Communique issued at the end of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province

Jubilee Conference Centre, Oke-Ado, Ibadan
January 18-19, 2016

Theme: Keep Yahweh’s Attention

We, the Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising of the Archdiocese of Ibadan and the Dioceses of Ondo, Ekiti, Ilorin, Oyo and Osogbo, have held our First Plenary meeting for the year 2016 from January 18-19. Having prayerfully deliberated on issues of importance to our Church and country, we hereby issue the following communique:

1. The Jubilee of Mercy
We emphasize the importance of the ongoing Jubilee of Mercy in the Universal Church which was declared open by Pope Francis on December 8, 2015 with the opening of the Door of Mercy. It will end on November 20, 2016. The Jubilee of Mercy is declared to remind all human beings of the mercy we enjoy from God the Father of all and to focus us on the role of Jesus Christ as the face and personification of God’s mercy. We reiterate the Holy Father’s call that anywhere the Church and Christians are present the mercy of God be made manifest especially during this Year of Mercy. We call especially on all Catholics in Nigeria to seek God’s mercy through penance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy which includes the mutual forgiveness of wrongs. All of us should imbibe what has come to be known as the ABC of the year namely; Ask for God’s mercy; Be merciful and Communicate God’s mercy. That so much injustice, violence and bloodshed permeate our society today is a clear indication that we all indeed need God’s mercy, for blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy .

2. The Pro Life and Pro Family Catechesis
We commend the faith and actions of all who enhance and protect the sanctity of human life, marriage and family in all areas of life. We call on everybody to sustain and expand such initiatives for the sake of humanity. As part of our resolve we have authorized and will support the preparation and publication of a Pro-Life and Pro-Family Catechesis which will serve as a handbook for a detailed understanding and application of the Church’s teaching on the said subjects. We urge all our Clergy, Consecrated persons and Lay Faithful to support and patronize this project which is designed to animate and enrich our faith and our families in many important ways.

3. Insurgency and Corruption
There seems to be a general positivity in public opinion that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari means well and is working hard in the two critical areas of our country’s life, namely: insurgency and corruption. Occurrences of senseless killing by the Boko Haram have decreased and many displaced people are apparently returning to their former homes. We prayerfully congratulate the Nigerian Army and the security forces for their sacrifice and commitment. We appeal to the government that the current general vigilance in the area of security be sustained so as to forestall a reoccurrence of the worst days of insurgency in Nigeria. In the meantime we plead that great care be taken to avoid punishing innocent people for the crimes of the guilty insurgents.
We note that many Nigerians are happy to see the government fish out and prosecute looters of public funds. We encourage the government to stay focused on this important imperative of change. In pursuing this noble cause, however, Nigeria must avoid the endorsement of impunity. Two wrongs simply do not make a right and official lawlessness is always toxic for public sanity. As far as is possible the rights and dignity of all accused people must be respected. This stems from the dignity of every human being, created in the image of God and the need for Nigeria to break with the elements of impunity of the past.

4. Managing the Economic Downturn
Given the current downturn in Nigeria’s economic fortunes, our political leaders at various levels are unable to meet much of their financial obligations. One of the areas in which we plead for a positive resolution is in the payment of workers’ salaries. This unfortunate situation continues to foist considerable hardship on citizens in many States of the Federation. We commend the States of the Federation which have reached some sort of an agreement with their workers on the issue and are making serious effort to assuage the workers’ pains. Our leaders must avoid any sign of threat, arrogance or impunity in dealing with sensitive public challenges. Most people are bearing the brunt of the current economic situation with everything they have and the leaders must not add more emotional trauma to their burden. Governors are also public servants, and therefore must deal with other citizens with respect and courtesy.

5. The Church and Education
The situation of the education sector continues to be a source of concern for the Bishops of our Province. We remain proud of the tenacious resolve of the Church in providing holistic education for Nigerians even in the most remote areas in spite of the unjust take-over of schools and the meagre resources available. The Church is committed to this task which is part of the mission of her Founder. We are prepared to work with the government at all levels to sanitise the education sector among others if the enabling environment is provided.

6. Enhancing Interreligious Relations
It is safe to say that there is a general desire for peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. This noble objective cannot be achieved without genuine, harmonious relations among religions. We thank God for this reality within our Ecclesiastical Province. We wish to encourage all groups and individuals who engage in interreligious relations to do more in seeking various platforms for interaction and collaboration between adherents of different religions. These efforts and the prudent support of our religious leaders, politicians and peoples of goodwill will cement the age-long peaceful co-existence in our country. It will promote mutual understanding and keep at bay the outbreak of hatred and violence.

We have given this Communique as part our pastoral imperative in favour of our nation. We identify in faith with the prophet Isaiah who declared: “On your walls, Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen; they will never fall silent, day or night. No peace for you, as you keep Yahweh’s attention! And give him no peace either until he restores Jerusalem and makes her the pride of the world. Yahweh has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: Never again shall I give your grain to feed your enemies. Never again will foreigners drink the wine for which you have toiled” (Is 62: 6-8). In this Year of Mercy, therefore we invoke the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy as our inspiration for keeping Yahweh’s attention. May she intercede for us as we pray for God’s mercy and His abundant blessings.

Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin
Archbishop of Ibadan

Most Rev. Felix Ajakaye
Bishop of Ekiti

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