. . . As Awka Diocese Plans Big for Physically Challenged
By Uche Enem
Ahead of the Christmas celebration, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, has urged the faithful not to see it as just an occasion to wine and dine, while neglecting its real essence, reports Uche Enem.
Bishop Ezeokafor who gave this advice while speaking on a wide range of issues in an interview with Fides in his office, frowned at the mentality of people seeing Christmas merely as a time to eat, enjoy and even commit sin.
He said that even though Christ last came physically over 2000 years ago, Christ's coming during the Christmas celebration would not be a Christ physically present, but a Christ that would be met in the Spirit whom only those with clean heart would see.
He said that other things like entertainment, eating, dressing, done at Christmas were merely at material level, rather than spiritual.
He regretted that many had turned Christmas to a period of making money through any means, and exhorted the faithful to see Christ's coming as a sign of God's love to them which would redeem them from sin and amending what was damaged by the fall of our first parents.
'It will be more damaging, if at the end of the day, instead of celebrating the Christ who has come to give us life in abundance, we then enter sin which is separating us from God,' Bishop Ezeokafor said, while expressing worry about the bad lifestyle of young people during the period.
Warning that such could be difficult to correct in the future once it became a habit, he said that the Christmas celebration should be an opportunity for the faithful to be as children of God.
'It is a wrong impression and attitude by misplacing the priority that Christmas is a time to eat and drink. Christmas is a time to live a sober life, to meditate in the life of Christ who came for us.
'Christmas activities are material notwithstanding, but the spiritual aspect must be in the fore front. So, I would want the youth to focus their mind fully on the true celebration by welcoming Christ in their hearts and learning to live Christ,' he said.
On the attitude of people to the physically challenged, the prelate, while regretting such, said it was the nature of the Church to take care of the needy and people in difficulty.
He said the physically challenged needed attention more than others as their condition was already a cross for them which others should try to lessen by appreciating them and trying to make provision for them.
'We will provide things for them to be self-sustaining and remove as many as possible from the streets because if someone is trained well and meant to understand that there is ability in disability, society becomes better. Through these trainings, the person buys the idea and lives it out,' he stated.
Noting that everybody had a disability in one way or the other, the bishop disclosed plans by Awka Diocese to focus on it at the diocesan level by giving them jobs and taking care of other needs.
To this end, he revealed that ramps or pathways would be built for the physically challenged in parishes to help such people to move freely.
'We have discussed it at the Diocesan Building Committee. The only thing is that we haven't spoken to the priests in general about this. The Retreat Centre ramp will be done immediately. The world is revolving, and things are changing. We need people to speak about this. This is very vital, and we will start discussing it with the priests at the general get together so that even old structures, if possible, could get a ramp. One person cannot be excluded. Everyone should have equal opportunities.
'In the gathering of our priests by January, they will be informed about it. On the building committee, we are preparing guidelines for buildings in the diocese and every building must be accessible, no matter how bad. The idea is a good one,' Bishop Ezeokafor said.
(Details of his interview will be published in our January edition)