Papal Nuncio, Onaiyekan, Other Clerics Witness Ekwulobia Diocese’s Anniversary Celebration

John Cardinal Onaiyekan

The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Archbishop (emeritus), John Cardinal Onaiyekan, other bishops and clergy, were present during the first anniversary celebration of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia in Anambra.

Expectedly, the Cathedral of St. Joseph, was agog with festivities on Saturday March 6, 2021 as the diocese rolled out drums in thanksgiving to God on its first anniversary.

TheFact Nigeria reports that the diocese was created last year by Pope Francis.

The colorful celebration, which commenced with the Holy Mass at which the Papal Nuncio was the Chief Celebrant, also had their Graces, Lordships and priests, including the Local Ordinary, Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke, Archbishops Augustine Akubeze, Valerian Okeke, Matthew Ndangoso, and 21 other Bishops, priests, religious and a good representation of the laity in attendance.

At the beginning of the homily, Archbishop Filipazzi delivered the paternal greetings from the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who also congratulated the first Bishop of Ekwulobia diocese and “the priests, the men and women religious, the seminarians, the families and all the faithful of the Diocese” on the solemn occasion.

While acknowledging that the creation of the new diocese was necessitated as a result of “the remarkable numerical growth of Awka” diocese, the Pope’s envoy to Nigeria nevertheless also noted that “we cannot remain silent about another fact, a non-positive fact that preceded the appointment of the first Bishop of Ekwulobia. I recall it not to recriminate and make polemics, but as a warning.”  “What has happened alerts us to certain dangers that threaten the life and mission of the Church,” he reinforced.

The pope’s representative, who took a swipe at the negative effect of tribalism in the Church, admonished that “tribalism, … makes those who call themselves Christians forget that Jesus Christ has made us all brothers and sisters in His blood and in the sacrament of Baptism”.

In view of this human limitation, Archbishop Filipazzi proposed for “the Church and every Christian”, St. Joseph, whom he said “was in his time the legitimate and natural guardian, head and defender of the divine Family” as a model from whom they “must learn to collaborate with obedient faith in the work of salvation and to do so with the same fidelity, humility, silence and purity of heart that St. Joseph had”.

This was as the Nuncio reminded the people of God that while giving thanks and making merry on the first anniversary of their diocese, they must not forget that the history of their diocese has only just begun, and therefore, rather than looking at the past, they must look ahead to the mission that awaits them and plan the way to carry it out.

While alluding to the passage of the gospel reading at Mass, the Archbishop, relying on the commentary by  R. Cantalamessa, likened Christians to the tenants in the parable to whom the master entrusted his vineyard while expecting the fruits in due season; but he warned that “God will no longer reject the vineyard that is the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ. But if the vine is sure of the Father’s love, not so are the individual branches, … (that is) individual members of the Church, or entire groups of her. If they do not bear fruit, they can be cut off and thrown away”.

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