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Leading Nigerian prelate rips government economic policies—and Fiducia Supplicans

February 19, 2024

As the Nigerian bishops gathered for their first meeting of 2024, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria offered strong criticism of the nation’s endemic insecurity and corruption, the economic policies of President Bola Tinubu, and Fiducia Supplicans, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration on the pastoral meaning of blessings.

The words of Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, the president of the bishops’ conference, carry added significance because Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa (and sixth most populous in the world), and because the Church there is so vibrant, with 94% Sunday Mass attendance amid intense persecution.

“Unarmed citizens are brutally slaughtered on our highways, in their homes and even in the sacred precincts of places of worship,” Archbishop Ugorji said on February 18, at the opening session of the bishops’ meeting. “Killer herdsmen, bandits and unknown gunmen seem to be on rampage.”

“As a result of the government’s reform agenda, millions of Nigerians have been reduced to a life of grinding poverty, wanton suffering, and untold hardship as never before in our national history,” he continued, as he noted that “more than 80 million Nigerians living under the poverty line of less than two dollars a day.”

Turning to Fiducia Supplicans, Archbishop Ugorji said that “we must also sincerely admit” that the document “has added to our pains.”

He explained:

Given the ambiguities in the Declaration, the document quickly aroused mixed reactions of acceptance, skeptical reserve and outright rejection from Episcopal Conferences and individual bishops across the world. Documents from the Holy See should normally foster unity and communion among Bishops on matters of doctrine, morals and liturgy. Unfortunately, Fiducia Supplicans tends to hurt the unity and catholicity of the Church.

With the media hype that ambushed the text, its publication generated shock, outrage and disbelief among the faithful in our country as elsewhere in Africa and other parts of the world. Many devout Catholics in our communities seriously wonder 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,” Archbishop Ugorji continued. “The protagonists and sponsors of post-modern secularist ideologies use the powerful opinion-shaping instrument of the mass media to spread a permissive culture in the name of freedom and human rights. We should be able to properly discern and differentiate between the ‘voice of God’ and the ‘voice of the world.’“

He added:

In line with our earlier clarification and the declaration of SECAM [the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar], 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. Homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity, which are intrinsically disordered and, above all, contrary to natural law (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2357).

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. As sinners, we are all encouraged to emulate the Prodigal Son, who abandoned his sinful past and returned to his father’s house (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

 


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