Enugu, the Coal City, and Holy Ghost Cathedral, Ogui, Enugu, in particular, came alive on Sunday, as thousands of people from various parts of the country thronged the city to participate in a Holy Mass marking the opening of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), holding in the City.

Vehicular movements from some kilometers away to the area were restricted, while every available space in the arena itself, was literally occupied.

All the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria, including the President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, His Grace, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, are attending the meeting which started on August 19, and will last till August, 27, 2021.

Among dignatories that attended the Church service were Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who read the First Lesson; former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi; former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze; and the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, His Excellency Antonio Guido Filipazzi.

There were also hundreds of priests and the religious, the Knights of the Catholic Church as well as thousands of other lay faithful.

Delivering homily during the mass, Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Lordship, Most. Rev. Calistus Onaga, challenged the Federal Government to give equal treatment to all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

The Bishop who expressed worry at the rising security in the country as manifested in the daily kidnappings and abductions of innocent citizens, including school children, banditry and herders attacks, which he said, was as a result of growing poverty and unemployment in the land, advised the federal government to give all sections of Nigeria a sense of belonging.

He noted that Nigeria was currently facing two conflicting challenges, which are, oneness and disintegration, but stated that “united we stand, divided we fall.” He maintained that Nigeria’s diversity could be a great asset if it is well managed, but could be a disaster if it is not well managed.

Bishop Onaga while observing the expertise and precision with which Nigerian security agencies had repatriated the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra. (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from Kenya to Nigeria, as well as the arrest and detention of the leader of Yoruba Nation agitation, Sunday Igboho, in Benin Republic, wondered why the security agencies could not apply the same expertise and precision in arresting those who “are hibernating in our bushes, terrorizing and killing our people.”

He stated that Nigerian security agencies should not be one-sided in combating crimes, insisting that if they could perform excellently outside the shores of Nigeria, they should as well perform excellently inside the country.

Bishop Onaga however pleaded with secessionist agitators to reappraise their strategies, stating that they should not adopt methods that could bring pains to the very people they claim to be fighting for their interest. He noted that both Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela had won freedom for their people without inflicting pains on them. “Sit-at-home” order may not be the best method, he emphatically stated.

Giving a brief background of Enugu Diocese, Bishop Onaga informed that Enugu Diocese, with a current population of about 1.4 million Catholics, was created on November 12, 1962, and presently has three bishops, an Emeritus Bishop, an Auxiliary Bishops, and the incumbent Bishop.

According to Bishop Onaga, Enugu Diocese has 449 Diocesan priests, and 167 other priests, as well as 50 religious houses and 206 parishes. The diocese also has the first Diocesan University in West Africa, the Godfrey Okoye University.

Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI

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