Imo guber: FrMbaka under fire

Imo guber: FrMbaka under fire

…As CAN, NYCN, Bishop Ugorji slam fiery priest over prophecy • ‘Catholic Church is not into fortune telling’ – Umuahia Catholic bishop

Knocks and outrage have continued to trail the prophecy of fiery Catholic priest and Director, Adoration Ministry Enugu Nigeria, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, who prophesied on the Imo governorship between incumbent Governor Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma that is pending at the Supreme Court.

Fr. Mbaka had in his New Year message predicted that the governorship candidate of APC, Senator Uzodinma, would take over from Hon. Ihedioha as Imo governor, making many to believe that he presumed the Supreme Court judgment would be in Uzodinma’s favour.

Consequently, the Catholic priest has come under heavy criticisms from several groups and individuals, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, and Bishop of Umuahia, Bishop Luscious Ugorji, as they noted that Fr. Mbaka has not only delved into fortune telling, but commercial prophecy.

The NYCN, Imo State chapter, in a statement issued by its President, Isdore Chukwuemeka, in Owerri advised Mbaka not to set the political landscape in the state on fire and leave Governor Ihedioha alone, stressing that the incumbent was massively voted for by the people of Imo.

He also queried where Mbaka was during the eight years of the destruction of the state by the immediate past APC administration headed by Senator Rochas Okorocha.

“We advise Fr. Mbaka to leave Governor Emeka Ihedioha alone. The youths of Imo State are pleased and satisfied with the Rebuild Imo administration.

“Governor Ihedioha barely seven months in office has restored the years the locust had eaten for eight years in the state.

“We do not want further distraction on his efforts in rebuilding the state. Where was Mbaka when Imo State was raped for eight years by a clueless administration that mindlessly looted the treasury of the state?

“He never uttered a word against that evil regime. When darkness reigned in Imo for eight years, Mbaka lost his voice,” Chukwuemeka said.

He said that Mbaka has always directed his prophesies on Imo political leaders who he does not like with the underlying motive to cause confusion in the state, noting that “we cannot remember when he prophesied on political developments in other states.

“We recall how he destabilized Ikedi Ohakim’s administration when he bought hook, line and sinker the allegation that Ohakim had ordered the flogging of a Catholic priest.

“In the end, it turned out that the allegation was false, but Fr. Mbaka had thrived on that falsehood and used it to make jest of Ohakim prior to the 2011 governorship election.”

NYCN, therefore, advised the cleric to stop mixing politics with religion, and do not allow politicians to sway his opinions.

“We have noted a pattern in his prophesies which is always tailored to suit the APC. In 2015, he prophesied in favour of Buhari who was presidential candidate of the APC, he had prayed for Governor Umar Ganduje prior to the 2019 general election despite mind-blowing allegations of corruption against him; and now he has ‘prophesied’ in favour of as another APC chieftain, Senator Hope Uzodinma.”

Also, the state Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Senior Apostle Godson Ibeji, has dismissed the prophecy of Fr. Mbaka over the outcome of the pending Supreme Court judgment, saying that such prophecy does not hold water, wondering why a matter before the highest court in the land would be tossed around.

Ibeji in a statement stated that CAN has consistently kicked against such prophecies tailored to suit the whims and caprices of politicians.

“CAN has consistently opposed such politically motivated prophecies and at the same time strove to maintain the dictates that guide and regulate the practice of Christianity.

“We will continue to toe this path until we restore sanity in the practice of priesthood,” he said.

In his reaction, Bishop Luscious Ugorji of Umuahia Catholic Diocese and the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese, said the Catholic Church which Mbaka belongs to as a priest, is not into fortune telling, thus does not give authority to any priest to make predictions on who wins a court case or not.

His words: “The Catholic Church is not into fortune telling and so does not authorize any priest to make predictions on her behalf on who wins a court case.

“Anyone who speaks on such a matter is expressing his personal opinion”.

The prelate said he does not give attention to such predictions, as they are mere guesswork, saying that “in a true democracy only those who win elections have the mandate of the populace to rule.”

Bishop Ugorji advised Imo people not to rely on such guesswork coated in the name of prophecy, but rather pray that their choice as governor with their mandate wins at the Supreme Court.

Aba Catholic Diocese gets new Bishop four years after

Aba Catholic Diocese gets new Bishop four years after

Parishioners of Catholic Diocese of Aba, Abia State could not hold their happiness on Sunday in all their parishes as the news of the appointment of Monsignor Augustine Ndubueze Echema as the new Bishop for the Dioceses by the head of the church, Pope Francis was announced during their respective church services.

The appointment of Echema is coming four years after the death of the former Bishop of Aba Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Vincent Valentine Ezechukwu Ezeonyia who reigned between April 2, 1990 and February 8, 2015 after a brief illness.

The appointment of the Bishop-elect has put to an end the lingering lobbying and controversy on who succeeds late Ezeonyia. This is also as arrangements for the official installation of Echema as the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese since it was carved out from the Umuahia Diocese in 1990 have started.

Aba Catholics have continued to hail his appointment as a wise decision taken by Pope Francis, saying they were happy that a son of the soil emerged the Bishop-elect.

Photo: CKC Catholic Cathederal Aba

The Bishop-elect, Echema, it was noted also marked his 61 years birthday on December 28.

Echema until his appointment is a Professor of Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt; President of the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Owerri; Chaplain of the Owerri Provincial Laity Council was born on December 28, 1958 in OhuhuNsulu, then Diocese of Umuahia and now of Aba.

He had his minor seminary formation at St. Peter Claver Minor Seminary in Okpala (1972-1977).

He completed his philosophical studies at the Bigard Memorial Seminary in Ikot Ekpene (1978-1982) and theological studies at the seminary of the same name in Enugu (1982-1986).

He did higher studies at the Philosophisch-TheologischeHochschule Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt, obtaining a Doctorate in Theology, with a specialization in Liturgy (1989-1994).

Echema was ordained a priest on August 16, 1986, for the Owerri clergy.

After the ordination, he held the following positions: 1986-1988: Formator in the minor seminary St. Peter Claver in Okpala; 1988-1989: Parish priest of St. Mark in Umuneke Ngor; 1989-1994: Higher studies in Frankfurt, Germany; 1994-1995: Parish priest of St. Joseph in Schwalbach, in the Diocese of Limburg, Germany; 1996-1998: Deputy Chaplain of the CIWA Worshipping Community in Port Harcourt.

Adamawa attack: CAN chairman still missing, says district head

Adamawa attack: CAN chairman still missing, says district head

The district head of Michika in Adamawa State, Mr Ngida Zakawa, has said that the Michika branch chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Mr Lawan Andimi,  is still missing after he was last seen boarding an unidentified van on Thursday.

The district head made this known to a delegation of Adamawa Government led by the Deputy Governor, Chief Crowther Seth, on Saturday, during a visit to sympathise with the people over Thursday night attack by Boko Haram insurgents.

Also, the Village Head of Kopa in Madagali Local Government, Lawan Luka, told the delegation that people have been digging trenches on a road regularly used by the terrorists but the insurgents always return to fill the trenches.

The leaders called for more deployment of security and medical personnel to the areas to beef up security and enhance healthcare delivery.

“We want the army to send troops to our village to work with our local vigilante to contain the terrorists, ” Luka said.

Addressing the traditional rulers and stakeholders, Seth said the delegation was mandated by the state governor to visit the areas to assess situation and sympathise with the people over the incident.

He assured them of government commitment to security of lives and properties.

“The Governor would have led this delegation himself, but he is not around. He is outside the state for an official engagement that has to do with the interest of the state.

“He said we should commend you for your resilience and support to security agencies and to urge you to continue to support our security personnel in their efforts to protect you,” Seth said. (NAN)

NEW YEAR BROADCAST, DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. EMEKA IHEDIOHA, CON. WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2020

NEW YEAR BROADCAST, DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. EMEKA IHEDIOHA, CON. WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2020

UmunnemNdi Imo. On behalf of my family and the government of Imo State, I am most delighted to bring you our New Year greetings. We give thanks to Almighty God for bringing us into the New Year in good health, full of hope again and having faith in a prosperous 2020.

1.2 Seven (7) months ago, Gerald Irona and Itook over the reins of leadership as your Deputy Governor and Governor respectively. We thank you once again for this public mandate vested in our party, The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the sacred trust bestowed upon us.

 

1.3 The beginning of the year, indeed, offers us a great opportunity to renew our promise of complete dedication to the service of our people and faith in the Almighty God. That was one of the reasons why on the 20th of December 2019, we held an Inter-denominational Imo Day of Thanksgiving, to thank God for His mercies through the year. It was also time to renew our sacred pledge of fidelity to our Mission to rebuild, reposition and transform Imo State into a modern ecosystem.

 

1.4 Year 2020 is the famed year of possibilities. Metaphorically, 2020 also symbolizes complete vision. Here in Imo State, our vision for the future is very clear and we believe that all these possibilities are still attainable. I say so because, we have the determination of a committed Executive Team, the partnership of a collaborative Legislature, the wisdom of an independent Judiciary and the heart-warming support of an enlightened, God-fearing and hardworking people.  

2.0 MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE PAST SEVEN MONTHS.

2.1   By your prayers support and partnership, the last seven months have been both a period of liberation and that of laying the foundation for effective take-off. Our collective accomplishments in pursuit of the Rebuild Imo Agenda imbue us with a very strong faith in a positive and prosperous future.

2.2   Our harmonious working relationship with the Legislature has resulted in an unprecedented record breaking 18 Bills passed and signed into Law since we were sworn-in. This is an enviable milestone by any standards.

2.3   Government has also established strong links to multilateral development partners and we are attracting donor-agencies fund for programs to virtually all sectors ranging from water projects to erosion control, rural access roads, healthcare, agriculture and education.

2.4   In keeping with this promise, one of the first actions I took as Governor was to direct the release of N500million (Five Hundred Million Naira) counterpart funding in order to activate in the first instance, N9.9 Billion (nine billion, nine hundred million naira) funding for the Urualla Erosion Control Project in Ideato North LGA from the World Bank NEWMAP Projects. Similarly, we paid Counterpart funding to catalyse the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) valued at N13.5 billion (Thirteen billion, five hundred million naira) also from the World Bank.  Under this programme, works are ongoing in 88 rural roads projects covering 380.7km of roads, across 26 Local Governments Areas.

2.5   In our campaigns, and indeed upon assumption of Office, we undertook to reposition our Local Governments to become strong centres of effective grassroot governance. In furtherance to this, we have restored their financial autonomy resulting in their receiving fund allocations directly, and in full too.

2.6   Under our constitutional oversight, all the Local Governments are constructing new secretariat complexes to provide conducive working environment for workers. For social amenities and youth development, we are partnering with the Local Governments also to construct mini-stadia or upgrade existing ones. I am glad to say that only a few days ago, I commissioned the Ultra-Modern Local Government Secretariat Complex at AhiazuMbaise, The first among those projects to be completed.

2.7   I have severally stressed that to fund meaningful development, we cannot depend on monthly Federal allocations. Not only are these funds static, they are subject to deductions emanating from our past debts and refund on bailout funds received. In any case, we currently spend about 73% of these allocations on salaries and pensions leaving us with barely nothing for other myriads of challenges confronting us. It became imperative therefore that we had to strengthen our IGR mechanisms. We are very delighted to note that from about N250m (Two Hundred and Fifty Million naira) that we met on ground monthly, IGR has risen to over One (1) billion in the month of December 2019. We are focused on an exponential increase in 2020.  Furthermore, this 2020, we will be looking into optimally deriving benefits from our Oil and Gas endowments – revenues , employment, wealth creation, sustainable development etc.

2.8   I assure you that Imo is OPEN FOR BUSINESS. Our dedicated ‘ease of doing business’ desk is there to address bottlenecks potential investors may face. Our efforts are gradually yielding results. Only recently, we allocated land in Owerri to AfrExim Bank, to build its quality assurance facility for the South-East and South-South zones. The facility is estimated to cost over $50million (N18Billion) and would surely boost our economy and commercial profile. Currently, 6 airlines are now operating in the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, a clear indication of the rising investor confidence in Imo State.

2.9. Human Capital Development remains our fulcrum in the “Rebuild Imo” Agenda. Therefore, training our people is thus our focus. In 2019, we trained over 6000 teachers, while this year would witness massive training and retraining of our teachers in different skills for managing 21st century teaching skills.Government has also approved funds needed for re-accreditation of all courses in Imo Polytechnic Umuagwo which were lost during the decay of the last eight years.In addition, we have made the study of Igbo Language now mandatory for all students in both public and private secondary schools in Imo State. 

2.10In pursuit of Food self-sufficiency, as well as harnessing commercial advantage, Agriculture is our priority. We have trained over 600 Imo youths under our Youth-in-Agriculture programme and would be advancing loans to interested applicants among them to start their own agribusiness.

2.11 We are poised to bridging the huge infrastructural deficit that we met on ground, we have about 30 on-going road construction projects distributed all around the State. These projects are quickly changing the transportation landscape of the State. I regret the temporary inconvenience these construction activities have caused our citizens this festive period. It is however, a worthwhile sacrifice as we shall in return inherit a durable and well-constructed road network in the state.

To compliment this, we are pursuing an aggressive housing development programme. Just last month,we performed the ground-breaking ceremony for a 1000 Housing Unit Rebuild Imo Estate in Azara-Owalla in Emekuku, OwerriNorth under a Public-Private-Partnership arrangement. In addition to this, we will develop Satellite Housing estates serviced with infrastructure State-wide to decongest the capital city and stimulate rural development.

2.12 In the area of public financial management, government has implemented strategic reforms through the Treasury Single Account (TSA) thereby stemming revenue leakages, and closing up the multiplicity of over 260 different accounts in operation before we came to office. In the same vein, we adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Our reforms have strengthened the implementation of the State Public Procurement Law, commenced the implementation of Due Process, transparency, accountability and value for money in the award of State and Local Government contracts.

2.13 Dear Imolites, it is gladdening to note that the world is watching and our humble efforts have attracted both global and national recognition. Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rated Imo State as the Least Corrupt State in their 2nd Corruption Survey, while we were also appraised the Best Overall Performing State in ICT Development by the National Council on Communication and Digital Economy. Similarly, Businessday Newspapers, Nigeria’s leading economic journal ranked our State as the fastest growing economy in Nigeria in 2019.

2.14. I would like to reiterate that we are conscious of the huge challenge posed by these sterling ratings, the expectations that come with it,and are making conscious efforts to sustainthis positive national and global public opinion.

3.0 MISSION FOR 2020

3.1   The path of the just, the Bible says, is like the shining light, that shineth brighter and brighter unto a perfect day. This shall be the path of the Rebuild Imo journey.

3.2   Proper planning is based on empirical projections and prudent management of funds is vital for meaningful development. A viable budget is the basis for fiscal responsibility. On the 27th of December 2019, I signed into law the Imo 2020 Appropriation Bill signalling that the fiscal year will begin today, 1st of January 2020 as envisaged. We will keep faith with this instrument.

3.3   Many of the contracts we awarded for infrastructural development shall continue with zest to achieve their completion timelines.We shall also take on more projects that would make a greater impact in our developmental endeavours. To ensure sustenance of our road projects, we will revive the Road Maintenance Agency. We shall also vigorously pursue the rehabilitation, remobilization and reconstruction of the Onitsha Road Industrial Layout.

3.4   We shall intensify our efforts in our promotion of investment and industrialization to bolster economic development in the State and create jobs. The Bureau of Trade and Investment is currently conducting a verification process of Local and foreign companies that are ready to invest in Imo State. It is also developing specialized market clusters across the State to create competitive advantages for the improvement of business climate in the State.

3.5. We shall work to leverage our strategic position as the confluence state in the old Eastern Region, to transform into the preferred touristand conference destination in the region. Consequently, works are ongoing to partner with our rich hospitality industry to harness our potentials. In like manner, the Ahiajoku Lectures is back, revived and shall get better in the coming years. Similarly, our tourist resorts like the Oguta Lake Resort would be upgraded this year.

3.6   Government shall pay adequate attention to ensuring access to basic necessities of life and protection for vulnerable groups, including People Living with Disabilities. In addition, we shall work to domesticate the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act in Imo. We are also looking at working with development partners and civil society groups to establish Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC).

3.7   You would recall that in my inaugural address, I specifically declared technical and vocational education (TVET) as a major pillar of our educational transformation programme. To this effect, we are investing more than N4Billion (Four Billion Naira) in the reconstruction, physical upgrade and curriculum improvement at the four premier technical colleges in the State. We have set a target for ourselves to have over 70 percent of theseTVET graduates to get jobs, be self-employed, or advance to tertiary institutions for Higher National Diplomas or Degrees.

3.8   Information Technology (IT) is like they say, the new “Oil “. Imo is leading the way in technological development with a view to making the State an IT hub. We have facilitated IT Tech Incubation centres, trained our women & youths, and are attracting the big names in Tech such as Google, MTN etc. in partnership as well as operations.

3.9   As the new decade beckons and the march to the 4th Industrial Revolution nears, the teaching of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and Data Science would constitute a core of the curriculum of our schools. This is pursuant to our stated policy of inculcating in our young ones globally competitive skills and preparing them for the 21st century workforce. We reaffirm that we will continue to deploy ICT in our governance processes.

3.10 Information Technology will also be the platform that we will use to sanitize our previously abused land administration and allocation system. The newly constituted Land Use Allocation Committee (LUAC) will work within a framework of a digitalized geographic information system that we are in the process of procuring. This will further provide geo-spatial data for agricultural,environmental and transportation challenges. 

3. 11 My good people of Imo State. We are making our civil service work again. Government shall sustain salary payments in full and create necessary incentives to promote productivity. All the Commissions of Enquiry we set up would soon be submitting their reports and Government shall implement their valuable recommendations for the sanity of our institutions and the good of our people. Similarly, the Visitation Panels on our tertiary institutions would equally be submitting their reports and we shall be surefooted in repositioning our institutions of higher learning for better results.

3.12 In agriculture, we are looking to substantially reduce our dependence on food imports. We have set a target of planting 4 Million oil palm seedlings in the coming years. Consequently, we look to plant One (1) million this year. Our rice Mills in Ihitte/Uboma would be expanded and the Arondizuogu Mills would be revived.

3.13 In the Health Sector, I am glad to inform you that significant provisions have been made towards improving the health of all Imolites in the 2020 Budget. Our areas of emphases shall include;programmes against childhood malnutrition and reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates to its barest minimum.

3.14 Government shall renovate, re-equip and re-staff Primary Health Centres in all the Local Government Areas, in line with the national objective of achieving Universal Health Coverage. We shall also upgrade one general hospital in each zone to the status of a specialist hospital in specified areas of medical proficiency. Government shall also ensure effective operation and reach of the re-invigorated Imo State Health Insurance Scheme.

3.15 Let me please state that we have declared zero tolerance to all forms of stigma and discrimination against Persons Living with the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). The State, in collaboration with donor agencies will support the procurement of all the necessary kits and consumables in a concerted push for HIV/AIDS epidemic control, tagged HIV ART Surge.I personally have agreed to be the mascot and face of the Campaign to eliminate stigma and reduce prevalence rate. Members of the expanded State Executive Council have all agreed to join in this crusade.

3.16.This year, Owerri would return to its eminent status as the cleanest city in Nigeria. In this regard, we will further institutionalize our “ Go Green, Stay Clean “ Initiative, and mobilize the entire state for the planting of about 100,000 trees.

3.17. Imo State would take its pride of place as the home of sports, as our repair and rehabilitation works in all our sports institutions and stadia would be completed this year. The indomitable Grasshoppers Women Handball Club of Owerri, is up and running again. These Imo State born African Amazons have qualified to represent Nigeria in the 30th edition of the African Club Championships scheduled for Algeria in April 2020. Similarly, our volleyball team, the Heartland Spikers have qualified to represent Nigeria in an International tournament in Morrocco next year.

3.18 We would be gallantly participating in the 2020 National Sports Festival scheduled for March this year. In addition, after consideration of the immense benefits derivable from sports, Imo State would be bidding for the rights to host the 2022 edition.

3.19.We shall sustain our efforts at mobilizing Diaspora participation in the Rebuild Imo Agenda. Our Diaspora Summit has been scheduled for January 3, 2020. By this we are providing a veritable platform for Diaspora participation in critical sectors in the efforts of government to rebuild, reposition and transform the state.

3.20.Another area of major attention shall be  youths. In the passing year, we commenced a process of data capture of all youths in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, we hope that this would be concluded soon.We shall embark on Youth employment programs, especially, the One-youth-one skill program with a target of generating direct and indirect employment for 500,000 youths.To pilot this, we have just set up, by law,an Imo State Employment Trust Fund to serve as a foundation for supporting youth empowerment.

3.21. This government understands the critical role of genuine data and statistics in the planning and developmental process. Consequently, upon assumption of office, we revamped the statistics department and upgraded it to the level of a bureau, known as The Imo State Bureau of Statistics.

4.0 APPEAL FOR PEOPLE PARTNERSHIP.

4.1. My dear brothers and sisters, I am sure by now we have been asking ourselves, what is our place in all these?What must we do, to bring about a realization of these noble programmes and projects? The answer is simple, are naissance of spirit and our collective partnership.

4.2   For instance, I earlier talked about Government IGR target to meet up with   the infrastructural development we have projected in the 2020 Budget. As we are aware, all over the world, governments are run from taxes paid by the citizens. As citizens and residents of Imo therefore, we should observe our civic obligations by paying our taxes as and when due.

4.3. On our part, we restate our solemn pledge to account for very Kobo Imolites pay and to bring it to bear on the quality of our infrastructure and improved living standards. Imo State is a blessed State. We will harness our strategic location, rich human capital and abundant natural resources for the greater good of our people. We are not abuja (the Federal Capital Territory). We are not Lagos (the commercial capital). We are not Port Harcourt, Rivers State (the oil capital), but we are Ndi Imo, a people known for industry and excellence.

4.4   You are also called to participate in our joint efforts to keep our environments clean always. We must be law abiding citizens and indeed have a re-orientation of values. Citizens should join hands to undertake community and neighbourhood development projects. Let us form an unbroken chain of support to the Operation Iron Gate security network by remaining alert in our neighbourhoods.

4.5   To our women folk, we truly appreciate you. I was excited by your zest and eagerness to contribute to this rebuilding effort typified by your participation in the last Imo Women’s Day. We will intensify our efforts to mobilize your beneficial involvement in the social, political and economic activities in the State.

4.6   Umunnem, let us also pray for the peace and prosperity of Imo State and work for its progress.

4.7   Today, we have an airport which is like the crowning jewel of our State. Many of us went through pains to make the contributions then, but today, we look back rejoicing for the harvest of an airport that has become a leader among many others.

4.8   In the same spirit we shall arise and build, so that when tomorrow comes, we shall look back in pride and satisfaction that we heeded the clarion call to the Rebuild Imo Agenda.

4.9   I must stress that I am impressed thus far by the show of goodwill by Imolites to our administration. I am also excited by their willingness to partner and support us as we rebuild the state from the ruins of the past. Moving around the State this festive period, I have seen a highly spirited people, eager and resolved to move the State forward. On the 26th of December, 2019, we held a stakeholders luncheon at which our people committed further to the rebuilding task. This, in no small way, strengthens my resolve. 

5.0   Ndi Imo, NdiOma, I wish you all a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Long Live Imo State

Long live, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Imo wunkeanyinile!!!

Bishop Moses Chikwe consecrated amid jubilation

Bishop Moses Chikwe consecrated amid jubilation

Those with no ambition usually appointed bishops – Bishop Ugorji

It was jubilation galore in Owerri, the Imo State capital last Thursday, December 12, with canon shots booming at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri, venue of the Episcopal consecration of Most Rev. Moses Chikwe, as the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese.

Present at the occasion were the clergy, the religious and lay faithful from various dioceses within the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and other parts of Nigeria. Many top government officials led by Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, Governor of Imo State were there as well as friends of the new bishop from the United States of America.

The Pope’s representative in Nigeria, His Grace, Most Rev. Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Benin and about 22 other bishops were there too.

Photo: The newly consecrated bishop acknowledges cheers from the faithful shortly after the Mass

Photo: The newly consecrated bishop acknowledges cheers from the faithful shortly after the Mass

His Grace Most Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri was the Principal Consecrator while bishops Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia and Augustine Ukwuoma of Orlu were the Co-consecrators.

In his sermon at the consecration, Bishop Ugorji, noted that despite the onerous responsibilities of the episcopal office, some priests are tempted to aspire to be bishops and some even tend to consider themselves the best and brightest to be appointed bishops, while forgetting that those who have the mitre in their head never have it on their head.

Bishop Ugorji revealed that, often it is those who have no ambition to be bishops that are appointed, making true the Igbo saying: “ochoniahughi, ohuniachoghi,” which a semi-illiterate once translated into broken English as: “e want want no see, e see see no want”.

“Notwithstanding the awesome responsibilities of the office of a bishop, some folks want their relations and friends to be bishops for reasons of prestige rather than for the highly demanding selfless service involved in the bishopric,” he observed.

Bishop Ugorji who is also the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese advised the new bishop to, “Always keep in mind the admonition of St Augustine when he said that any bishop unwilling to preach Jesus Christ zealously and without embarrassment; to defend the Catholic Church with his life; and to suffer for his people without counting the cost, is “a scarecrow standing in a vineyard.”

“In a country like Nigeria that is fast losing its very soul to a growing culture of selfishness, greed and graft; a country where millions are wounded by poverty and reduced to a life of wanton suffering on account of endemic corruption; a country torn apart by tensions, divisions and bloody conflicts; a country where charlatans masquerading as pastors preach a prosperity gospel devoid of the cross, “hawk miracles”, propagate primitive superstitions and encourage malice and vengeance, the voice of a bishop must be a tireless voice that is strong in the condemnation of evil and injustice, a tireless voice that speaks of peace and reconciliation; a tireless voice that upholds authentic gospel values, and sound Christian traditions and seeks to preserve the deposit of faith in its purity and integrity.”

Pope urges children to be little “bridges” like Child Jesus

Pope urges children to be little “bridges” like Child Jesus

Pope Francis on Monday met a delegation of young boys and girls Children’s Catholic Action, a wing of Italy’s lay Catholic organization, Azione Cattolica.

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis is inviting children to look to the Child Jesus with amazement and, like Him, be little “bridges” where they live.

He made the invitation to a group of some 64 boys and girls of the Italian organization called Azione Cattolicadei Ragazzi (ACR), or Children’s Catholic Action.

50 years of ACR

Comprising youngsters between 4 and 14 years of age, ACR is the children’s wing of the Catholic Action of Italy (AC), a lay organization founded in 1922 for the spiritual and moral renewal of society through the education and formation of young people.

The children’s wing was started in 1969.

Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the various initiatives that ACR has carried out marking its 50th anniversary this year.  “Your formation programme,” the Pope said, “outlines a path that helps you to become aware of your vocation as missionary disciples.”

Marking their 50 years, some 1,000 boys and girls from all over Italy gathered together in Rome from October 31 to November 2,  in what they called, “Children in Synod”.  Expressing appreciation for this initiative, the Pope said he was curious to know about their observations and resolutions.

Little “bridges”

However, he gave the boys and girls homework to do.  “On Christmas Day, gather together in prayer and, with the same amazement of the shepherds, look at the Child Jesus, who came into the world to bring the love of God, who makes all things new,” the Pope said.

“With His birth,” he explained, “Jesus made Himself a bridge between God and mankind, reconciled earth and sky, recomposed the whole human race into unity.”   Today, the Pope said, the Child Jesus also asks them to be little “bridges” where they live.

When the Pope asked them whether it is better to build bridges or walls, the youngsters together answered “Bridges”.  He noted they must have already realized the need for it.  At times, he pointed out, it is not easy “but if we are united with Jesus we can do it”.

Mary’s school

In conclusion, the Holy Father urged the children to learn the true meaning of Christmas from Mary.  “She and Saint Joseph”, he said, “can truly teach us how to accept Jesus, how to adore him and how to follow Him day by day.”

The youth as the now and future of the Church

The youth as the now and future of the Church

The youths could be seen as young people or young adults from 15-35yrs. From his article, drawn from the Daily Sun Newspaper 19th August 2019“THE USED – LESS NIGERIAN YOUTH”, Charles Dickson writes, “the Nigerian government characterizes youth as “ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic and promising. They are considered vulnerable in society because of the rapid change they experience at this time in their lives. The Church sees her young people also in this light though in the light of the gospel.

The Now and future of the Church:
It is good we recall vividly that this immediate expression of the young people as the NOW of God was captured by Pope Francis in his post-synodal document entitled ‘Christus Vivit’ chapter three(3). It may not be out of place to make that part of the document our reference point. In his own words the Pope writes: “we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it. Young people are no longer children. They are at a time of life when they begin to assume a number of responsibilities, sharing alongside adults in the growth of the family, society and the Church.

Notable ways through which the young people contribute to the present of the church that assures her future:
Mass servers: serving at Mass and other liturgical activities.
Choristers: singing at Mass and other liturgical activities
MOD (Man of Order and Discipline): helping the Church in maintaining order and security.
Joining the priestly and religious life.
Altar Boys and Girls: Dressing the altar and washing the vestments.
They help in cleaning the Church’s compound.
They contribute to the finance of the Church through the youth harvest and youth collection etc.
Pray for the Church by participating in private or public prayers of the church like prayer of the faithful etc.

Fr Henry Opara

Fr Henry Opara

Lectors: helping in reading during Mass and other liturgical activities.
They form part and parcel of the Parish Pastoral Council (P.P.C).
Through their writings and presence.
The Church is blessed with their different charisma.
They also use their strength and energy in voluntary actions e.g during the building of new parish structures.
Their contributions start from the immediate family, the life of the family as a domestic church.
They form part of evangelizers, contributing to the mission of the Church not only to themselves, but their peers and others.
When young people participate in church programs, they bring life, creativity and innovation and makes the church ever anew.
The young people use the social media to evangelize.

Some of them are members of the pious Sodalities as Legion of Mary, St. Jude etc and other groups like Mary league, young catholic workers & pro-life movement etc.
Apart from being choristers, some of them also contribute by participating in parish band and cultural groups etc.

Church Wardens: Helps in maintaining order during liturgical functions.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Church has always felt the contributions of her young people but the issue is to make it more pronounced. Thus the urgency of the clarion call from Pope Francis in the 2018 World Mission Sunday entitled ‘Together with young people, let us bring the gospel to all’. This was reiterated by His Grace Most Rev Anthony Obinna in his presidential address to Owerri Archdiocesan Pastoral Council ‘as members of the pastoral council at parish or chaplaincy levels, we need to take a cue from Pope Francis’ message and engage the youth for more effective involvement in pastoral action.’

Pope Paul VI in his ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ (Evangelization in the modern world) has this to say,’ existing circumstances suggest to us that we should devote our attention in particular to young people. Their increasing numbers, the fact that increasingly they are making their presence felt in society, the question which trouble them should arouse in everyone the desire to offer them zealously and wisely, the evangelical ideal as something to be known and lived. But it is essential that young people themselves, well versed in the faith and in prayers, should be ever more zealous in their apostolate to their contemporaries. The church relies greatly on such help from young people and we ourselves have repeatedly expressed our full confidence in them’.

THE USED-LESS OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES
Despite these levels of knowledge about the contribution of the young people, one may ask why are they not really used or used-less in the mainstream of the ecclesial administration?

There is the saying that a child who washes his hands clean may join the elders on the table. A good number of our young people shy away from making their presence felt.

Instances abound where young people in the parishes and chaplaincies stand out with their charisma. They are being called upon to stand up to be recognized. The words of St. Paul to Timothy can be relevant to the young people of our time:” Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, your love, faith, and purity”. In other words, exhibiting these virtues has its own way of bringing you to the limelight, standing out among your equals, instead of creating an atmosphere of indifference, poor attention to the programmes of your parish or chaplaincies, not registering as members of any youth groups, from sodalities to social groups. Some enter the higher institutions and complete their span of education without registering into National Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS) etc. People around this realm only appear near the church when they are required to get Clearance Letter like A Letter of Attestation etc. You cannot eat your cake and have it. How can we analize the outward display of some of our young people in their dressing? In the words of Charles Dickson,” youths, please, turn a new leaf…Whether you are in town or in the village, we are not useless. We are only used-less; at least even a dead clock shows time correctly twice a day. STAY ALIVE, STAY USEFUL”6. What can you say about the frequent display of the rosary by a national goal keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa whenever he mounts the goalpost of the Nigerian Super Eagles, an attitude that endeared him to many Catholics and the privilege and honour of being invited by the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria in one of their plenary.

In conclusion, my young people, the church needs you. The society needs you. Try to bloom where ever you are planted. Stop the blame game. The Holy Father in his post synodal document, Christus Vivit (Christ Lives) chapter two(2) enlisted a good number of young saints including Ss Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, Dominic and Therese of the child Jesus to mention but a few who made enormous contribution to the church and the world through their good living. Despite the likely challenges involving misunderstanding, discouragement or resentment, the Pontiff encourages them to be steadfast and remain focused.

Rev. Fr. Henry Opara
Owerri Archdiocesan Youth Chaplain

Fidelity Bank disburses N19m Xmas cheer to 13 customers

Fidelity Bank disburses N19m Xmas cheer to 13 customers

Thirteen lucky customers of Fidelity Bank PLC will enjoy their 2019 Christmas bountifully as the bank rewarded them with N19m for being faithful and committed to servicing their accounts. The lucky winners emerged from the Second monthly/ First Bi-monthly draw of the Get Alert in Millions Savings Promo Season 4, which held at the Bank’s Regional Office in Abuja.

There were three categories of winners among the customers: N3m, N2m and N1m, in addition to 18 consolation prizes of television set, generators and refrigerators. The Lagos Regional Office had the highest amount of N6m in total, followed by the North West Region with a total of N4m while Abuja Region had N3m cumulative amount. The South East, South South and South West had N2m each.

One of the lucky winners, Chika Perpetua Maduike from Abuja Regional office, who won N2m, when contacted on phone dismissed the call, but finally made it to the office dancing and rejoicing saying ‘this Christmas will be a special one for me. I did not believe the caller, but later decided to try and see if it was true and I have seen and I am very happy’. She went further to say, “I will advertise Fidelity Bank to everyone and tell them the bank is number one in Nigeria. Fidelity Bank , God bless you and take you to the next level in Jesus name’

Another lucky winner, Olawale Abdulgafar, who won N1m said: “When I was called and told I have won N1m, I was not excited because I thought it was a scam. I quickly rushed to a nearby Fidelity Bank and asked someone I know who said a promo was ongoing and I should go to the Regional office. I am here now and I have seen it is real and I am very happy because this Christmas will be joyous for me. I want to thank Fidelity Bank for keeping their words”.

Speaking earlier, the Managing Director/CEO, Nnamdi Okonkwo said lucky customers of the bank will cart away N120m at the end of the promo in April 2020, pointing out that N15m was won during the first draw in Ibadan and N19m in Abuja, bringing the total to N34m after the second draw. The MD/CEO who was represented by the Regional Bank Head, North West 1, Mannir Ringim said the promo which started in October 2019 was part of its efforts at deepening the Financial Inclusion strategy of the government and ensure more people are financially included.

“As we speak, over 50m Nigerians are financially excluded, which represents about 45 percent of our population and we in Fidelity Bank want to bridge this gap and also encourage more people to embrace savings culture,” the MD/CEO opined.

Shading light on how people can qualify for the draw, Mrs Janet Nnabuko, Head of Savings said both existing and new customers can win by simply topping their account with N10,000 for existing customers or someone opening a new account and building it up to N20,000. She further disclosed that to qualify for the star prize of N3m one needs to build his account to N50,000 while aspiring for the Grand prize of N10m, one only has to grow his account to N200,000.

Abuja Regional Head, Mrs. Vanessa Mordi said the bank was people friendly and remains committed to empowering Small and Medium Enterprises and also supporting individuals with surprise packages like the Get Alert in Millions Savings Promo.

USE OF IMAGES IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

USE OF IMAGES IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

By Prof. Michael Ogunu
(President of the Executive Board of the
World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa)

Images and Symbols

An image is an imitation or likeness of a person or thing. Images need not be exact likenesses, but may vary from actual photographs to conventional figures which are representative of types rather than of real persons or things.

Images are different from symbols. While there can be images of any material thing or any person, non-material realities are better represented by symbols. A symbol is some form or figure that is not a likeness but represents and calls to mind the unseen reality. An artist’s portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion is an image, while a cross is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and man’s redemption.

Early Christian Practice

The art of the earliest Christian ages was mainly in symbolic form. Two reasons may be given: First, there was a prohi­bition of images in Exodus 20:4-6, intended to protect the Hebrews from the idolatry of neigh­bouring nations. Second, symbols provided the best representation of the great Christian realities. For example, bread and fishes in a basket represented the Eucharist as foreshadowed in Christ’s feeding of the multitude (John 6).

Soon Christians began to picture episodes and persons from the Bible, such as Daniel in the lions’ den and the baptism of Christ. Those who had been pagans were accustomed to portraits of their ancestors and remembered the flower-bedecked pictures of great men and heroes. It was natural for them to desire pictures of Christ and of the martyrs. Christ was depicted especially as a shepherd and as a king and world ruler. An exact image of Him was not available, since the apostles and other eyewitnesses had not described His physical appearance.

There were, however, some disagreement about the practice of picturing the God-Man and holy persons. Some people began to argue that honouring images was a form of idolatry. A long and complex struggle gradually developed.

Veneration of Images

In one of the early epi­sodes of image-breaking, Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) explained and defended the Christian use of images in a letter to Bishop Serenus of Marseilles:

“We have been informed that thoughtless zeal has led you to smash pictures of saints and that you have excused yourself on the grounds that pictures should not be worshiped. For forbidding their worship, you deserve only praise, but for smashing them you must be censured. It is one thing to worship a painting, but another to be reminded by it of its subject. For what writing is to the literate, painting is to the un­educated. Paintings are employed in churches so that the illiterate can at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books”.

The Catholic viewpoint was summarized in the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas taught that images instruct the unedu­cated, remind people of the mystery of the In­carnation and of the example of the saints, and inspire devotion. When Passiontide begins, for ex­ample, the images in churches are veiled as a re­minder that it is a period of mourning.

To show honour to images is not idolatry. It is not the statue or picture, the material thing itself which is honoured, but the person who is represented. External gestures of reverence must be at expression of interior attitudes of reverence, or they mean nothing at all. To show honour to Christ’s image is to adore Christ Himself. Veneration paid to saints and their images is called “dulia”, meaning the reverence and homage owed to servant of God. Because of Mary’s pre-eminence, the honour paid to her and to images of her is called “hyperdulia”, a superior veneration. “Latria” is the name given to the worship of God Himself. The Council of Trent (1543-1563) defended the Catholic use and veneration of images:

The images . . . of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be . . . kept in churches and due reverence and honour be paid to them; not because it is believed that there is any divinity or power in them or that anything may be asked from them or that any faith may be put in them as the heathen are wont to believe . . . but because the honour shown to them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; so that, through these images which we kiss and before which we bow with bared heads, we worship Christ and honour the saints whose likeness they display.

The private and personal use of religious images should be guided by the doctrinal principles stated above for their public veneration. The honouring of statues and religious pictures in Christian homes and the use of medals bearing images is an ancient and still valid custom.

Jurisdiction of the Church

As seen from the quotations above, Church authorities exercise direction over the use and veneration of sacred images. They also judge the suitability of particular likenesses. In 1628, Pope Urban VIII recommended that only the form of a dove or tongues of fire be used to represent the Paraclete, and in 1745 Pope Benedict XIV forbade the representation of the Holy Spirit in human form. In more recent times, the image of a heart alone was forbidden as a representation of Christ for devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Some people think that it is wrong to use holy pictures, medals, crucifixes, rosaries and other sacramentals in our religious devotions. According to these people, the Bible does not permit the use of images for worship; for to use them would amount to the worship of idols. Certainly, only God should be adored or worshipped. Adoration belongs to God alone. This is the Catholic teaching. But it is wrong to say that the Bible does not permit the making and the use of images as an aid for religious devotion. We shall see what the Scripture says about this.

The Catholic Church teaches that “images must not be prayed to because they can neither hear, see nor help us”. In other words, the images have no life.

Why then do we have images in the Church? They are used in the Church to help Christians to meditate on the lives of our Lord and the saints which they represent. Furthermore, images help to arouse a feeling of religious devotion and develop a spirit of contemplation.

Biblical Support for Use of Images for Religious Devotion

The Scripture certainly condemns the worship of images. The prophets called such an offence prostitution; that is, an act of infidelity to the love God has for man. But there is however evidence in the Bible that God did allow the making of images for religious devotion. I will now cite below several passages in the Bible to support this fact:

God condemns the sin of idolatry, whether it is in the form of worshipping statues or any other created thing that can become an idol. In Exodus 20:3-5 the Lord forbids the carving of graven images for the purpose of idolatry:

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

In Deuteronomy, God warns the Israelites against “fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or of a woman” or of other creatures (see 4:15-18). Joining biblical passages such as these with the divine commandment against idols (see Ex. 20:4); “graven images” in the King James Version, many Christians insist that all statues of religious subjects are forbidden.

We must note, however, that as the rest of the commandment makes clear, God has forbidden only the making of such images with the intention of worshipping them, as the pagans did. He has by no means banned the creation of all religious images.

On the contrary, the Lord actually instructed the Israelites to store those very commandments, carved in stone, within a sacred container (ark) to be decorated with golden images of angelic beings called cherubim (see Exodus 25:10-22). He also commanded the people to decorate the places where they worshipped with gold, bronze, and wooden images of animals and plants (see Ex. 25:33-36; 26:1; 1 Kings 6:23-7:51; 2 Chr. 3:10-4:22).

Anti-Catholic writer Loraine Boettner, in his book Roman Catholicism, makes the blanket state­ment, “God has forbidden the use of images in worship”. Yet if people were to “search the scriptures” (cf. John 5:39), they would find the opposite is true. God forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid the religious use of statues. Instead, he actually commanded their use in religious contexts.

People who oppose religious use of statues forget about the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For example: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold (i.e., two gold statues of an­gels); of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:18-20).

David gave Solomon the plan “for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1 Chr. 28:18-19). David’s plan for the temple, which the biblical author tells us was “by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all”, included statues of angels.

In obedience to this divinely inspired plan, Solomon built two gigantic, golden statues of cherubim: “In the most holy place he made two cherubim of wood and overlaid them with gold. The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub; and of this cherub, one wing, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also of five cubits, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits; the cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and worked cherubim on it” (2 Chr. 3:10-14).

During a plague of serpents sent to punish the Isra­elites during the exodus, God told Moses to “make [a statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num. 21:8-9).

One had to look at the bronze statue of the ser­pent to be healed, which shows that statues could be used ritually, not merely as religious decorations.

This is not to say that the image of a fiery serpent healed the people who were bitten. It was God who healed them but He effected the healing through the use of the fiery serpent. Today, we do not look on the fiery serpent for our salvation. We have something better: The cross of Jesus – Col. 1:20; 2:14; John 12:32.

Having regard to all these evidences from the Sacred Scripture, we can safely conclude that God does not condemn the making of images but He condemns the worship of them.

We need the things of this world to think about things beyond our knowledge. There is nothing wrong in the use of blessed medals, holy pictures, crucifixes, rosaries, if these can help us to life our minds to God.

Why do Catholic churches, schools, and homes display religious statues and other images? Such images are an aid to remembering and honouring our Lord, his mother, the saints, and the angels.

No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshipped a religious image. Even when Catholics kneel to pray before a statue, or burn candles or place flowers before it, they are not worshipping the image. They are simply expressing love and honour for the person represented by the statue.

The crucifix is not the object of our thought when we look at it. It is not the crucifix that the Christians adore; it is Jesus Christ, whose image is engraved on the wood, that is adored. The crucifix therefore recalls to mind the passion of Jesus and the goodness of God. The Christian must lift his mind beyond the cross to Jesus who has come to save him and the world.

Similarly Ezekiel 41:17-18 describes graven (carved) images in the idealized temple he was shown in a vision, for he writes, “On the walls round about in the inner room and (on) the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim”.

Do Catholics Worship Images?

People who do not know better sometimes say Catholics worship statues. Not only is this untrue, it is even untrue that Catholics honour statues.

Catholics use statues, paintings, and other artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the saints by looking at pictures of them.

The fact that someone kneels before a statue to pray does not mean that he is praying to the statue, just as “the fact that someone kneels” with a Bible in his hands to pray does not mean that he is worshipping the Bible. “Statues or paintings or other artistic devices are used to recall to the mind the person or thing depicted. Just as it is easier to remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it is easier to recall the lives of the saints by looking at representations of them.

Sometimes anti-Catholics cite Deuteronomy 5:9, where God said concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them”. Since many Catholics some­times bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints, anti-Catholics confuse the legitimate ven­eration of a sacred image with the sin of idolatry.

Though bowing can be used as a posture in wor­ship, not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before a king without worshipping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) taught that idolatry is committed “by worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them” (374).

Thus, the Catholic Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the sin of idolatry. What anti-Catholics fail to rec­ognize is the distinction between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually remember Christ and the saints in heaven by making statues in their honour. The making and use of reli­gious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know his Bible.

As clearly stated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Revised Edition – 2132, “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed ‘the honour rendered to an image passes to its prototype’, and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it’ (The Council of Nicaea 11:DS601). The honour paid to sacred images is a ‘respectful veneration’, not the adoration due to God alone”.

Pope: saints are not unreachable human beings

Pope: saints are not unreachable human beings

Pope Francis on Thursday met some 400 members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Dicastery. In a discourse, the Pope exhorted them in the spirit with which the Congregation is asked to carry out its activities in examining the lives of candidates to beatification and canonization.

By Robin Gomes

The tasks of what are today called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, had been carried out earlier by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, instituted over 4 centuries ago in 1588. Pope Saint Paul VI in 1969, Pope Francis said, split the Congregation into two dicasteries that have “two large areas that are clearly distinct”.

In the latest development, Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate 10 decrees regarding 33 candidates for beatification.

Holiness next door

Addressing the members of the congregation, Pope Francis said that the many beatifications and canonizations that have been celebrated in recent decades mean that saints are models and guides of Christian life, but they are not unreachable human beings.

In fact, he said, “they are people who have experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to always get up and continue the journey.”  He stressed the importance of measuring “our evangelical coherence with different types of holiness, since ‘each saint is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel’”.

The witness of the Blesseds and Saints, the Pope said, enlightens, attracts and also questions us because it is the “Word of God” embodied in history and close to us. However, we must learn to “see holiness in the patient people of God”, because it is often hidden and almost imperceptible. In this regard, he spoke about parents who bring up their children with so much love, in the men and women who work to bring bread home, in the sick, in the elderly religious who continue to smile. “This is so often the holiness ‘of the next door’, of those who live close to us and are a reflection of the presence of God.”

The Pope exhorted the Congregation in its task of carrying out with scrupulousness and accuracy its investigative research into the martyrdom, heroic virtues, the offering of life and miracles of men and women candidates, in order clear the field of any ambiguity or doubt and achieve full certainty in the proclamation of their holiness.

Consultors

Consultors, in the historical, theological and medical fields, are called to carry out their work with the full freedom of conscience and formulate the relevant judgments with mature reflection, impartially and without taking into account any conditioning, from whatever side they may come from. The Pope reminded them that the specific aims of the Causes are the glory of God and the spiritual good of the Church, which are closely linked to the search for truth and evangelical perfection.

Postulators

Regarding postulators (promoters of candidates), the Pope said, they should not allow themselves to be guided by material visions and economic interests. They should not seek their personal affirmation and, above all, should avoid all that which is in contradiction with the meaning of the ecclesial work which they carry out. The postulators, he said, should never fail to be aware that the Causes of beatification and canonization are realities of a spiritual nature and not just procedural. “Therefore, they must be treated with great evangelical sensitivity and moral rigor,” the Pope said.