Igbo Language and Culture Bishop Ezeokafor Says Baptismal Names, Choice of Candidates

…’Confirmation Sacrament Makes Strong  Christians, Soldiers of Christ’

By Precious Ukeje

English names at Baptism and Confirmation are choices of their bearers, without anyone being forced to bear Igbo names. The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, made this known when asked if it was not counterproductive to the pursuit for retaining the Igbo Language and culture, wherein candidates for confirmation took up English names.

The Catholic prelate explained that each of the names borne by the candidates had Igbo translations, just as Igbo names had English translations, and would not be necessarily considered counterproductive.

This is even as he said that the Sacrament of Confirmation was necessary for the making of a strong Christian and Soldier of Christ.

Bishop Ezeokafor was speaking shortly after Mass at St John’s Catholic Church, Agulu, where he administered the Sacrament of Confirmation on 375 candidates, Saturday, August 14.

Pointing out that it depended on individuals, the prelate said he could not dictate to anyone what names to bear in such situation, even as he restated his strong belief in the maintenance of the Igbo Language and culture. He said the Church would try its best to inculcate in the minds of people, the need to take what was theirs.

He however added that though efforts had been intensified to make people embrace the Igbo Language, especially young people, it would gradually come to be. He identified the factor responsible for it as the attitude of considering foreign materials superior to local ones.

Responding to the significance of Confirmation, the Awka Diocesan chief shepherd said, ‘It is this sacrament that makes us strong Christians and Soldiers of Christ; and you know that every Christian is born into the faith through baptism, after which we continue to grow in the faith through the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation.

‘So as we grow and mature,’ the Catholic prelate explained, ‘We come up to a level where we receive this sacrament that gives us seven-fold, the gift of the Holy Spirit and help you to grow; one of them is to become Soldiers of Christ, and to defend Christ, you must be strong in faith and it is an adult that will go into the faith, not a baby.’

He expressed happiness that such number of persons were confirmed during the second confirmation at St John Agulu, describing it as an indication of the growth of the Church and faith.

While Bishop Ezeokafor pointed out that most of the candidates were children, he said it showed there were people who would take over from the elderly when they could no more carry on. He also said it made one happy to be in an environment where people were growing and described it as a pointer to the fact that the Church was growing and would keep growing.

Meanwhile, some followers of Fides Media Facebook Page have since reacted after a snippet of the news was published on the platform.

Blaise Ezeokeke said, ‘I see ignorance among some catechists and even priests when you want to baptize a child and choose Igbo name; they will insist on English name.’ He said it was time to drop all those and give children names they and their parents understood and could relate with.

Arinze Obi-Okafor explained that the names were not always the choices of their bearers but were imposed on people and said, ‘When I wanted to take an Igbo name in 1993, I was criticized and compelled to take an English name which is the only English name I have.’

Silcon King simply thanked the bishop and noted that he had advocated that in his latest drama booklet which would be out for public consumption soon.

While Nnanyelugo Collins reported that he was nearly refused confirmation without a saint’s name, Chibueze Ofobuike said the Church needed to push more on the matter and expressed pleasure that the bishop had affirmed the reason such had persisted.