From Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Pope Francis has called for fervent prayers from Christians all over Nigeria, which he said, is important for the restoration of peace in the land.
The Pope’s envoy to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, who delivered the paternal greetings from the Holy Father, at a thanksgiving mass to celebrate the first anniversary of Ekwulobia Catholic Diocese, Anambra state, at the weekend, said there were disputes everywhere because most Christians are weak in prayers.
“Multilingual, multiethnic and multireligious nature of Nigeria should be seen as strength not weakness. Therefore, the insecurity and hatred in Nigeria are uncalled for.
“But we are very sure that if the people of God in Nigeria can seek the face of God in prayers, He can heal the land, and restore peace. This country has had enough of internal disturbances that have been the bane of its development but with prayers, God will heal the land. There is no problem God cannot solve but Christians in Nigeria must seek the face of God in prayers.”
He criticised the negative effect of tribalism in the church, particularly the Catholic Church, warning that it portends great danger for the body of Christ.
He also warned that such practices were not healthy for the church, advising that Christians 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.
Archbishop Filipazzi recalled the “drama” that preceded the creation of the Diocese and appointment of its first Bishop, Peter Okpaleke, by Pope Francis, describing it as a dangerous threat to the life and mission of the Church
He acknowledged that the creation of the new Diocese was necessitated by the remarkable numerical growth of Awka Diocese, adding, we cannot remain silent about a non-positive fact that preceded the appointment of the first Bishop of Ekwulobia, Peter Okpaleke.
He commended Bishop Okpalaeke for what he described as exemplary and rare strides, which he said grew the diocese to an unprecedented level within one year and urged him not to relent.
“This is not the first diocese Bishop Okpaleake is shepherding since his consecration as bishop. But with patience, fervent prayers and total trust in God, Bishop Okpalaeke now locates a diocese where he can do his pastoral duties with peace of mind. This is what we are saying about the power of prayers. With prayers and total submission to the will of God, He can turn around the stories of his people overnight,” he added.
Speaking to newsmen after the Holy Mass, Bishop Okpalaeke said he was able to achieve the much he did in the diocese because of his dedication to the work of God as well as the support of the faithful in the diocese.
There was festivities to mark the anniversary, which had John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishops Augustine Akubeze, Valerian Okeke, Matthew Ndangoso, and 21 other Bishops, priests, religious and a good representation of the laity in attendance.