Mark To Lead FG’s Delegation To Pope’s Inauguration

As Catholics worldwide prepare for the formal installation of Pope Francis 1 on Tuesday, president Goodluck Jonathan has approved that Nigeria be represented at the event by a federal government delegation headed by the senate president, senator David Mark.

In addition to attending the new pope’s inauguration mass at the Vatican City, the delegation will also convey a congratulatory letter from President Jonathan to Pope Francis who was elected by the College of Cardinals on Wednesday, to succeed Pope Benedict xvi.

A statement by the presidency listed other members of the delegation to include the minister of aviation, Stella Oduah, the minister of state (foreign affairs), Viola Onwuliri and the president of the catholic bishop’s conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama.

African Pope Possible, Says Cardinal

Cardinal Kurt Koch, a close aide of Pope Benedict who will cast his vote for the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, says there is no reason why the new pontiff cannot be African or Latin American.

Koch, head of the Vatican department that deals with Christian unity and relations with Jews, also said he had had no doubt that Pope Benedict would resign rather than rule for life, and said that future popes would be free to do the same.

“The challenges of the Church in the world are very different on different continents: in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America. The question is ‘where will the challenges be greater, on which continent, should it be a pope for, above all, Latin America, for Africa … ,” Koch told Reuters in an interview.

“I can imagine taking a step towards a black pope, an African pope or a Latin American pope. I can imagine this.”

Koch, 62, a soft-spoken Swiss, will be one of the 117 cardinals under the age of 80 who are eligible to enter a secretive conclave to elect the next pope that is expected to start in mid-March.

There has been much speculation in the Church on whether the man to succeed Benedict should be a non-European, which would be a first in more than a millennium.

While the Church in Europe is polarized and has dwindling congregations, the Church in Africa is growing and in Latin America it remains large and vibrant despite inroads by Protestant evangelical groups.

THRIVING

There are several leading candidates from outside the Old Continent.

Latin Americans include Brazilian Odilo Scherer, archbishop of the huge diocese of Sao Paulo and Argentine Leonardo Sandri, who works in the Vatican and whose parents are of Italian origin.

Peter Turkson from Ghana, head of the Vatican’s justice and peace department, is often tipped as Africa’s front runner.

There is a thriving Church in the Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, birthplace of one cardinal who is often mentioned as a candidate, Luis Antonio Tagle.

Asked to provide a job description for the next pope, Koch paused for few seconds and said: “I think each pope has to have four qualities: First of all, deep faith, then, sound doctrine, charisma and a capacity to govern.”

The next pope, whatever his age, could rule for life if he wanted to, like most of his predecessors, or resign for health reasons, Koch said.

Still, he acknowledged that the cardinals were navigating in uncharted waters.

The last pope to leave office willingly was Celestine V, a saintly hermit whose served only a few months before abdicating in 1294 and was imprisoned by his successor in a castle south of Rome. Another pope, Gregory XII, reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute to a rival claimant to the papacy.

“It is clear that this is a situation that is totally new. The cardinals must choose the new pope with the presence of the living pope. We still don’t know what effect it will have. It makes a great difference if the pope is dead or alive,” Koch said.

Benedict has said he would be “hidden to the world” after his resignation on February 28 and the Vatican has said he will not try to influence the choice of his successor. He will move to the papal summer residence south of Rome and then in April, after the conclave, into a convent inside the Vatican.

VERY SECRET

Koch cautioned against making predictions on who the next pope could be.

“The election is very secret, even in the conclave, no one knows who the other person is voting for as we put our ballots in the chalice,” he said.

Koch, who was in the room when Benedict announced his resignation to a small group of cardinals in Latin on Monday, said he was surprised only by the timing.

“I always said if any pope would resign it would be Benedict … this move was very characteristic of his personality. He never wanted to put himself at the centre of things,” Koch said.

“We now see that behind the ministry (of any pope) there is a human person … these are decisions of individual conscience. John Paul decided not to come down from the cross, as he put it, and retained the ministry to his death,” Koch said.

“John Paul reflected long and hard on that and came to his decision. Benedict is another person and he came to another decision and I think we have to accept this decision of conscience and not think about all the consequences that it could bring about.”

Pope Will Not Interfere In Selection Of Successor

Pope Benedict XVI, who is due to resign on February 28, has stated that he will not interfere in choosing his successor after his shock decision to resign at the end of the month.

The brother to the Pope, Georg Ratzinger told journalists the Pope would only “make himself available” if he were needed.

Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday he would resign after almost eight years as the head of the Catholic Church because he was too old to continue at the age of 85.

This decision pegged as the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even Benedict’s closest aides.

The Vatican now says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns

Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85, the Spokesman to the spiritual father, Federico Lombardo, said on Monday.

The Pope told the Cardinals of the Catholic Church on Monday that he decided to take the decision due to “ill health”.

The last pope  to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He was said to have taken the decision to end a supposed civil war in the church where more than one person claimed to be the Pope.

Benedict is the 265th Pope, and the sixth German to serve in this capacity. Benedict, who became Pope in 2005 is the first German to appointed since the 11th Century.

Below is the official Vatican translation of Pope  Benedict’s statement on his resignation:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 11 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI

 

Bad Character Not Religion Responsible For Violence In Nigeria – Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned religious violence in the country saying that those who kill in the name of religion cannot be said to be worshipping god.

President Jonathan

President Jonathan made the observation in his remarks at a service organised to mark the 30th Episcopal Ordination and Celebration of the Elevation of Cardinal John Onaiyekan as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Pro-Cathedral, Area 3, Garki, Abuja.

The president described Cardinal Onaiyekan as a bridge builder and a true messenger of God expressing the confidence that one day the papal father will come from Nigeria.

He observed that most of the violence in society stem from people of questionable characters and called on the church to braze up to the responsibility of moulding people’s character.

The president said, “The Church, the government and the political actors have the same responsibilities and we believe that the Church is at the centre of society building.

“Some of the challenges we face today arise because of the character our people have.

“If the Church moulds the people especially starting from the children, Nigeria will be a better place,” he said.

He congratulated Cardinal Onaiyekan on his elevation, describing it is a significant achievement and honour for the clergyman and the nation.

He described the office of a cardinal in the Catholic Church as a position of great responsibility and service to humanity.

Five Killed in Yobe Church Attack

Five persons have been killed in Piri Village of Potiskum Local Government area of Yobe state, North-east Nigeria.

Earlier in the year a similar attack was lunched at the Redeemed Ambassador Church of Nation. Photo by Jonathan Gopep

Eye witness accounts claim that the worshippers of ECWA Church, Piri, were in a prayer session within the Church at about 2AM this morning when unknown gun men suspected to be Boko Haram sect stormed the church killing five of them and setting the church ablaze.

The Pastor of the Church is reported to be amongst those killed during the Christmas Eve midnight service.

The Police Public Relations Officer in Yobe State, Salihu Adamu (DSP) who confirmed the incident to Channels Television in Damaturu said five people were reported killed in the attack.

He however said the Divisional Police Officer is yet to give details of the attack.

Also confirming the attack, a military spokesperson, Eli Lazarus, told Reuters news agency that “unknown gunmen attempted to attack Potiskum but were repelled by the troops. While they were fleeing, they attacked a church in a village known as Piri.”

Piri is a village outskirt of Potiskum and predominantly an indigenous Christian settlement.

The Christmas day attack is coming just as Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas message on Tuesday, prayed for “concord in Nigeria”, as he lamented the “savage acts of terrorism” that frequently target Christian churches in Nigeria.

Yobe state has recorded a number of such attacks on Churches, schools, police stations and markets.

 

Pope urges end to Boko Haram killings

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday prayed for “concord in Nigeria”,as he lamented the “savage acts of terrorism” that frequently target Christian churches in Nigeria, during his traditional Christmas message.

The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has often targeted churches in its bloody insurgency against the Nigerian government killing about 3,000 people since 2009 when the insurgency started.

The violence is now worsened with the emergence of another terror group, the Ansaru that claimed to have kidnapped French engineer, Frances Colump, in Rimi Katsina, Katsina State last week.

Pope Benedict also called for an “end to the bloodshed” and “a political solution” in conflict-wracked Syria in a traditional Christmas message that touched on several other of the world’s conflict zones.

“There is hope in the world … even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations,” he said, praying that “peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”

More than 44,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown, a rights group said last week.

The Pope’s annual “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) message, heard by some 40,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, also pointed to hotspots across Africa and urged religious freedom in China, and as usual called for peace in the Middle East.

The Pope prayed for “help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” where a rebel campaign caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, and peace in Kenya, “where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship”.

He also urged peace in Mali, where Islamist insurgents have occupied large swathes of the desert north since a March coup.

He also prayed for “Israelis and Palestinians (to be granted the) courage to end long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.”

Turning to China, the German Pope called on the new leadership to “esteem the contributions of the religions.”

Speaking of “the high task that awaits them,” the Pontiff said he hoped the new leaders unveiled in November would “help build a fraternal society for that noble people and of the whole world.”

China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taipei, a rival to the communist regime in Beijing.

Although Beijing and the Vatican have improved relations in recent years as China’s Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.

About 5.7 million Chinese belong to the state-run Catholic Church, according to official figures. Independent estimates say 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in unauthorised churches and are loyal to the pope.

Mark, others to attend Onaiyekan’s consecration, visit Suntai

President Goodluck  Jonathan is sending an official delegation headed by the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark to represent the Federal Government at the formal consecration of Archbishop John Onaiyekan as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican tomorrow.

This was confirmed by a statement signed by the special adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.

Other members of the delegation are the Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadomhe, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, the Minister of State (FCT), Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide and the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa Chapel, Venerable Obioma Onwuzurumba.

It will be recalled that Archbishop Onaiyekan’s elevation to the College of Cardinals was announced by the Vatican on October 24, this year.

President Jonathan has also mandated members of the delegation to stop over in Hanover, Germany on their way back to visit Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State who is receiving treatment there for injuries sustained in a recent plane crash.

The delegation which is scheduled to leave Abuja today is due back on Sunday.

Pope appoints Kukah to Vatican’s Pontifical Council

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, as a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Vatican City.

Matthew Hassan Kukah with the Pope Benedict XVI

The 13-member Council is the highest decision and policy-making body for the Council for the Holy Father.

Kukah’s appointment is coming after the appointment of the Archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan as a Cardinal.

The Bishop has recently had sundry of appointments and awards.

In May, the President of the Conference of Bishops of English and French speaking West Africa appointed Kukah as the Chairman of the Commission on Culture, Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

In February, he was elected Chairman of the Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

He had earlier served the Council in five-year tenure when Francis Cardinal Arinze served as the President of the Council.

He was a delegate at the just-concluded Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelisation in the Vatican.

Pope appoints Nigerian archbishop into vatican position

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Lebanese and Nigerian clergymen to a Vatican department aimed at countering growing secularisation in a sign of attention to two problematic regions for the Catholic Church.

The Vatican said the Archbishop of Beirut of the Maronites, Paul Youssef Matar, and the Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, would be joining the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Despite the raging conflict in Syria, which has also raised tensions within Lebanon, the pope is expected to visit Beirut on September 14-16 with a message calling for peaceful coexistence between religions in the region.

Thousands of people have been killed in Jos in recent years in clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities including a suicide attack on a Catholic church in March in which a dozen people were killed.

Benedict created the pontifical council for new evangelisation in 2010.