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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Nigerian Catholic Bishops Refuse to Accept Pope’s Position

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Catholic Bishops in Nigeria have rejected the position of Pope Francis on the blessing of same-sex couples.

The Pope had, in December, approved blessings of same-sex couples by Catholic priests.

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His position elicited criticisms from many Catholic faithful, with some saying the approval could be translated as the church’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.

‘You’ve hurt the unity of the Catholic Church’

Reacting, the Catholic bishops said it is disappointing that statements or declarations from the Holy See which ought to foster unity and communion on matters of doctrine, morals and liturgy, have done otherwise and succeeded in hurting the unity and catholicity of the church.

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The bishops spoke through a speech delivered by its President, Lucius Ugorji, at the formal opening of the 2024 First Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on Sunday, at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, Daily Trust reported.

“We must sincerely admit that the Declaration, Fiducia Supplicans (on the pastoral meaning of blessings), issued on 18th December 2023, by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, has added to our pains.

“While the document prohibits liturgical blessings for same-sex couples, it recommends at the same time spontaneous pastoral blessings for couples in irregular situations including the blessing of same-sex couples,” Mr Ugorji said.

“It further stressed that such pastoral blessings should not be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.

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Catholic Bishops in Nigeria. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Facebook page of Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama | https://web.facebook.com/ignatius.a.kaigama]“Given the ambiguities in the declaration, the document quickly aroused mixed reactions of acceptance, sceptical reserve and outright rejection from episcopal conferences and individual Bishops across the world,” he stated.

The Catholic bishop noted that with the media hype that ambushed the text, its publication generated shock, outrage and disbelief among the faithful in Nigeria, in Africa and other parts of the world, with many devout Catholics in the communities wondering how a priest could bless same-sex couples who “live permanently in a sinful union” without causing confusion and scandal.

“In the midst of this confusion and pushback, we must, as pastors with the pastoral task of safeguarding the deposit of faith in its purity and integrity, uphold the teaching of the church based on Holy Scripture and tradition.

“We shouldn’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by renewing your minds, so we may discern what the Will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect. We must continue to teach our faithful that there is no possibility of blessing same-sex couples or same-sex unions in the Church in Africa,” he maintained.

“Homosexual acts are of grave depravity which are intrinsically disordered and, above all, contrary to natural law. In furtherance of our pastoral and prophetic mission, we must also continue to stress that God loves the sinner unconditionally and calls him to repentance so that he might live.”

Also speaking, the Archbishop of Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, Ignatius Kaigama, said the theme of the CBCN Conference, “Synod on Synodality: Focusing on areas of concern for the Church in Nigeria,” is an opportunity to get clearer information or education on several issues concerning the church and its doctrine.

“The divine physician does not only prescribe prayer, almsgiving and fasting. He also calls us to walk together in synodality which is part of the theme for the conference. Synodality has its roots in the early Christian community.

“But the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given it prominence in his bid to emphasise the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit, and to the voices of all segments of the faithful in decision making in the church, where decisions are made collectively, and the community’s well-being takes precedence over individual interests; where dialogue is promoted, and active participation encouraged,” Mr Kaigama said.

The archbishop said the synod was not about changing the traditional rudiments of the Catholic faith and practice, but that their position resonates with African culture which is against same-sex relationships.

“We have a duty to listen to the rest of the universal church, just as our African culture, ethics and morality have much to offer to our universal family, the Church. The opposite of synodality is clericalism which Pope Francis calls a ‘scandal,’” Mr Kaigama added.

Same-sex Marriage Prohibited in Nigeria

Same-sex marriage and relationships are illegal in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s anti-gay law, enacted in January 2014 by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, stipulates a 14-year prison term for anyone convicted of having sex with members of the same sex.

The Nigerian government put the law to the test for the first time in December 2019 when 47 men arrested by the police in a hotel in Lagos the previous year were arraigned in court, accused of publicly displaying affection for members of the same sex.

All 47 men pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by the court. A federal judge later struck out the charges against the men because of a “lack of diligent prosecution” by the police.

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