By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, has flayed the President Muhammadu Buhari over what he (Bishop) perceives as Buhari's unhealthy agenda for Christians. Bishop Ezeokafor, who stated this at the 3rd Annual Interactive Session he had with the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Awka Diocese (CLCNAD), at St. Mark's Parish, Abagana, Njikoka L.G.A., July 28, averred that anybody in support of what he called Buhari's ruthless agenda was equally against Christians and their right to freedom of religion and worship as enshrined in the country's constitution.
The bishop condemned the continued silence of President Buhari over the killings of Christians by Fulani herdsmen, saying that the present Nigerian government had failed in its primary responsibility which was protection of life and property.
The Catholic prelate advised against giving room for a leader whose agenda infringed the right to freedom of religion of Nigerian citizens. He warned that Buhari's second term would mean doom to Nigeria, especially Christians.
He exhorted Nigerian Christians to pray for Nigeria as well as come the 2019 general election vote in a credible leader who would have the interest of the entire citizens of the country at heart, and not one who would favour a particular religious or ethnic group at the detriment of others.
Responding to questions from the laity on vigil Mass for the dead, Bishop Ezeokafor maintained that every dead practicing Catholic had right to vigil Mass whether the deceased faithful was buried before the funeral ceremony in his honour or not. He kicked against occasions where some priests deny their late faithful parishioners their right to vigil Mass and full burial rites.
On members of the parish council, the Catholic prelate noted that the Parish Pastoral Council was the highest governing body of the parish, and those appointed as members must be practicing Catholics who receive the sacraments and were persons of noble character. He described as unacceptable, occasions where parish priests appoint non-communicants as members of the parish pastoral council.
Speaking on tenures for church lay leaders, Bishop Ezeokafor said the single term of 4 years for a particular position as directed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) stands. He however said that an individual could be re-elected from a lower position to a higher one after, and not to be re-elected from a higher to lower after his first term.
He added that minimum higher academic qualifications were very vital in the election of church leaders, because education brings about development. The bishop observed that in situations where an individual who had the higher academic qualifications together with the qualities and capabilities was not seen, one who had the qualities and capabilities with lower academic qualification could be considered.
On knighthood in the Church, the bishop said knights ought to be protectors of the Church, who should defend the Church at all times, and people considered to be good Christians with proven characters. He berated knights, who instead of defending the Church and her faith with their swords, turned to fight the Church.
In his address of welcome, the President of Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Awka Diocese (CLCNAD), Hon. Joseph Igwebuike, prayed the interactive session which gave the lay faithful the opportunity to seek clarifications on issues bothering on their faith, would rekindle their faith and give them reasons to shun vices that impede their spiritual growth.
He extolled the chief shepherd of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev DrPaulinusEzeokafor for his fatherly love, care and guidance of the flock of the diocese entrusted unto his care.
Igwebuike also commended the auxiliary bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye; the chief chaplain of CLCNAD, Rev. Fr. Dr Michael Muonwe as well as the grand patron, patrons and ambassadors of the Councilfor their love, support and encouragement.
The event which had Emeritus Prof. Frank Akpuaka as the chairman of the occasion, had full representatives of the Laity Council from the 23 deaneries and 183 parishes of Awka Catholic Diocese as well as the diocesan Catholic Men’s Organisation, Catholic Women’s Organisation; Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria; Mary League Girls’ Association and Holy Childhood Association in attendance.
Also in attendance were the Chairman, College of Patrons, CLCNAD and former Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze, Professor JosephatOgbuagu, mni; the former President of CLCNAD and APGA aspirant for Aguata II Constituency Election 2019, Comrade Emma Ezeokafor; IgweMbamaluOkeke (KSJI) of Abagana; Igwe George Okaa-Onwuogu, KSM of Nawgu; the APGA aspirant for Aguata Federal Constituency Election 2019, Engr Dom Okafor and the APGA aspirant for Orumba South Constituency Election 2019, Hon. Engr. Emma Nwafor (Ntu-Japan), who sponsored the writing pad for the event.