Your Eminence, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Your Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson.
The Nigerian Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs – HE Geoffrey Onyeama.
The Italian Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs and International
Cooperation – HE Enzo Moavero Milanesi.
Your Excellency the Nigerian Ambassador to Italy –
Ambassador Jonga Hinna.
Your Excellencies my distinguished colleagues.
Distinguished Speakers, Distinguished Invited Guests.
Ladies and gentlemen.
2. An Italian writer, Dino Segrè (also known as Pitigrilli) in his Book "Cocaine" had once said and I quote "Conferences are assemblies of people who agree about how to conduct an argument and end by sending a telegram of congratulation to the Minister", unquote. I was almost agreeing with my friend, Pitigrilli; but when I recalled what happened at the Garden of Eden, I begged to differ slightly. Having created Adam, God and Adam were great pals, until he ate the forbidden fruit. You see, God had designed a very easy and uncomplicated life for mankind but was provoked to create difficulty in the path of mankind because of the intransigence of Adam. So, on that fateful day that Adam ate the apple, he later realized he had done something terribly wrong; and so, to show remorse he went into hiding, using some leaves to cover himself. When God waited and did not hear from Adam for more hours than usual, He decided to enquire; and God called out "Adam, Adam, where are you?" Adam did not respond in the two previous times that God had called him; but on the third call, Adam replied "Lord I am naked!"
3. Ladies and gentlemen, here was a question that bordered on location (Geography) and the answer Adam gave was on human anatomy (Biology). To avoid this type of disconnect, the modern world found it necessary to introduce conferences as avenues to deliberate on issues with a view to coming up with some coherent correct answers to questions; and this is where I disagree with Pitigrilli that conferences end up achieving nothing.
4. Thank goodness, this particular conference will be quite different in the sense that it is designed to proffer solutions to contemporary challenges prevalent in the Third World, Nigeria inclusive. Some of these challenges, with direct impact on the wellbeing of Third World’s citizenry, include insecurity, corruption and underdevelopment. Insecurity is viewed from the human-
5. It is an incredible opportunity and an immense privilege to have us coming together for this epoch-
6. We would want to go home with some possible solutions to the challenge the theme of this conference has aptly identified; and these solutions can only be possible with your full participation. Consequently, we are looking forward to a highly stimulating and interactive conference.
7. The session will be in 2 phases: Phase 1 starts shortly, and will end with a Tea Break. After the 15-
8. I thank you and God bless.
1. Very many economic blueprints have been churned out to improve the Human Development Index of marginal countries, Extremely Poor Countries and Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), notable among which are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, signed by 189 country leaders in 2000, were 8 goals with measureable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. They were aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health and global partnerships, amongst others, by 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the MDGs in 2016 and are made up of 17 goals, from gender inequality to climate change. The common thread running through the 17 goals and 169 targets are the commitment to eradicate poverty in all its ramifications, including extreme poverty, as this has been identified as the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, by 2030.
2. It is barely 12 years to 2030 and the goals initially set under the MDGs initiative in 2000, have largely remained unrealizable 18 years later. The failure to achieve even the modest goals of the MDGs has further exacerbated poverty in the marginal, Extremely Poor Countries and Highly Indebted Poor Countries. Many factors are attributed to this; some from natural sources and others man-
3. This is one question that needs to be critically examined in the light of Bill Gates’ admonition that African governments, especially those of Nigeria and the DRC, must invest more in human capital development since it is the panacea for poverty alleviation. Gates believes that poverty alleviation could be attained through quality investment in health, family planning and education. Gates’ assertion, based on Goalkeepers Data Report, posits that Africa accounts for Two-
4. The foregoing notwithstanding, Goalkeepers Data Report analysis of Poverty Reduction in a 60-
Source: GOALKEEPERS DATA REPORT
While this graphic projection holds some degree of hope for sub-
5. To underscore the severity of the debt issues, the G8 Finance Ministers, rising from their 2005 Conference, resolved to cancel the debt-
6. Even at that, these indebted countries would do all in their powers to demonstrate their capabilities to pay back their debts, through injurious domestic policies that further exacerbate the already-
7. If charity, debt forgiveness and oppressive taxes will not lend hand in curtailing extreme poverty and hunger in Africa, what then holds the key to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the Third World? There is a school of thought that believes that the quality of life of citizens in the Third World can only be enhanced when the citizens engage in techno-
8. Besides the HDI, the World Bank, in its annual meeting in Bali, Indonesia, some 3 weeks ago, came up with a new paradigm of ranking countries based on its Human Capital Index (HCI). This ranking answers the question: How well are the global governments setting up their people for success? To underscore the potency of this question, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) submits that 56% of children born these days around the world will miss out on more than half their potential lifetime earnings just because governments are not making good and adequate investments into education and health. In other words, the HCI ranking is an expression of how much countries are losing by not fully investing in human capital, which include “the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate over their lives”. To therefore ensure a high HCI in their respective countries, governments must make necessary and sufficient investments in education and health. The following Bar-
WORLD’S REGIONAL HUMAN CAPITAL INDEX STANDINGS BAR-
SOURCE: BASED ON WORLD BANK’S DATA
1. SEA – South East Asia.
2. ECA – Europe & Central Asia.
3. MENA – Middle East & North Africa.
4. SSA – Sub-
5. LAC – Latin America & Caribbean.
6. EAP – East Asia & Pacific.
7. NA – North America.
9. Health challenges are known precursors of poverty and that is why it is a significant milestone to attain in the SDGs. Like someone once said; “Health is Everything”. One major threat to the wellbeing of, especially, the sub-
10. The lethality of this dreaded Virus on health has continued to engage researchers, from a wide spectrum of professions, on its prevention, cure and containment. Whilst the devastation was indescribable in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the containment was swift in Nigeria. What strategic approach did Nigeria adopt to stem the scourge of Ebola? An erudite scholar, who carried out a research on this question, will provide a first-
11. This one-
12. In summary, what does this epoch-
13. Secondly, the Conference seeks to raise the HCI of the Third World countries (mainly from SSA and LAC) from the current disturbing levels to a more acceptable standard; and if the Conference succeeds in realizing these two broad objectives, then, the deed would have been done.
14. With these few comments on the raison d’être of this important Conference, let me use this opportunity to welcome you, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, distinguished invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, to this occasion and I hope you will enjoy the session. Thank you.
Your Excellency Mr. Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Foreign Affairs Minister of Italy,
Your Excellency Mr. Godwin George Umo, Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See,
Distinguished Speakers, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be with you on this special occasion as we commemorate three important events in the history of Nigeria: (1) the one hundred and fifty-
At the very outset, I would like to express sincere thanks to Ambassador Umo for inviting me to be with you and to say a few words at the beginning of this conference. In so doing, allow me Mr. Ambassador, to extend to you, and through you, to the Authorities and all the citizens of Nigeria, as well as to all who are present here, the blessings and greetings of the Holy Father Pope Francis.
The presence of Catholicism in the territories corresponding to present-
These men of God not only proclaimed the Gospel, but also brought with them the educational system and healthcare of their time. Indeed, the growth of Christianity in Nigeria had a significant impact on culture, education, politics and many other facets of social life. The contribution of the Church to the educational development of Nigeria, especially of the eastern region, remains unparalleled thanks to the foresightedness of those missionaries, who used the limited resources at their disposal to build schools all over the area. The Catholic Church also demonstrated great interest in the development of higher education, particularly with the liberalisation of the ownership and management of tertiary institutions
I know that this opening address is not an occasion to go into the details of the history of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and its contributions to Nigerian society. I am proud to say, however, that the Church in Nigeria has remained faithful to its principal role, namely bringing salvation to humankind through reconciliation with the Creator, through preaching and living the Good News. I happily recall the years I served as Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Lagos. I witnessed a Church that is caring and consoling; a Church, that shapes human consciences and offers a moral compass; a Church, that has remained faithful to the teachings of Christ even in the midst of tribulation and insecurity; a Church that accompanies people in different ways, by feeding the hungry, educating children, caring for orphans, and providing hospice care, to mention but a few areas of activity.
In short, although not immune from the challenges facing society as a whole, the Church in Nigeria is a dynamic reality – something the Nigerian State has always recognized and appreciated, seeking to maintain good relations with the Holy See right from the time of independence.
Indeed, we commemorate not only fifty-
As of today, the Holy See is one of the ninety-
On this auspicious occasion, I wish to state that the Catholic Church remains committed to accompanying the Nation with her specific mission of evangelisation, and through cooperating with all people of good will in the promotion of the common good, of human dignity, and of peace and prosperity for all. Of course, through modern education, human resource development, as well as through the promotion of science and technology, the Church has played its part in the enhancement of the Human Development Index of Nations, and she will continue to do so over the years to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish every success to your work today and thank you for your kind attention. May God bless you all!
Today is a day of celebration and solemn reflection. It is the anniversary of the day Nigerians realised one of the most cherished of human desires -
On this first October date and on the eve of the start of the general election cycle, we should do well to reflect on what binds us together and the great strength our diversity bestows on us. Ours is an ambitious nation, and, as citizens we have every right to look forward to the future with confidence and optimism, which are well founded, considering where we find ourselves today.
There has been a steady improvement in the security situation in the North East. We remain committed to ending the crisis and make the North East safe for all.
Our thoughts and prayers are always with the victims of the Boko Haram's atrocities and their families. Beyond that, we know that the goals of the Boko Haram terrorists include capturing territories, destroying our democracy and denying our children the right to education. We will not allow them to succeed.
I want at this point to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces, the Police and other security and law enforcement agencies, who have been working under the most difficult conditions to keep the country safe. In the process, many have made the supreme sacrifice.
As their Commander -
We are diversifying away from reliance on oil to increased manufacturing capacity, solid minerals development, and agriculture.
Efforts are on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youths in the region and re-
This being a transhumance issue, we are working with countries in our region that are also facing similar difficulties to complement our common efforts. In this context I must warn that the perpetrators of murder and general mayhem in the name of defending or protecting herders or farmers will face the full wrath of the law. Meanwhile, we urge all peace loving Nigerians to reject any simplistic portrayal, at home or abroad, of this conflict as either religious or ethnic based.
We are one of the countries in the world most affected by environmental degradation, as a consequence of climate change. We are signatories to almost all conventions and agreements aimed at slowing down the effect of climate change and mitigating its now evident consequences.
The consequences on lives and livelihoods of the shrinking of the Lake Chad and the pollution caused by oil exploitation activities alone make it mandatory on us to be at the forefront of the struggle for a safer and more sustainable environment. We will continue to mobilise international support for our efforts in this regard.
We are making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets despite vicious and stiff resistance. The shameful past practice, of the brazen theft of billions of Naira is no more. Shady oil deals and public contracts that were never delivered have become things of the past.
Consequently, and this is very evident across the country, we have done more with less in infrastructural developments. Roads, railways, major bridges, schools, energy and power, air and sea ports, welfare of serving and retired personnel both civilian and military including payment of legacy debt such as pension arrears, have been attended to.
There is now an enabling environment for local and foreign investment in Nigeria. We are building a rules-
We are gradually strengthening the economy with a stable Naira and falling inflation rate. We are building an economy that is moving away from over reliance on oil. Consequently we have witnessed massive return to farms and seen bumper harvest, despite recurrent floods across the country.
These positive developments are the result of our collective pursuit of a common vision through hard work and dedication, after the missed opportunities and disappointments that followed the return to democracy in 1999.
At the forefront, have always been our youths. They have been at the vanguard of the struggle for independence. They fought in the war to keep the country united. And it was they who kept alive the struggle for democracy and human rights in our country at times when these were at risk, especially following the June 12th 1993 election and the historic 2015 election process.
Even today, our youths play a central role in Nigeria's continuing progress and developments in all fields of our national endeavour -
In the past three years we have introduced many policies and programmes targeted at youth development and youth empowerment. We support the 'not too young to run' legislation aimed at giving the youths greater say in our national politics and governance.
The school feeding program in primary schools is aimed at encouraging enrolment and attendance. We are building on what we have already introduced to support schools and universities to which funds have recently been released for upgrade of facilities, training programs for our entrepreneurs, and rehabilitation schemes for victims of terrorism and human trafficking.
Now we have in our hands technology that is a powerful tool that we can and should use for knowledge and understanding. As with other countries, we must also learn how to manage those tendencies that, instead, look to abuse new technologies to provoke passions and stir tensions.
Never before have we faced such a challenge. We must all rise to the responsibility of shutting out those disruptive and corrosive forces that hide in today's world of social media. We need critical minds and independent thinking, to question and question until we are satisfied we have the facts. Otherwise, all the progress we have made as a democracy since 1999 is at stake.
I have committed myself many times to ensure that elections are fully participatory, free and fair and that the Independent National Electoral Commission will be exactly INDEPENDENT and properly staffed and resourced. The ballot box is how we make our choice for the governments that rule in our name.
Developing a thriving democracy is not an easy task. There can be no quick fixes or short cuts. These are the most important lessons that we have learnt in our 58 years as an independent nation.
At the international level, we remain a responsible and respected member of the international community, playing active positive roles within ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations as well as all other regional and international organisations and institutions of which we are members.
We will continue to support initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of our times: global and regional crises and conflicts, terrorism, trans-
In this context, we are working hard to achieve both the AU 2063 Agenda for socio-
As we celebrate the 58th Anniversary of our independence, we know we are on the right path. Although we have our differences, they count for far less than the values, virtues and common aspirations that unite us as a nation. We have so much for which we should be grateful, and in which we should rightly take pride. Our journey is not finished but we have come a long way.
I want to assure you that as President, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve what really matters: a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria, where all, irrespective of background, can aspire to succeed.
Thank you. I wish you a memorable independence celebration.
1. Nigeria is blessed with an expansive landmass, covering approximately 924 km2, with a population of about 180 million. This population comprises some 250 ethnic nationalities with a potpourri of cultures and values. These cultures and values are largely influenced by a couple of factors. Such factors include, but not limited to, religion, colonial heritage and traditional nuances, which give rise to diversity. Diversity in cultures and values could be likened to a rainbow or the feathers of a peacock.
2. Diversity usually connotes differences and thus, sometimes, incoherence, non-
3. It is this diversity of culture that when looked from another perspective could be seen as a mosaic. A mosaic presents radiance, beauty, and it is appealing to the eyes; so, Nigeria’s cultural diversity and values when looked upon as a mosaic could, indeed, constitute a beauty to behold. Therefore, it is apt to consider the diversity in Nigeria’s cultural heritages and values to be divinely designed mosaics. Since it is an arrangement from above, Nigerians would have to be very proud of the multiplicity in their cultural heritage and take advantage of this to build a strong and viable national unity for prosperity.
4. Continuing with the topic of discourse, some conceptual clarifications of the key variables would be undertaken. This is because concepts assume various meanings according to the contexts in which they are used. To avoid ambivalence and confusion to the audience, these conceptual clarifications have become necessary. Thereafter, the paper will advocate unity, take a cursory look at some likely impediments to cultural harmony; and, will proffer some possible solutions towards circumventing those impediments.
5. The aim of this homily is to discuss Nigeria’s multiple cultural heritages and values with a view to advocating their harmonization towards the country’s prosperity.
6. To achieve the above-
a. Conceptual clarifications.
b. Togetherness is strength.
c. Impediments to cultural harmony.
d. The way forward.
7. Depending on the perspective one sees culture; it could mean the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievements, regarded collectively. On the other hand, culture could be the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society. Furthermore, culture, in biology, could assume the meaning of maintaining tissue cells, bacteria and other things in conditions suitable for growth. Notwithstanding the various definitions of culture, this discourse would adopt the definition that emphasizes ideas, customs and social behaviour of a group of people or society. Indeed, it is generally agreed that culture is the way of life of a group of people or society. For a homogenous society it is easy to define and explain and thus does not attract the difficulty a heterogeneous society, comprising many cultures and, perhaps, values, does. It is the harnessing of these diverse cultures into the same social stage that holds the beauty in the notion that there could be unity in diversity.
8. Cultural heritage thus means the passing from past generations to current generations the way of life of the society they find themselves. Since societies themselves do not exist in silos, it means that they are not immune to influences external to them. This phenomenon is further encouraged by current interconnectedness occasioned by globalization. In other words, cultural heritage does assume dimensions different from how it was handed down, depending on the level of exposure to and intercourse with the interacting cultures. It goes to show, therefore, that there is no culture that is superior or inferior to the other. Cultures are deliberately and divinely mosaic to bring forth the beauty in diversity. Talking about mosaicked beauty is better appreciated when one views the peacock in full display of its God-
9. The concept of values may defy pinpoint definition, like many other concepts; but, it can generally be seen as the very set of things a people or society very much cherishes and as defined by them. A society is described and identified by the set of values they subscribe to. There is therefore a thin line between values and tenets. A society’s set of values can thus be shaped by their beliefs. Beliefs and morality are closely related and that perhaps explains why a society bereft of morals would, most often, come up with warped set of values that could erode the very pillars of sustenance of that society. It is, therefore, important that Nigerians embrace positive set of values at all times; and, ensure that, along with the rich cultural heritage that God has given them, that they bequeath morally-
10. A society could be a candidate for self-
11. Many scholars have attempted to define the word "mosaic" from their individual perspectives but their definitions tend to highlight the same set of meanings. Some educational publications have also contributed to making the understanding of the concept easy. For example, the Merriam-
12. If therefore the first and second definitions of Mosaic above, are situated in this discourse, it could be said that by divine design, the cultures of Nigeria were put together to form a pattern, and this pattern could be likened to an arrangement comprising small pieces of coloured stone or glass or tile. Nigeria’s cultures could be safely said to be a mosaic; a mosaic that is divinely designed. If it was divinely designed, why try to put asunder what God has put together? It is the position of this paper that Nigerians must rally round this God-
TOGETHERNESS IS STRENGTH
13. National cohesion is a precursor of national development and growth. Scholars have long discovered this and it is therefore surprising that with the level of education and awareness in the Nigerian polity, this fact has not been internalized to enhance national greatness. Nigeria has indeed witnessed several development plans that ought to have placed her amongst the top 20 in the comity of nations but she still continues to act like a political toddler. Perhaps the words of a former president of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower, could be instructive here: "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything".
14. Yes, it is good to draw up plans, but when the impacting indices are not captured in a coherent framework in the planning process, the goal would clearly be unattainable. It is advocated here that Nigeria’s cultures and values must be harnessed in planning for national growth and development. Consequently, Nigerians, even in the diaspora, must come together to optimize the cultural heritages and values that are so richly available in Nigeria to showcase the positive side of Nigeria to the world. This cultural fiesta with the theme "Nigeria’s Cultural Heritage: God’s Blessing and Gift to Us" could not have been more timely. To achieve the aforesaid, some extremist behaviours must have to be eschewed. People’s cultures are not inferior to others and that air of cultural superiority must be discarded for national harmony.
IMPEDIMENTS TO CULTURAL HARMONY
15. One sure way to promote harmony, prevent conflict and promote peace is to tolerate others who may not be of the same opinion and mould. It is even more important to respect others’ opinions and dispositions. Respect, together with tolerance, would serve as the panacea to promoting national harmony. In the context of this discourse, respect of other segments of the Nigerian cultural mosaic would promote cultural harmony. In ensuring the realization of this lofty ideal, some impediments must be identified and circumvented.
16. Dogmatic adherence to some traditional beliefs, especially where such beliefs emphasize exclusiveness, could act as impediments to cultural harmony. It therefore behoves Nigerians to show respect and tolerance towards cultures outside their respective traditional influences in order to accommodate other cultural heritages. While recognizing the right of every ethnic nationality of Nigerian origin to sustain its identity, this paper advocates that such ethnic nationalistic showing, should be under a national umbrella when occasion so demands. With this readiness to identify with national, rather than the ethnic picture, the much-
17. It is in this vein that the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to create a national body – Nigerians in Diaspora (NIDO), with branches in each continent of the world to coordinate the activities of its citizens abroad and oversee their welfare. This is what is called Citizen-
18. Being very conscious of the audience this discourse is supposed to address, the author would not claim to know more than the audience, on the subject of religion. However, religion is expected to show the human the best way to serve God and humanity and, therefore, be assured of his salvation. Since religion cannot be excised from culture, extremist religious posturing has found ways into adulterating the very beauty of what culture is supposed to represent. The propagation of these negatives in culture brings about intolerance and disrespect. It is, therefore, the position of this paper that religious differences should not encourage intolerance and disrespect on the platform of national cultural harmony. Various religious leaders must thus be seen to preach what would blend the diverse cultural divides into one national heritage.
19. It had earlier been said that cultures and values do not exist in cocoons. With globalization and interconnectedness of the various peoples of the world, coupled with movements of persons across international borders, nothing enjoys a good degree of insulation anymore. Cultures and values are no exceptions. Notwithstanding, the degree of penetration or adulteration of one’s culture would depend on the impregnability or porosity of the moral wall built to shield the values of that society. It presupposes, therefore, that a high moral rectitude is desired in any society that wants to maintain the good points of its cultural heritage. Here, it is believed, the religious leaders have a crucial role to play.
THE WAY FORWARD
20. Some pitfalls could be found in the dogmatic adherence to one’s traditional values; values that are equally subject to the vagaries of the environment. This dogmatism would blind one to the beauty of other peoples’ cultures. To avoid this situation, Nigerians must adopt an open mind to cultures and values other than those of their ethnic nationalities. They would also need to subsume their individual tribal leanings and forge a national outlook when the occasion demands. Nigerians must not forget the popular saying "United We Stand".
21. Religions must preach peaceful coexistence and must emphasize the purpose for which they came into being. Religion is part and parcel of culture and every good religion advocates strong moral values. If, therefore, the positive aspects were emphasized always in the various religious enclaves, there would be less of inter-
22. Globalization, which has pulled down national borders, has brought about the good, the bad and the ugly into the socio-
23. In this short discourse, attempts have been made to give a little background story and explain the key variables largely, from the author’s perspective. Having thus seen that the plethora of cultures, which abound in Nigeria, was deliberately made to be a Mosaic by God, Nigerians must begin to appreciate, admire, exploit and showcase the radiance of Nigeria’s collective cultures to the world. If Nigerians cannot do it, nobody would. In doing so, however, the impediments that could thwart such efforts must be avoided.
24. Nigerians must, therefore, resolve to guard, jealously, their rich cultural varieties from those negatives that could create disharmony amongst them. They must also remember that a nation with weak moral fibre is heading towards self-
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY
GENERAL GODWIN GEORGE UMO (RTD) OON GSS psc (+) fwc CMH MSc
NIGERIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE DINNER
ON FRIDAY 27 APRIL 2018
2. I had read in some Nigerian Newspapers about a group of Catholics who disagreed with the Pope over the choice of the Bishop for the Ahaira Diocese. I glossed over the news item because, to me, it did not concern me, but little did I know that it would. A few days after reading the Ahiara Declaration, my phone rang; and I was appointed the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See. I rushed back to the Newspaper vendors to get the Backdates; there were none. I tried to contact the Catholic Bishop in Abuja – he had gone to Jalingo for the Bishops Conference. The new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, had hardly resumed; but I had to meet him for some briefing on the subject. It was then I got the full gist and the efforts made to resolve the impasse. When eventually the problem was solved with valuable inputs from late Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan Diocese (May his soul rest in peace), I was relieved.
3. I was relieved to see the end of the Ahiara imbroglio with the resignation of Bishop Okpaleke, only to be confronted by the Amoris Laetitia controversy. The joy here is that those contesting the provisions of Amoris Laetitia are not Nigerians. However, as the Nigerian Ambassador to the Holy See, what concerns the Holy See concerns me, much as what concerns Nigeria too. I had learnt from the Ahiara episode to have more than a passing interest in what bothers my neighbour because his grief could become my burden.
4. Three hundred youths from various parts of the world, religions, social orientations converged for a 5-
5. The Conference of Bishops is thus a serious business with the propensity to shape the future of the youths, the Church and the world.
PRESENTATION OF LETTERS
6. I had a rare privilege to discuss with His Holiness Pope Francis prior to the presentation of my Letters of Credence, during the visit of the Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara to the Embassy to the Holy See.
7. On the day of Presentation, 09 Dec 17, Pope Francis gave me three of his books sequel to our discussions on areas of similar interests:
a. AMORIS LAETITIA – a post-
b. LAUDATO SÍ – an encyclical letter on care for our environment.
c. EVANGELII GAUDIUM – an apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
8. There was this furor on the Holy Father’s position on the traditional conservative issues of the Church, which he expressed in Amoris Laetitia, which I attempted to read but got often distracted by official issues. From the little gleaned from the 9-
A PEEP INTO AMORIS LAETITIA
9. Pope’s advocacy for some paradigm shift in the interpretation and implementation of Code of Canon Law 804 – "Religious Educators must be outstanding…in the witness of a Christian Life".
10. Persons not in conformity with the rules and regulations of the Church are not permitted to perform such functions the Church may consider sacred.
11. Amoris Laetitia pleads that divorced and invalidly remarried couples, could be allowed to partake in communion, be lectors, catechists and godparents, subject to the discernment of their Bishops.
12. However, Canon Law Expert, Barr Edward Peters would have none of that. To him, Amoris Laetitia has assailed the provisions of Canon Law 804 and can therefore not be accommodated.
13. The teaching of St Thomas Aquinas discourages going too deep into the finer details of laws. It could prove counter-
14. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia insists that Saint Pope John Paul II’s FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO (Paragraph 84) was a forerunner to Pope Francis Amoris Laetitia and that the latter merely exhumed what had remained buried in the former’s encyclical letter.
15. Besides Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s submission, I found the Law of Gradualness, as espoused by St Pope John Paul II, very instructive. It forms a strong pillar for the advocacy for the offenders of the Church’s rules and regulations to be given another window of opportunity and time for atonement.
16. Cautious examination, interpretation and implementation of Code of Canon Law 804 on the issue of the divorced and the invalidly remarried couples, who may unwittingly offend the rules of the Church due to circumstances outside their control, may be required. To me Amoris Laetitia seeks to find a mid-
17. Like His Holiness Pope Francis said in his Amoris Laetitia, "all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel". I queue behind this reasoning.
THE FIVE DUBIA AND THE FOUR CARDINALS
18. On the Amoris Laetitia, certain provisions contained in Chapter 8, did not go down well with some four Cardinals and they consequently issued a joint set of questions (Dubia) for the Holy Father’s clarifications. These 5 questions have been well publicized and the august audience is very familiar with them and therefore do not require further emphasis. Suffice to say, however, that the key Dubia sought to know whether Pope Francis meant, through Amoris Laetitia, to allow divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion.
19. Pope Francis has not responded to the Dubia posed by:
a. Cardinal Walter Brandmuller.
b. Cardinal Raymond Burke.
c. Late Cardinal Carlo Caffarra.
d. Late Cardinal Joachim Meisner.
He, however, called for "Pastoral Discernment" of individual situations and proposed "The Logic of Pastoral Mercy" in working with remarried persons. It would appear to me that the Holy Father did not aim at changing the Catholic doctrine or discipline but urging a change in pastoral approach towards those faithful who may have failed to live up to the imperatives of the Gospel. To me, Saint Pope John Paul II’s Law of Gradualness has some imprint here.
20. Whilst the 4 Cardinals Dubia may have failed to elicit the Pope’s response, Robert Fastiggi, a professor of Systematic Theology at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, USA, has offered an interesting comment on the conversation. He likened the interpretation of the Amoris Laetitia to that of interpreting a Constitution. According to Robert Fastiggi, a US Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, had once advised on how to interpret a Constitution. Justice Scalia stated that: "In order to properly interpret the Constitution, it is not only important to pay attention to what the text says but also to what the text does not say". Fastiggi therefore believes that the 4 Cardinals imputed things that Amoris Laetitia did not intend, as the Dubia did not correspond to the original text of the Amoris Laetitia. He further opined that the answers the Dubia sought to get were, indeed, in the Amoris Laetitia, which perhaps explains the Pope’s silence on the Dubia. Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bishops Conference is capable of resolving this seeming controversy and I am confident it would.
THE YOUTHS AND THEIR CONCERNS
21. Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the recent reclassification of Age Groups has taken me out of the youths bracket into what the Pew Research Centre calls "Young Old Man", whatever that means. They may have smuggled me out of my comfort zone, but my body and soul are with the youths. Besides having a couple of them in my family, they are our future leaders; so we have to share in their concerns.
22. The 5-
23. Equally, the Youths felt that religion and family importance, which Amoris Laetitia addressed, have been relegated to a lower degree of significance. These observations are apt. Most Churches in some European cities I visited were virtually empty on Sundays, leaving aged grandparents and their toddling grandchildren as the congregants. These situations are further exacerbated by modern-
24. Youths seem to be confused about the Church’s teachings on Contraception, Abortion, Homosexuality, Cohabitation, permanency of marriage and the male priesthood and would like to have a definite posturing of the Church on these issues. Some of them who think they understand the position of the Church on these issues would want to differ. So, what solutions would this august Conference proffer to the Roman Curia to help the youths with their faith in the Church and their future?
MIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROBLEMS
25. Migration can be voluntary or forced. Causes of forced migration include: Conflicts (Wars), untenable economic environments, natural disasters, social discriminations and political persecutions, to mention a few.
26. Pope Francis is one of the vocal voices calling on stable democratic countries to show mercy to those fleeing these adverse conditions – the Refugees. However, the degree of acceptance to this divine exhortation varies from Europe to America. Paradoxically, those who fled economic hardships to other countries are now impervious to others seeking succour in their domains. I hold the lack of History in the schools curricula culpable for this lapse.
27. Since the Youths are not conversant with the history of migrations, they see the building of walls around themselves as a better option than inter and intra-
28. The Church is the custodian of morality, which is what the youths’ attitude is all about. The Church must put all the factors that promote forced migration in one coherent framework for analysis with a view to finding lasting solutions to it. The Church must endeavour to intervene in the causes of migration and refugee problems and not just in their effects.
29. The International Office of Migration has predicted that in no distant time, about 1.5 million migrants largely from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal would be heading to Europe and America. Unstable societies, occasioned by conflicts, corruption and non-
30. Your Eminences, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we came here for dinner, which incidentally was in two parts. I am about concluding the Part 1, which was intended to whet your appetite for Part 2. Let me, therefore, conclude this first segment by urging our spiritual fathers to serve as the moral compasses of our societies because we the youths look up to you. Besides your Theological and Juridical responsibilities, your concern for the youths brought you to Rome. I would like to assure you that the youths are energetic enough to climb to the peak of any pyramid; but all they need are your encouragement and an enabling environment. The Bishops would need to interface with the governments of the societies they reside in, so they could bring about the conducive environment, which serves as a precursor of growth, love and freedom. These are the conditions necessary and sufficient for the youths to explore their potentials.
31. My official visit to Nigeria, early in February 2018, saw to a discussion on the likelihood of inviting His Holiness Pope Francis to Nigeria. The prospects looked bright. However, before I make my last few sentences, I, too, have a 2-
32. Finally, let me on behalf of my wife, my colleague, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Italy, my indefatigable staff of the Embassy of Nigeria to the Holy See and the rest of us here, thank you for the patience and for accepting to grace this occasion with your esteemed presence. Whilst wishing you a fruitful deliberation at the Bishops Conference, I wish you safe trips back to your respective destinations, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen. Good evening and bon appetite !!