided over several major events in both the Northern and the Eastern Regions of the country. These include, the Centenary Celebration of the advent of the catholic faith in  Northern Nigeria (North of the Rivers Niger and Benue), Sat Feb 10,  the Silver Jubilee celebration of the first visit of the Late Pope John Paul II to Onitsha, ( Feb 17),  and the dedication of SS John and Paul church,  Iba Pope, built on the site where the Servant of God,  late John Paul II had celebrated the holy mass 25 years ago in Onitsha (Feb 18).

 

The Cardinal also visited four major seminaries in the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province - Tansi, Bigard Awka, Bigard Enugu (Feb. 16) and the St. Bernard Seminary Hostel in Nichatancha Nike, Enugu  (Feb. 19),  the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries at Umuoji and Nsugbe respectively. One of the major events at Awka was the reception of His Eminence at St. Patrick’s cathedral by the bishop and faithful of Awka diocese and the laying of the foundation stone of the Divine Mercy Chapel of Bigard Seminary Awka Campus.

 

In addition, the Cardinal Prefect blessed and laid the foundation stone of a four number hostel, the Holy family youth village, a missionary outreach of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, meant for undergraduate students of Nnamdi Azikiwe Federal University, Awka. According to the Archbishop, It is an effort to impact on the character of the youth by providing them with conducive and enabling environment for studies and good conduct. The students have no such facilities even when the university has an enrollment of thirty thousand students.

 

In Enugu, the prefect was most delighted to visit the 88-year-old bishop emeritus of Enugu, Most Rev Michael Eneja. This was followed by a concelebrated holy mass at the Holy Ghost cathedral, before his departure (Monday Feb 19 2007).

 

SHENDAM

In his homily during the mass which marked the climax of the centenary celebration at the Sacred Heart Church arena Shendam,   Cardinal Dias who is also the Grand Chancellor of the Urban University Rome, paid great tributes to the first S.M.A fathers through whose daunting missionary efforts the catholic faith came into the North. ‘Like Abraham these first missionaries had faith in the Lord’s call, as they set out in an open canoe from Lokoja; “We are going into the unknown under God’s holy keeping’, wrote Fr Mouren.

 

According to him, “Faith springs from adversity and hardships borne for love of Christ: in a word, from the cross. The Church is a sign of the Kingdom of heaven, where there are no barriers, no special enclosures for ethnic, clan political, or other such groups.”

 

Furthermore, the Prefect noted that, “Shendam, and what took place here 100 years ago, must not be forgotten. I am aware of your wish that it may become the seat of another jurisdiction, to be carved out of the Archdiocese of Jos.  I know that it is also the wish of your Archbishop, Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, who has received us so well today. These things need time but I hope that his wish, which is also your wish, will soon be realized”.

 

Cardinal Dias finally prayed that the “centenary celebration, in which we recall with gratitude to God our ‘fathers in the faith’, be an incentive for greater efforts on our part, not only here in Shendam but throughout the whole region north of the great rivers, to the very borders of Cameroun, Niger Republic and Benin Republic”.

 

Present at the Mass were, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the papal nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Felix Alaba Job, Archbishops John Onaiyekan (Abuja), Anthony Obinna (Owerri), Valerian Okeke (Onitsha), 28 bishops, hundreds of priests and religious, the Executive Governors of Plateau and Benue states, representatives of the president and vice president of  Nigeria, the Moslem community and thousands of worshippers never imagined in the history of Shendam. Also present was His Royal Highness, Miskoom Hubert Shaldas II, the Long Gamai, whose grand parents received the first SMA missionaries, Oswald, Belin and Mouren into Shendam on Feb 12, 1907.

 

Speaking on the occasion, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev Felix Alaba Job, expressed joy at the numerous benefits the Catholic Church has brought to the North, including Education and challenged them to bring justice to the country. He thanked the SMA fathers for their fruitful mission in the North. He further thanked Propaganda Fide for granting economic, social and personnel support to all the dioceses in Nigeria,

 

The metropolitan of Jos Ecclesiastical Province, Archbishop Ignatius A

Kaigama, had earlier welcomed the cardinal and all other guests. While thanking the SMA fathers for their great missionary efforts the fruits of which were being celebrated, he urged “all to put the whole armour of God that is the belt of faith and grasp the sword of the word of God for the spiritual battle ahead”, bearing in mind that “the work of the evangelization of Nigeria is enormous.”

 

Archbishop Kaigama used the occasion to present papal awards to 20 awardees, which included two monsignori- Ben Obidiegwu and Cletus Gotan who are the two vicars general of the Archdiocese and to announce the beginning of the cause for the beatification/canonization of his immediate predecessor,  Archbishop Gabriel G. Ganaka, the first indigenous bishop and Archbishop of Jos (1975-1999).

 

 

 

ONITSHA

 

Ivan Cardinal Dias and his entourage were welcomed at the Enugu airport by an exceedingly jubilant crowd comprising of the bishops of the Onitsha province and the faithful led by the Archbishop, Most Rev Valerian Maduka Okeke.

 

Speaking later at a colourful reception organized by the Onitsha Archdiocese in honour of the cardinal, Archbishop Okeke described Cardinal Dias as a humble prelate with great solicitude for the people of God. According to him, the 70-year-old cardinal was the first prefect of the congregation of the Evangelization of the Peoples to have ever visited them while still in office. He thanked him for accepting the invitation to come to the diocese for the silver jubilee celebration of the first visit of the Servant of God, late Pope John Paul II, barely few months after assuming office as the prefect of the congregation.

 

In his address, Archbishop Job thanked the clergy and laity of Onitsha Archdiocese for the love lavished on the cardinal to the extent of making him a chief - Ugochukwu. He prayed that the cardinal’s visit would bring peace as we approach the April elections. Referring to the instability in the state’s leadership, he called on the people of Anambra to work tirelessly for peace, noting that if Anambra state does not have peace, then Nigeria cannot have peace. He further challenged all to be bearers of peace, justice and forerunners of good things yet to come. Concluding, He prayed that God’s goodwill might follow the people and enable them carry out the election in peace, truth, and fair play.

 

1  Silver Jubilee Celebration

 

Onitsha Archdiocese demonstrated its high sense of organization in the colourful decoration and preparation of the Holy Trinity centenary field, which was the venue for the silver jubilee mass. The number of worshippers was extremely intimidating as people constantly surged into the arena until the end of the celebration.

 

In his homily at the mass concelebrated by 20 bishops and more than 300 priests from the old Onitsha ecclesiastical province, the cardinal who was getting his first tastes of Igbo culture and hospitality greeted the people with Otito dili Jesu. He expressed great joy at being present at the commemoration of 25 years of the pope’s first visit to Onitsha recalling that the Holy Father, John Paul 11 was in Onitsha in 1982 and again in 1998 for the beatification of the Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi.

 

The cardinal eulogized the late Pontiff describing him as the most widely traveled pontiff in history who covered a distance more than the miles from earth to the moon and back. He described Pope John Paul II as a man of undaunted courage who suffered much under communism in his homeland, Poland even before becoming a priest. He also recalled the attempt at his life by Agca. He was a man of broad view, embracing everyone –Hindus, Moslem, Traditional religionists, princes and the poor alike, he added. The late pope, he went on, was a spirit-filled leader who traveled world-wide to implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council and promote a new way of living the faith; he was a man of God, a man of prayer who, like Christ his master, went about doing good.

 

Cardinal Dias pointed out that the Holy Father would not have been here had the early Holy Ghost missionaries not courageously ventured into Onitsha in 1885. The seed, which they planted, not in comfort, but in suffering and even persecution has blossomed into 18 dioceses and 3 ecclesiastical provinces.

 

He further recalled that the first missionary Fr. Lotz came to Onitsha with assistance from the people of Gabon. “Thus you got the church by their help,” he said. However, today there are priests from Nigeria working in Gabon.

 

He observed that the church in the region has passed through some difficult movements especially the expulsion of the Holy Ghost missionaries after the civil war. “No Easter Sunday without Good Friday” he said. Finally, he enjoined all to emulate the late John Paul II by being devotees of the Rosary and of the Holy Eucharist.

 

In an address jointly signed by the metropolitans of the  three ecclesiastical provinces of the old Onitsha  province (Onitsha, Owerri and Calabar), and read by Bishop Joseph Ekuwem of Uyo, the people of God of the region, recalled with gratitude the missionary efforts of the early missionaries and called for “renewed commitment to evangelization with an approach and method that will be appealing and relevant to the 21st century Christians.”

 

The address said, “After a hundred and twenty years of the planting of the faith in our land… the evident boom in priestly and religious vocations we have today can be said to be an encouraging realization of the desire of the Lord himself that God the master of the vineyard send abundant laborers into his harvest.”

 

“We have presently six provincial Major seminaries for formation of the candidates for diocesan priesthood as well as three Major seminaries for formation of religious priests, with such abundance of vocations and a buoyant and active laity, we can say that God has not allowed the effort of the missionaries in our land to be in Vain.”

 

Furthermore, the address thanked the congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples for the enormous contributions the organ “made and continues to make towards the sustenance of the church in the region.”

 

Also highlighted were the challenges that face the church in the area. These include,

- The need for deeper and intense catechesis of the faithful to counter the dangerous incursion of neo- paganism and vulnerability to the bait of new religious movements.

- Developing a meaningful inculturation strategy that would help make the message of the gospel less foreign to the people.

 

  2  Dedication of SS John and Paul Church (Iba Pope)

 

Amidst great jubilation from a huge crowd, Ivan Cardinal Dias presided at the Mass of the dedication of SS John and Paul Church built as memento of the first visit of His Holiness, Pope John Paul 11, to Awada, Onitsha in 1982. The procession into the church was slow and turbulent because of the surging crowd as everyone tried to touch His Eminence the Cardinal. Also present at the mass concelebrated by six bishops and about 60 priests were the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Dr Peter Obi, and Chief Jerome Udorji.

 

With repeated greetings of otito dili Jesu! and Iba! to which the faithful replied Na ndu ebebe! and Pope! respectively, the Prefect began his homily amidst very loud ovation. He recalled how Awada that was a fallow land when the Holy Father visited 25 years ago has today turned into a holy and tickly populated ground. He further observed that through the dedicated efforts of many we have the church to be dedicated to Saints John and Paul who were two great apostles.

 

“Pope John Paul 11 took his name from Pope John XXIII who planned the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI who implemented the council,” he said. This Church, he went on, is going to be a memorial not only of the past pope’s visit but also of what the saints, John and Paul stand for. While St John’s identity gives the example of one who listened to God in the silence of his heart, St Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, whose daunted missionary life brought the gospel to many nations. They are examples of the contemplative and the active lives respectively.

 

The Cardinal recalled his visits to the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in Onitsha, dedicated to internal silence and life, and to the St Paul’s Missionary Seminary in Gwagwalada Abuja, and prayed that these two dimensions of life be the model of every Christian in commemoration of the silver jubilee of the Holy Father’s visit to Onitsha.

 

He warned that the winds of secularization and globalization are strong hoping that the roots of the faith in Nigeria are deep enough to withstand these waves.

 

Finally, he greeted the congregation repeatedly in Igbo amidst great approbation and elation.

 

 

   3   Enugu Diocese

 

In the mass in Enugu, which was the last port of call of His Eminence before his departure to Rome, he expressed joy at having the special greetings of the pope the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Most Rev Michael Eneja who shepherded the diocese for 18 years. “In the church one sows and another reaps,” he said, making allusion to the pastoral initiatives of bishop John Cross Aniogwu who was both the first Igbo priest and the first bishop of Enugu. He also paid tributes to his successor bishop Paul Okoye, the founder of the congregation of the Daughters of Divine Love.

 

The Cardinal further expressed joy at the increase in the vocation to the priesthood as is evidenced in the number of students in Bigard, the largest Major seminary in the world, and hoped they could become more and more missionary. He thanked the bishop of Enugu, Most Rev Anthony Gbuji for establishing the School of Evangelization in Iselle Uku and Enugu. “Nigeria can be a great missionary country,” he added.

 

In their address, the Bishops and people of Awgu and Enugu dioceses expressed sincere appreciation of the Cardinals historic visit, coming exactly nine years after the last visit in 1998 of the Servant of God, His Holiness, Pope John Paul 11 on the beatification of Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi.

 

Furthermore, they thanked the Hoy Father for the erection of the diocese of Awgu noting that the two dioceses enjoy vigour and vitality, enthusiasm, natural religiosity, and a sense of the transcendence of God and the Church as family.

 

Concluding, they appealed to the Holy Father to grant the request for the creation of a new diocese of Udi, out of the present Enugu diocese and to appoint for them a worthy leader from among their own people, qualified and imbued with the spirit and according to the mind of Christ.

 

The concelebrants at the Mass were the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, Archbishop Valerian Okeke, Bishops Hilary Okeke, Anthony Gbuji, John Okoye, Martin Uzoukwu who was on the Cardinal’s entourage from Abuja, and about 120 priests.

 

Earlier during his stay in Abuja, Cardinal Dias had visited the St Paul’s Missionary Seminary in Gwagwalada, Abuja, and paid a courtesy call on the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

 

FR Ralph Madu

Director, Social Communications

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria

 

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CSN NEWS

 

EKPENYONG ADVOCATES NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWSPAPER

The Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Fr. Michael Ekpenyong has called for the establishment of a National Catholic Newspaper to enhance communication evangelisation in the country pointing out that evangelisation does not contradict democracy.

 

Fr. Ekpenyong made the call in his address at the official opening ceremony of the workshop organised by the CSN Directorate of Social Communications and the Justice, Development, Peace/Caritas unit of the Church and Society Department of the CSN, for diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic Media Practitioners held at DRACC, Lugbe, Abuja, from Monday, March 26 to Wednesday, March 28, 2007. The theme of the workshop was Communication Evangelisation as Pivot of Sustainable Democracy.

 

The Secretary General contended:“The Social Communication department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria must coordinate the production and dissemination of Church programmes through national media, PRINT MEDIA. Dioceses and provinces should endevour to maintain their local newspapers and there is the need to establish a National Catholic Newspaper. Basic principles of mass communication and the effective use of the media should be incorporated into the seminary and other houses of formation curriculum of studies”.

 

While regretting that Catholics have not used the media effectively, Fr. Ekpenyong stressed the need to evangelize modern communication technology. (See text on page4)

 

Addressing the participants, the Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini reiterated his call for Nigerians to be more positive about Nigeria despite the present political, economic and social problems, particularly the issue of corruption. He advocated the need to eschew pessimism. He commended the communication work of the Church in the country and expressed the gratitude of the Church for the diocesan Communication Directors and Catholic Media Practitioners for their untiring efforts in the evangelisation work of the Church. The representative of Altai Jabirus Ahmed, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Abuja, Mr. O Anderson described communication as the life wire of any social existence and urged all media practitioners and Nigerians in general to cooperate with INEC to ensure that the coming elections are successful adding that the body has put in place all necessary infrastructures to ensure the success of the elections.

 

Welcoming the participants, the CSN Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu stressed the need for diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic Media practitioners to cooperate and collaborate to ensure the success of communication evangelisation work of the Church in the country assuring that the Catholic Secretariat will continue to do all within its power to facilitate things. The Chairman of the Association of Diocesan Directors of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku remarked that the media has a major role to play in ensuring a free and fair election in the country.

 

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SOCIAL

COMMUNICATIONS

 

WORKSHOP FOR DIRECTORS OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS

 

The Directorate of Social Communications and the Justice, Development, Peace/Caritas unit of the Church and Society Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) organised a 2-day workshop for Diocesan Directors of Social Communications and Catholic Media Practitioners at the Divine Love Recreation And Conference Centre (DRACC), Lugbe, Abuja, between March 26 and 28, 2007.

 

The workshop was part of the sensitization programme of the JDPC to prepare the  various stakeholders for the April General elections.The theme of the workshop was Communication Evangelisation as Pivot of Sustainable Democracy. About thirty participants from all the provinces attended the workshop.

 

The ceremony started with a High Mass said by the Bishop of Minna Diocese, Most Rev. Martin Uzoukwu. In his homily, Bishop Uzoukwu stressed the importance of communication to the evangelisation work of the Church and urged the participants to make the best use of the opportunities offered by the workshop to enhance their work. While wishing them a successful deliberation, he prayed that Mother Mary will guide them in all their actions and activities to enhance the evangelisation work of the Church.

 

The opening ceremony of the workshop was addressed by the Nuncio, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, The Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Rev. Fr. Michael Ekpenyong, the representative of the Resident Electoral Commissioner fir INEC in Abuja, Alhaji Kabiru Ahmed, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Director of Social Communications, CSN and Rev. Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, the Chairman of the Association of Diocesan Directors of Social Communications.

 

At the end of the workshop the following communiqué  signed by Rev Fr Ralph Madu, Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr Patrick Tor  Alumuku and Rev. Fr. Louis Fowoyo, Chairman and Secretary of the association, respectively was issued.

 

Preamble: We, members of the Association of Diocesan Directors of Social Communications  and Catholic Media Professionals had a two-day workshop at Daughters of Divine Love Retreat and Conference Centre (DRACC), Sabon-Lugbe Abuja from 26-28 March, 2007. After successfully deliberating on the theme: Communication Evangelization As Pivot Of Sustainable Democracy, we issue the following communiqué.

 

Communication in Evangelisation:  The Church in Nigeria has been using the means of Social Communication for Evangelization. Also, in recent times, she has organized workshops, seminars, and lectures at different levels and different groups of people in preparation for the forth-coming general elections. These are signs of hope and active participation by the Church in national development.

 

Investing in Social Communication: To effectively carry out her responsibility as an agent of evangelization, the Nigerian Church as part of the Universal Church is encouraged to invest in the means of social communications, especially electronic, visual, and audio media.

 

Election Monitoring: While we commend the efforts of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to assuage the anxiety of people as regards conducting free and fair elections in April 2007, we wish to however, call on the media to help in the effective monitoring of the electoral process and provide balanced cum objective reporting of the election results. We also appeal to the security agents working with INEC to be more diligent in making sure that the proper conducts of elections are maintained.

 

Networking Among Dioceses: It is encouraging to note that more dioceses are looking on to the World Wide Web (WWW). We recommend that all dioceses in Nigeria should consider the need for a web site. Such, we feel will enhance effective networking for evangelization among dioceses.

 

Conclusion: We continue to pay for a sustainable democracy in our country Nigeria, especially as we venture into a new democratic dispensation.

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TEXT OF THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA (CBCN), MOST REV DR FELIX ALABA JOB ON THE FINDINGS OF THE JDPC AT THE COMPLETION OF THE 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS HELD ON SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2007 (GUBERNATORIAL AND STATES ASSEMBLY) AND APRIL 21 (PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY) HELD AT THE CONFERENCE HALL OF THE CATHOLIC SECRETARIAT OF NIGERIA (CSN) LAGOS ON TUESDAY APRIL 24, 2007 AT 2 PM.

 

The Challenges of our democracy

 

1.    INTRODUCTION

At the meeting of the CBCN in 2005, we the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria gave the mandate to the JDPC of the Catholic Church of Nigeria to observe the 2007 elections. The JDPC at their meeting in Abakiliki (2005) took up the challenge as they had done in 1999 and 2003, and mobilized about 30, 000 men and women as observers.

 

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, we welcome you to this World Press Conference. The elections have now been partially completed since INEC is still conducting elections in some parts of the country.  The desire of every Nigerian had been to promote a successful transition from one civilian administration to another as a means of ensuring sustainable democracy in our polity. This press conference is a follow-up on the one of last Monday, in which I presented a summary of the preliminary reports of the 30, 000 accredited observers who were trained and deployed by JDPC to observe the elections.

 

 At the last press conference we commended the performance of the electorate who, in spite of the many lapses of INEC, intimidation by some politicians and their agents as well as harassment by some security agents, comported themselves becomingly and performed their civic duties. In the same respect, those, who for one reason or the other could not cast their votes returned to their homes peacefully at the end of the exercise.

 

We also remarked that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the elections on schedule as far as dates are concerned. This however never connoted that we gave the INEC Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu and his team a pat on the back “for a job well done.” We noted that the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections were generally fraught with discrepancies and irregularities which disenfranchised many legitimate voters in many parts of the country. Some of these lapses were outlined in our statement and we called on INEC to go back to the drawing board and block the loopholes before the crucial presidential and National Assembly elections. It is very unfortunate that neither INEC, nor the government heeded our call to provide better logistics, tighter security for the ballot boxes and the electorate.  We never seem to learn from the past.

 

2.    ISSUES ARISING FROM THE ELECTIONS

As we promised last Monday, April 16, 2007; today, we present the comprehensive report of the findings of the JDPC on the field in respect of all the elections - Governorship, States Houses of Assembly, Presidential and National Assembly elections. This is also an occasion to articulate the stand of the Catholic Church on the outcome of the elections so far.

 

The reports from our observers indicate that we have again failed in conducting free, fair and credible elections. The reports from across the country show that the mandate of the people was abused, traumatized and brutalized.

 

The most significant challenge to our nascent democracy involves the development of effective strategies for strengthening the institutions of the state in such a manner that they will be able to withstand the shocks of the democratic process. This challenge is particularly important for such institution as INEC.

 

In effect, the evidence from the just concluded general elections in the country demonstrates that INEC was visibly deficient in logistics and preparations for the elections. This is confirmed by the evidence of ineffective mastery of the process and technology which are constitutive ingredients of the electoral process, which we shall show from our observations.

 

On their own part, politicians have, in general, not shown respect for the peace and stability of the country to the extent that the inviolability of the country was endangered.

 

It should be admitted that we can no longer persist in the deceit of styling our country a democracy whereas only a handful of the political elite decide the outcome of electoral processes, which in themselves constitute the pillar of the practice of democracy. It is important that Nigerians must reconsider if it is still reasonable to continue to maintain the fiction that our public life is ordered according to republican values whereas it is only a tiny cabal that in reality, parcel the nation’s resources among themselves.

 

It is obviously evident that Nigerians should no longer afford to tolerate this level of vulgar disenfranchisement which is a blatant rape on their will.

 

3.    ELECTION RESULTS

The large protests, arson, violence and wanton destruction of lives and property which followed the announcements of the results of the gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections of Saturday, April 14, 2007, clearly showed that the results did not reflect the voting and wishes of the people. There were indications of blatant rigging and falsification of election results with the connivance of some INEC officials, security agents and political thugs. This was particularly done in the states where the ruling party claimed questionable victories over other parties.

Therefore the people had to protest, unfortunately with violence, to force the reversal of their stolen mandate.

 

4. FLAWS/FAILURES

In the overall conduct of this year’s election, the following problems were observed.  These include (a) ineffective movement of election materials which gave room for massive rigging practically everywhere, (b) voter frustration which came because after the voting exercise, the people discovered that their votes did not count which meant that the candidates had already bee chosen. (c) The result sheets were simply passed round to the politicians who filled in whatever numbers they chose. (d) The returning officers were heavily bribed and so were many political agents. (e) The voters were not given the freedom required for open secret balloting. (f) There was rampant violence at election venues which had intimidating effect on the electorate

 

5.    THE SECURITY AGENTS

Our observations show that the security agents, especially the Police also facilitated electoral irregularities during the elections.  In many polling booths, the police was partisan and lost its traditional role of being the friend of the people. As was reported by our men and women on the field, most of the polling boots were manned by only one police man or woman. Thus in most cases, the people had to provide security for themselves. But where this could not be possible, thugs hired by politicians invaded the polling boots and/or injuring innocent people who wanted to defend their votes and snatching their ballot boxes. One wonders what the many arms and ammunitions, vehicles and other security equipment acquired by the Federal and some State Governments for the police were meant for.

 

6.    OUR POLITICAL LEADERS 

Once again, some of the country’s political leaders in their desperation to win at all costs adopted unethical, undemocratic, and in some cases crude methods to win the elections. This showed that they have not learnt anything from the mistakes of the past. Their actions showed that their personal interests and greed override their commitment to service. The urge to win at all cost was a clear indication that most of them have hidden agenda.  The outcome of these elections has thrown more light on why some leaders saw the elections as a do-or-die affair. It is unfortunate that only the innocent people have lost their lives while these leaders are still plying their trade of clinging to power at all cost.

 

7.    POWER OF INCUMBENCY

In any civilized society, the power of incumbency plays a vital role in a transition exercise. Apart from the paraphernalia of office and control of administration, the government in power can influence the people through the implementation of people-oriented programmes that provide good and conducive living atmosphere, e.g. qualitative education, good health services and provision of necessary infrastructures. A government that provides these gets an endorsement for continuity from the electorate. But where the incumbent fails to live up to the expectations of the people in this respect, the election provides an opportunity for the people to try another alternative.

 

 The negative use of the power of incumbency to obtain victory at all cost is definitely undemocratic and a clog in the development of a country. We the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria warn that a “democratic regime” with a weak opposition does not create a necessary environment for critical look into good governance.

 

8.    NEED FOR A CREDIBLE OPPOSITION

It is an irony that since the demise of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, late Ahmadu Bello and late Tafawa Balewa, most of their disciples have abandoned the noble cause these elder statesmen stood for. They have joined the ruling party to share in the national cake. It has been a case of if you cannot beat them, join them. This is a very unfortunate situation. The ruling party has taken advantage of no opposition to perpetrate their devious actions in the last elections. The last minute attempt by opposition parties to form a granite alliance was indeed a late hour misconception, hence, it crashed along the way. The opposition and indeed the new government to be must realize that the winner takes-all syndrome does not augur well for democratic governance. It is our sincere hope that the opposition would have learnt their lessons, go back to the drawing board, realign forces and engage the government in a matured, constructive, and positive manner.

 

9.    THE JUDICIARY

We want to use this opportunity to thank the Judiciary for living above board in this crucial time of our political history.

 

We sincerely hope that the judiciary remains steadfast in this position and that the Election Tribunals will uphold the tenets of justice and fairness and adjudicate expeditiously on election petitions that are being brought before them. We urge such tribunals to give justice speedily, for justice delayed will be justice denied.

 

10.    THE PRESS

We should commend the Nigerian press for its sustained commitment to the cause of democracy, rule of law and due process in our country. There is no doubt that the Nigerian press has come of age even in the face of some daring challenges. We therefore encourage the press to continue to promote national ideals through impartial, critical and investigative journalism.

 

11.     THE WAY FORWARD

a.      Nigerians must in a constitutional and dignified manner come together to resist any form of dictatorship, domination and subversion of their rights. We must defend our political rights as a people.

b.     The Church will continue its campaign for the development of the culture of democracy and good governance in this country to ensure transparency and accountability.

c.     We will continue to mobilize, sensitize and educate the people on the need for peaceful, credible, free and fair democratic processes.

d.     We strongly appeal that all the Resident Electoral Commissioners and other personnel of INEC, Government, political parties or the security agents who were found to have facilitated electoral malpractices and other irregularities should be brought to book.

e.      All the people apprehended and found to be with dangerous weapons during the conduct of the elections should be tried in the court of law and be sanctioned no matter how highly placed they may be.

f.       The country has witnessed free flow and possession of arms and other dangerous weapons over the past months. Efforts must be made to disarm all those in possession of firearms who threaten and terrorize innocent citizens with these weapons.

g.     The mass education of the people on social and democratic issues should commence immediately after these elections, while the issue of logistics especially the transportation of election materials before and after voting should be given critical consideration.

h.     In the future we recommend the staggering of the elections to give INEC the opportunity for better logistics.

 

12.    CONCLUSION

I should conclude by indicating that the 2007 general elections have confirmed that Nigerians are faced with serious challenges in the process of practicing real democracy. These challenges include:

a.      The building of the capacity of the institutions of state in such a manner that no individual or groups can assail them in their quest for power.

b.     There is need to strengthen and amend our electoral laws and the 1999 constitution in the light of our 2007 elections.

c.     We continue to say that there is need to promote and sustain an enduring morality in our country that will form the basis for social, economic and political encounters both in the public and in the private spheres of life.

 

Gentlemen of the press, I thank you for coming and may God bless all your efforts and all well meaning Nigerians.

 

Thank you and God bless our country Nigeria.

  

Most Rev. Dr. Felix Alaba Job                                          Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Edra Ukpo

President, CBCN                                                                Chairman, Bishops’ Committee:

                                                                                            Church and Society, CBCN

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PRESS RELEASE

 

WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY 2007

 

Sunday May 20, 2007, is the 42nd World Communications Day, a day when we pray for all who work in the media that they will uphold truth and human dignity in all that they do, and for good use of the media in the service of the gospel. It is celebrated in most countries on the recommendation of the Bishops of the world on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2007, May 20).

 

             

The Church intends by this celebration which was the only worldwide celebration proposed by the Second Vatican Council (inter mirifica 1963) and was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1967 to “draw the attention of her children and all men of good will to the vast and complex phenomenon of the modern means of social communication, such as the press, motion pictures, radio and television, which form one of the most characteristic notes of modern civilization”. Also challenging today as modern means of communication is the internet which was the theme of the 2002 World Communications Day celebration.

 

The Holy Father chooses a theme for the celebration every year the announcement of which is usually made on Sept.29, the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, who has been designated as the Patron of those who work in radio. The message of the Pope for World Communication Day is normally published in conjunction with   the memorial of St Francis de Sales, patron of writers (Jan. 24). The theme for this year’s celebration is Children and Media:  A Challenge for Education.

 

By choosing this theme the Holy Father underlines the fact that “the church herself, in the light of the message of Salvation entrusted to her, is also a teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators, and young people” (no 4).

 

In the message, Pope Benedict XVI describes the formation of Children by the media and the formation of Children to respond appropriately to the media.

 

Since the media exerts great influence on Children and on our cultural environment, parents, schools and the wider community should ensure that Children properly discriminate and are prudent in their use of the media. This objective is realized by “training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgment which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programs available”(no 2).  Media education should be positive and requires formation in the exercise of freedom. The Pope warns that freedom should not be “presented as a relentless search for pleasure or new experiences” (no 2).   “Authentic freedom is experienced as a definitive response to God’s “yes” to humanity, calling us to choose, not indiscriminately, but deliberately, all

that is good, true and beautiful”  (no.2). The Holy Father further warned against any trend to produce programs, animated films, video games, and products which in the name of entertainment encourage violence, anti-social attitude, and the trivialization of human sexuality. These, the Pope said, are “all the  more repulsive when directed at children and adolescents”.

 

While acknowledging that many communicators strive to do their work faithfully and in the right manner, the Holy Father also observed that often times they are under enormous and sometimes unreasonable pressures, confronted by difficult decisions. He therefore warned against the dangers of lowering standards for commercial gains.

 

In most dioceses in Nigeria the celebration of the World Communications Day brings together Catholic journalists and other press officers from the various media houses both broadcast and print to pray for all who work in the media and to reflect on the Pope’s message. During the ceremony which generally begins with the Holy Mass, they and their instruments – pens, still and video cameras, cassettes etc, are blessed. Also a special collection is taken for the significant work of the social communications services in promoting the Catholic message in all forms of media. 

                                                                                             

   Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu                                                             Most Rev. Dr. V. Chikwe

Director, Social Communications                                                    Bishop of Ahiara

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria                                                             Chairman

 

 

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