ABUJA ARCHDIOCESE BURIES MONSIGNOR ONYESO

It was a period of grief and sadness for the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja as the Bishops, clergy, religious and laity gathered to bury the late Rt. Rev. Msgr. Anthony Asoluka Onyeso, today, 29th March, 2021.

The late Msgr. Onyeso who died on Friday, 19th March, 2021, being the Solemnity of St. Joseph after a period of protracted illness, was born on 23rd April, 1950 and was ordained priest on 2nd October, 1988. On 26th July, 2020, he was installed a Monsignor at St.Agnes Parish, Wuye, Abuja.

In their homilies at the requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Parish Airport and the funeral Mass at Our Lady Queen Of Nigeria, Pro-Cathedral, Area 3, Garki, Abuja, Rev. Fr. Lazarus Ishaku, his Associate at the time of his death, and Rev. Fr. Aloysius Achonwa, his long time friend of over three decades respectively attested to his many virtues, chief among which are his simplicity and humility, his openness and welcoming heart, his humility and love for those around him, and most of all, his dedication to duty, even till the very last moments of his life. He believed strongly in the philosophy of “being a true soldier and dying at his duty post.”

The internment, which took place at the Archdiocesan presbyterium cemetery located in Ss. Simon and Jude Minor Seminary Kuje, saw a large turn out of priests, religious and laity. The Archbishop of Abuja, Most. Rev. (Dr.) Ignatius Kaigama performed the last rites of commendation, accompanied by his Auxiliary, Most. Rev. Anselm Umoren, MSP and the Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.

The late Monsignor Anthony Onyeso was the Abuja Archdiocesan Chaplain of the Guild of Saint Anthony of Padua for thirty years. May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen

Ash Wednesday: Vatican offers guidance on ash distribution amid pandemic

The Vatican gave guidance Tuesday about how priests can distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.  The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a note Jan. 12, directing priests to say the formula for distributing the ashes once to everyone present, rather than to each person. 

The priest “addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,’” the note said.

It continued: “The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”  The note was signed by the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, and its secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche. 

Ash Wednesday falls on Feb. 17 this year.  In 2020, the divine worship congregation put out various instructions for priests on administering the sacraments and offering Mass during the coronavirus pandemic, including for the celebration of Easter, which occurred when many countries were in lockdown and public liturgies were not permitted.

Source Credite: Catholic News Agency

Vatican permits priests to say up to four Masses on Christmas Day

The Vatican’s liturgy congregation will permit priests to say up to four Masses on Christmas Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1, and Epiphany to accommodate more worshipers amid the pandemic.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, signed a decree announcing the permission Dec. 16.

The decree said that diocesan bishops may allow priests in their diocese to say up to four Masses on the three solemnities “in view of the situation brought about by the worldwide spread of the pandemic, by virtue of the faculties conceded to this Congregation by the Holy Father Francis, and due to the persistence of the general contagion of the so-called COVID-19 virus.”

According to the Code of Canon Law, a priest ordinarily may celebrate Mass just once per day.

Canon 905 says that priests may be allowed by their local bishop to offer up to two Masses per day “if there is a shortage of priests,” or up to three Masses per day on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation “if pastoral necessity requires it.”

Restrictions in place in some parts of the world, aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus, limit the number of people present at liturgies and some parishes have been offering extra Masses on Sundays and during the week to allow more people to attend.

Christmas Day and Jan. 1 are solemnities and therefore required days for Catholics to attend Mass. In the United States, the Solemnity of Epiphany has been moved to Sunday.

During the pandemic, some bishops have dispensed Catholics in their diocese from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation if attendance would put them at risk of contracting the virus.

Source Credit: Catholic News Agency

Nigerian Christians facing ‘calculated genocide,’ bishop Avenya tells US Congress

The world must not ignore the “genocide” of Christians in Nigeria, the Catholic Bishop of Gboko told members of Congress on Thursday.

“The mass slaughter of Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, by every standard, meets the criteria for a calculated genocide from the definition of the Genocide Convention,” Bishop William Avenya of Gboko, in center of Nigeria, told a congressional commission on Thursday.

The bishop said that “it is depressing that our Middle Belt region has truly become a vale of tears, a region where mass burials are very common!”

Bishop Avenya was testifying at a Dec. 17 hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan congressional commission, on “Conflict and Killings in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.”

The Middle Belt is a fertile region stretching across the central part of Nigeria, the site of an increasing amount of violence in recent years where many farming villages in a predominantly Christian have been attacked.

According to the International Crisis Group, there were an average of more than 2,000 fatalities per year from 2011 to 2016 in the Middle Belt. Although 600 have died in the Middle Belt this year, the number is nearly six times that when the area of concern includes the country’s north, said Robert Destro, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department.

Christians and Muslims in Nigeria have suffered an mounting toll from violent attacks by Fulani militants in the Middle Belt and in the country’s northeast by the terror groups Islamic State West Africa Province (Iswap)—formerly Boko Haram—and by the new Boko Haram group that split off from Iswap.

According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), more than two million are estimated to be “internally-displaced” in Nigeria. 

The drivers of the violence are complex, members of Congress and State Department officials said on Thursday.

Fulanis are nomadic herdsmen who populate the broader region of the Sahel, some have been driven south into the Middle Belt by desertification caused by climate change, commission co-chair Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on Thursday, and he noted there are also counter-reprisals committed against Fulanis.

Nevertheless, “[t]he largest, dominant driver of conflict in the Middle Belt region is committed by Fulani extremists, who appear driven in large part by ethno-religious chauvinism, against mostly Christian farmers – though I do note that elsewhere Shia Muslims are also victims, and that intra-Sunni conflicts also exist within the Muslim community as well,” Smith said.

Many of the reported attacks on villages are “massacres,” Smith said, as civilians are targeted for killings, injuries, and rape.

In 2017, Catholic bishops reported an increasing number and intensity of attacks by Fulanis, who were employing sophisticated weaponry not before seen in previous herder-farmer clashes.

Some bishops have emphasized the ethno-religious nature of the attacks, claiming that the largely-Muslim Fulani militants specifically target Christian villages and churches.

However, one Nigerian priest involved in conflict management recently told Aid to the Church in Need that the violence “is more of a resource conflict than a religious one,” as the nomadic herdsmen are in search of water and grazing land because of desertification.

U.S. religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback said on Thursday that violence “often plays out along faith lines” even if the conflicts were not religious in origin.

Non-governmental organizations have warned of “increasingly religious undertones” to the conflict in the last year, he said, with reports of religious sites burned and forced conversions of some kidnapping victims.

Bishop Avenya charged the Nigerian government for failing to protect Christians in the Middle Belt.

“How can one explain a scenario where as many as a hundred innocent and defenceless villagers are killed in one single attack and no one says anything about it?” he asked.

“It appears that the system has not only permitted but is also aiding the enthronement of supremacist views of one religious group against the others,” he said.

Destro said that religious and political leaders and aid groups have emphasized the lack of security in the country.

“If a community calls the Nigerian equivalent of 911, nobody answers. There is no effective police protection,” he said. Local communities do not have the resources to protect themselves and prosecute the perpetrators of violence.

Destro noted that “the Nigerians themselves are beside themselves” over the violence, and that “[t]here is some denial that there’s religious violence, but I did not find that to be the case in most instances.”

The hearing came after two more attacks on civilians were reported in international media this week. On Dec. 15, the Islamist terror group Boko Haram admitted culpability for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys at a school in northwestern state of Katsina, and in the country’s southeast a Nigerian priest was kidnapped by four armed men on Monday, and later released on Wednesday.

Due to the ongoing violence against civilians in Nigeria, the State Department last week designated Nigeria a “country of particular concern (CPC)” for the first time ever—a listing reserved for the countries with the worst records on religious freedom, such as China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

The CPC designation is “hopefully a true wakeup call” to the government, Smith said, noting that if there is no proper response to the designation, the U.S. should consider using sanctions.

Source Credit: Catholic News Agency

NEWS: Stolen Tabernacle from Catholic Cathedral Found

The tabernacle that was stolen earlier this week from the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral in St. Catharines, Ontario was recovered on Wednesday, September 9.

According to group news reports on the Catholic News Agency’s website, a group of parishioners from the cathedral discovered the tabernacle in Centennial Park, which is located near the cathedral. The tabernacle was partially submerged in a canal, and parts of the ciborium were missing.

The report also has it that the Eucharist that was contained in the tabernacle was not found in it at the time of the recovery, but because it was in a body of water, it may have dissolved. A host that is dissolved ceases to be a consecrated host.

After Mass on Wednesday afternoon, someone came to the rectory door with one of the tabernacle’s brass doors. The man said that he had been given the piece of the tabernacle on the street, by a man who said that someone gave it to him in Centennial Park. The tabernacle’s other door has not yet been found.

The cathedral had previously been subjected to numerous thefts and acts of vandalism, including the theft of two bronze lamp posts in 2019. The lamp posts were recovered after the thieves attempted to sell them to a scrapyard.

No suspects have been identified in Tuesday’s tabernacle theft.

NEWS: Tabernacle stolen from Canadian Catholic cathedral

The Bishop of St. Catharines, Ontario is pleading for thieves to return the consecrated Host after the tabernacle was stolen from the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral on Tuesday. 

Bishop Gerard Bergie of St. Catharines pleaded for the two people who took the tabernacle to return it, along with its contents, in an interview Tuesday afternoon with Canadian station NewsTalk 610 CKTB. 

“The tabernacle can be replaced. It’s the contents (…) that is what is so precious to us. That’s what’s irreplaceable,” said Bergie, adding that he hopes that no harm is done to the Blessed Sacrament. 

He hopes that the person or persons who took the tabernacle “realize it’s not of any monetary value, and be able to return it to us.”  “No questions asked, if they return it,” he said. 

The tabernacle is made of steel, but has two bronze-colored doors, said the bishop. Bergie suspected that perhaps the thieves thought the tabernacle was made of gold, or perhaps had a more nefarious intent with stealing the hosts.  “Who knows what goes through the minds of these people,” he said. 

Video footage captured two people, believed to be a man and a woman, breaking into the cathedral at approximately 4:30 a.m. Sept. 8. As it was dark, the footage is “kind of grainy” and it has been difficult to determine a clear image of the suspects, he said.

Source Credit: Catholic News Agency

NEWS: Queensland passes law requiring priests to break confessional seal

The legislature of the Australian state of Queensland on Tuesday passed a law requiring priests to violate the seal of confession to report known or suspected child sex abuse.  Failure to do so will be punished with three years in prison.  The law passed the Legislative Assembly of Queensland Sept. 8, with the support of the opposition Liberal National Party of Queensland. 

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has said such a reporting requirement would “not make a difference to the safety of young people,” and that the bill was based on a “poor knowledge of how the sacrament actually works in practice”.  Last week the Australian bishops provided the federal government with the Holy See’s observations on 12 recommendations of a 2017 report on child sex abuse in the country’s institutions. In response to a recommendation regarding the seal of confession and absolution, the Holy See reiterated the inviolability of the seal and that absolution cannot be conditioned on future actions in the external forum. 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse had recommended that it be clarified whether “information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession,” and “if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities.”  The royal commission, a five-year Australian government inquiry, concluded in 2017 with more than 100 recommendations. 

Mark Ryan, the Queensland police minister and a member of the Australian Labor Party, said that “the requirement and quite frankly the moral obligation to report concerning behaviours towards children applies to everyone everyone in this community” and that “no one group or occupation is being singled out.” 

Stephen Andrew, the sole Queensland MP of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, said that “the bill poses a real danger for public trust and cohesion in our community,” and asked: “How confident can the people of Queensland be that they live in a free and open democracy governed by the rule of law, where the state jails its bishops?”  Archbishop Coleridge has also said the law would make priests “less a servant of God than an agent of the state” and raise “major questions about religious freedom.” 

Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory have also adopted laws forcing priests to violate the confessional seal, while New South Wales and Western Australia have upheld it.  Attorneys-general in Australia’s federal and state governments agreed in November 2019 on reporting standards that would require priests to break the sacramental seal or violate Australia’s mandatory abuse reporting rules. Further, priests would not be able to use the defense of privileged communications in the confessional seal to avoid giving evidence against a third party in criminal or civil proceedings. 

Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane commented Sept. 4 that Australia’s bishops “are keen to support the ongoing public conversation about policies, practices and protocols which will ensure that children and other people at risk are safe in our communities.”  The Holy See told Australia’s bishops earlier this year that the seal of confession is inviolable, and that it includes all the sins known from the confession, both of the penitent and others.  The Holy See added that this is the “long-standing and constant teaching of the Church on the inviolability of the sacramental seal, as something demanded by the nature of the sacrament itself and thus as deriving from Divine Law.”  It added that the confessor “certainly may, and indeed in certain cases should, encourage a victim to seek help outside the confessional or, when appropriate, to report an instance of abuse to the authorities.” 

The Holy See also said that “the confessional provides an opportunity – perhaps the only one – for those who have committed sexual abuse to admit to the fact. In that moment the possibility is created for the confessor to counsel and indeed to admonish the penitent, urging him to contrition, amendment of life and the restoration of justice. Were it to become the practice, however, for confessors to denounce those who confessed to child sexual abuse, no such penitent would ever approach the sacrament and a precious opportunity for repentance and reform would be lost.” 

It added that “it is of paramount importance that formation programmes for confessors include a detailed analysis of Church law, including the ‘Note’ of the Apostolic Penitentiary, together with practical examples to instruct priests concerning difficult questions and situations that may arise. These may include, for example, principles for the kind of dialogue a confessor should have with a young person who has been abused or appears vulnerable to abuse, as well as with anyone who confesses to having abused a minor.”

Source credit: Catholic News Agency

NEWS: ABUJA ARCHDIOCESE INAUGURATES 11 COMMISIONS

Eleven Commissions have been inaugurated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja for the proper administration of the Archdiocese. The Commissions, which were announced by the Archbishop, His Grace, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama during the closing Mass of the First General Assembly of the Archdiocese held from 4th – 5th September 2020, are arms of the Archdiocesan Curia, which shall assist the Local Ordinary in the governance of the Archdiocese.

While naming the Commissions and their respective Chairpersons, the Archbishop charged them to diligently discharge their duties for the common good of the Archdiocese. The Commissions are Education, Justice Development and Peace (JDPC), Health, Pastoral and New Evangelization, Family and Human Life, Youths and Catechetics. Others are Liturgy, Communication, Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

We commend them to the grace of God as they take up their work in the Archdiocese.

NEWS: ABUJA ARCHDIOCESE COMMISSIONS COMMUNION MINISTERS

As part of activities of the First General Assembly of the Archdiocese of Abuja, the Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama today, commissioned 15 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

The ccommissioning ceremony which took place during the closing Mass of the Assembly saw 15 men and women drawn from different parishes across the diocese.

In a brief remark before the commissioning, the Archbishop highlighted the roles of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to include assisting priests in the distribution of Holy Communion during Mass and assisting to take Holy Communion to the sick. He also charged them to be faithful their ministry and live up to the expectation of God and the Church of them.

HISTORY MADE AS ARCHBISHOP KAIGAMA OF ABUJA RECEIVES PALLIUM FOR A SECOND TIME

In a historic event which took place at the Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja, the new Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, today, 27th August 2020, received a new Pallium for a second time as Archbishop of Abuja at the hands of the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, His Excellency, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazi thus, becoming the first Nigerian Archbishop to receive the Pallium twice, the first, being as Archbishop of Jos Archdiocese, and also the first Nigerian Archbishop to receive the Pallium here in Nigeria.

The ceremony began with the profession of faith and taking of the oath of allegiance to the Holy See by the receiving Archbishop, after which a simple ceremony of investiture was performed by the Pope’s representative, Archbishop Filipazi, the Papal Nuncio.

In his homily at the Mass, the Papal Nuncio clearly explained the meaning and significance of the Pallium, which includes an expression of Communion with the Supreme Pontiff. He also added that the Archbishop who bears the Pallium upon his shoulders has the task of leading his particular Archdiocese and the suffragan dioceses in his province to be in complete Communion with the Holy Mother Church. Speaking further on the significance of the Pallium especially to the recipient Archbishop, the Nuncio charged Archbishop Kaigama to imitate Jesus the Good Shepherd who goes after his lost sheep. He also stated that the Pallium should constantly remind him of the call of Jesus who commands us to take his yoke upon our shoulders.

The Pallium is a special vestments made of wool from sheep raised by trappist monks and woven by Benedictine nuns. It is worn over the neck of an Archbishop with Metropolitan Authority, signifying his responsibility as Shepherd and a sign of his Communion with the Holy See. Previously, the newly appointed Archbishops across the world go to Rome to receive the Pallium from the hands of the Holy Father on the Solemnity of Sainst Peter and Paul but in 2015, Pope Francis directed that henceforth, the Pallium imposition should be done in the local church of the recipient in other to offer the faithful in the local church the opportunity to take part in the ceremony. Between then (2015) and now, Archbishop Kaigama has been the only new Archbishop to an Archdiocese, making him the first Archbishop to receive the Pallium here in Nigeria.

Goodwill messages to the new Archbishop of Abuja came from Archbishop Augustine Akubeze of Benin Archdiocese on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Bishop Anthony Adaji, MSP of Idah Diocese on behalf of the suffragan bishops of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province, Hon. Ogbonnaya Onu, Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, on behalf of the Government and People of Nigeria and Sir Charles Uwaonwa, KSJI, on behalf of the Laity Council of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province.

Congratulations to Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama and the Church of Abuja Archdiocese and Abuja Ecclesiastical Province at large.