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Message Of The Second Onitsha Archdiocesan Synod (NUNTIUS) 22-28 May, 2016
Author: Trinitas
Published on: Friday, June 03, 2016

Message of The Second Onitsha Archdiocesan Synod

(NUNTIUS) 22-28 May, 2016

INTRODUCTION

1.            It is with great joy that we give thanks to God for the successful completion of the Second Synod in the Archdiocese of Onitsha.  The entire synodal experience was marked with profound serenity and the deliberations made manifest a constantly growing and hope-filled ecclesial family.

 

Convocation of the Synod

2.            This second Archdiocesan Synod was convoked by the Archbishop, Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke with this pastoral solicitude: ten years of intensive evangelization in the Archdiocese demands re-evaluation and renewal therefore, a second Synod became a necessity.

 

Theme of the Synod

3.            The theme of the first Synod was “Evangelization in Onitsha Archdiocese Today”.  The second Synod was on the same general theme of evangelization but with a difference.  The focus, this time, was on New Evangelization, a theme that became one of the greatest contributions of St. John Paul II to the life and mission of the Church.  The theme is thus formulated: “New Evangelization in Onitsha Archdiocese: Renewal and Commitment”.  The newness is tripartite: new ardour, new method and new expression.  Since new evangelization has continuously been carried out in the Archdiocese, this second Synod focused on its renewal and on ensuring enduring commitment.

 

Celebration of the Synod

4.            The Synod was inaugurated with Holy Mass on Sunday, 22nd May 2016, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  The celebration was held on the Centenary Field of the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha.  The mass was presided over by the Archbishop Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke with five other Bishops present including: Most Rev. Michael Okoro, the Bishop of Abakaliki; Most Rev. John Okoye, the Bishop of Awgu; Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, the Bishop of Enugu; Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, Auxiliary Bishop of Awka and Most Rev. Denis Isizoh, the Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha.  A huge number of priests concelebrated the Holy Mass.  Consecrated religious men and women and the lay faithful also attended in large numbers.

5.            In his homily, the Archbishop highlighted the importance of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity especially in relation to Christian life and mission.  He then explained the meaning of Synod, what is involved and the import of the theme for this second Archdiocesan Synod.

6.            At the end of the Mass, three important messages were given: the first was from the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Anambra State, Senior Apostle Uche Okpala.  It was followed by the message from the Traditional Ruler of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Obi Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe.  The third came from the Executive Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano. The Archbishop then made a formal declaration of the opening of the Synod.

 

Part One: PASTORAL ISSUES

Arrival of the early missionaries and challenges

7.            Christianity came into our fatherland through the instrumentality of foreign missionaries. The Anglicans on the one hand, piloted by the Church Missionary Society, and Catholics on the other, spearheaded by the Holy Ghost Fathers. The Holy Ghost Fathers were represented by French missionaries Frs. Lutz and Lejeune. They could not stay the test of time because of the political squabbles between the French and the British colonial masters. As a quick and timely response, the Irish missionaries were brought in, led by Fr. Joseph Shanahan, later Bishop. The issue is that the Christianity brought to us was a divided Christianity and since then, we have been victims of the effect of the divisions, and this has continued to affect our dealings with our separated brethren. We started fighting without knowing why.

8.            The Second Vatican Council encourages us to go back to our Bible. Our concern is how to improve our knowledge of the Bible. This concern could be expressed in three ways: know your faith, live your faith, share your faith. The Catholic faith is in the Bible, the Magisterium, papal documents, pastoral letters, etc. Ardour, Method, and Better expressions are fresh ways of evangelization.

The Church in Onitsha Archdiocese in Relation to Culture and Tradition

9.            The Vatican II Council Fathers teach that the Church is not opposed to any culture that is not contrary to the gospel of Christ (Gaudium et Spes, 58). The Synod acknowledges the indispensability of our culture in evangelization. Onitsha Archdiocese is taking the lead in being culture friendly and in upholding the Church's teaching on inculturation because; individuals are deeply connected to a culture and are influenced by it. Culture however is a product of people's world view and as such, it is imperfect and so needs transformation. This is why Pope Paul VI declares that what matters is to evangelize man's culture or cultures (not in a purely decorative way as it were by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in-depth and right to the roots) … always taking the person as one's starting point and always coming back to the relationship of people among themselves and with God (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 20). The Synod therefore frowns seriously against the deceits and duplicity witnessed among some of our Christians in the name of culture. “Ima mmanwu” and “Ozo uka” were cited as examples. Forcing people against their wish to be involved in practices against their faith was vehemently repudiated. Example is forcing widows to go and wash in a stream to remove the mourning cloth of their deceased husbands.

 

On-Going Catechesis

10.          Ignorance is one of the primary reasons why many of our members leave the church to join other ecclesial communities. Evidently, this will not be the case if people are at home with the teachings of the church and the meaning of their Christian vocation. Our Igbo Catechism book is very rich and a compendium of the theological teachings of the church. The Synod upholds the need for there to be continuity in catechetical instructions. This is to be done through Catechetical Week, Sunday Evening Instructions and a continued reading of the catechism book even after one has received the initial sacraments.

 

Pastoral Charity

11.          There is a close link between mission and charity. The huge success recorded by our founding Fathers in the faith is not unconnected with the charity and love with which they evangelized our people. The Synod holds that this must be practised even with greater favour now. Urban parishes need to help parishes in rural areas. The Synod is aware that this practice was mandated years ago. Parishes concerned are encouraged to devote more effort to it now. The mission effort must be renewed and re-energized given the present day faith situation and challenges. In general pastoral charity needs to be extended to all Catholics at large. Often it appears that we do not care enough for our own people especially when they get challenged health wise or even economically. There is urgent need to create and empower basic Christian communities for interactions among members. The poor and aged in the Archdiocese need to be taken good care of. Those challenged economically can go for loans from Oluchukwu Micro-Finance Bank to help them get back on track. Every parish is to have a body to look into the welfare of the poor, the sick and the old.

 

Laity and the Statutory Bodies

12.          The lay faithful must be encouraged because they constitute 99% of the Church and they witness wherever they are. Our religion does not end with Mass. We are commissioned to practise and share what we have done at Mass. More than every other person, the lay faithful are involved in this in their daily lives. Their apostolate in the family, schools, etc. is of interest to Christ. The Synod calls on the laity and laity council to wake up and start Mobi-Laity in parishes at all levels. This will help the Church in the Archdiocese get more committed members, active and alive to the demands of the gospel and the society at large, including politics. Those involved with the management of the laity, especially the laity council were called upon to be more accountable to their members especially on the issue of finance. Members of other statutory bodies are reminded that they all are members of the Laity Council.

13.          The Synod observes with concern that The Catholic Men Organization is not as active and committed as it should be. They were asked to make their programme and meetings more captivating so as to attract younger men and tepid members. They can do this by introducing issues on family life, health, education etc. This will make members not understand their meetings as only occasions to exploit them for money.

14.          The Synod lauds the ever committed Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O) of the Archdiocese of Onitsha. Their presence is always felt. She is however concerned with the uneasy calm bedeviling the organization at all levels. Elections to different offices in the organization remained the burning issue. It was reported that some of them still in office have overstayed and many women have stopped attending meetings because of this situation. The Synod therefore urges that C.W.O elections in the Archdiocese should be conducted simultaneously, together with the zonal organizers and the tenure of office should be respected at all levels while those serving at the Archdiocesan levels should be determined or appointed by the Archbishop or at his discretion. Accountability to members was also advised.

15.          The Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria (C.Y.O.N) is really doing great at the central level. The Synod welcomed this development with joy and gratitude. She enjoined parishes to strengthen the organization at the parish levels also and ensure that more members get enrolled. Those of them slacking in faith especially with the modern deceptive prosperity preaching need to be catechized for renewal and commitment. Those of them who are up to the age of marriage must be helped with catechism to understand what they are getting into.

16.          The National Association of Catholic Corpers (NACC) is a recognized body in the Archdiocese of Onitsha. These Youth Corpers serving within the territorial boundaries of Onitsha Archdiocese should be given a sense of belonging in the youth apostolate.

17.          The Catholic Boys Organization (C.B.O) and Catholic Girls Organization (C.G.O) are statutory bodies in the Archdiocese for children between the ages of twelve (12) and twenty-one (21) completed. The children between 1 and 12 belong to The Holy Childhood Association (HCA). The Synod called on parents to ensure that their children are members. The parish priests must give them the attention needed, though people are free to join the youth group (CYON) as from the age of seventeen (17).

 

Creation of Parishes/Boundary Adjustments

18.          The Synod was grateful to the Archbishop for the parishes recently created which have brought Mass centres nearer to the people. Churches and worship centers are now within short distances for the people. She noted with sadness that tussles for territorial boundaries have remained a cog in the wheel of this blessing.  The Synod therefore slated that before a parish is created, there should be proper investigation from Archdiocesan team. They are to take charge of the boundary adjustments. For boundary disputes between neighbouring parishes, the Archbishop is to be involved to avoid unnecessary rancor between priests, the lay faithful and sometimes some villagers. 

 

Part Two: EDUCATION

Catholic Education as Tools for Evangelization

19.          The Church understands her mission to teach as a mandate from Christ, “go, and teach all nations ….” Mtt. 28:19-20. This mission is actually the continuation of Divine revelation to humanity which is to teach man about his creator and his plans. The church acknowledges that human beings have the capacity to understand God otherwise God would not have revealed himself to man. It follows that every child of God has the capacity to learn and understand more about God, humanity, the universe and ways to improve the standard of life in our world.

20.          The Church in Onitsha seeks to “revive the commitment of the Church in the field of education”. Catholic education centres are envisaged to be places where people meet to dialogue and grow together. They are not just places where skills are dispensed. In doing this, care should be taken to allow the values of Catholic faith permeate the culture of the school. This forms the core of the Catholic identity which should characterize our schools. While we should endeavour not to proselytize, we cannot shy away from sharing the peace and joy of the gospel in understanding and exploration of the universe. Moreover, all God's people are called to this dialogue hence efforts should be made that no temporal impediment like finance or place of birth excludes anybody from accessing this wonderful instrument to know and grow. Genuine education must speak three languages: “of the head, heart and hands” (Pope Francis, Address to Catholic School Administrators, Rome, Nov. 2015). It has to stimulate the mind, move the heart to compassion and sensitivity towards others and lead to practical human development/advancement.

 

The Family as the Foundational School

21.          The Archdiocese is grateful to God for the successes being recorded in our Catholic Schools. These are the fruits of many hands, efforts and sacrifices perfected by Divine grace. There is a note that there is a broken pact between schools, family and the society. The dissociation brought about the crisis being experienced today (Pope Francis, 2015).

22.          We note that the family is the “domestic church” since it is there that the education of the children begins. It is important then to exercise special care for the family so that a firm and solid foundation is laid for proper education for the children. Indeed, unless the schools become a family, they will not be effective just as the family has to become an effective school to perform its functions.  Schools as family can open an avenue for evangelization and healing of brokenness and lukewarm hearts.

23.          For greater success of students in our Catholic schools, parents should always support the right choices of their children in life. Inducing the children to choose a course of study which they are not inclined towards, brings unpleasant result. No child should be made to make a choice between studying a discipline he has interest in, with high proficiency towards and obeying the wishes of his parents. Freedom of choice and genuine support hold the promise of excellence and happiness. Therefore parents should not pay their children's way into higher institutions of learning but always guide and offer support to follow due process. This they can do by being present and making out time to be with their children to inculcate morals and virtues. In this way, they would stop shifting blames to the schools when they would rather reconsider their attitude and parental approach towards their children so as to help them actualize their dreams.

 

Effective School Management

24.          The success of catholic education demands effective management. It is important to select experienced priests who are professionally qualified to manage the schools. They should be adjudged to have a good knowledge of the intricacies of school management. This will enable them sustain academic excellence while preserving the Catholic identity in the institutions. The Archdiocese should have a strong and well defined structure of management and administration of the schools. Setting up a central administration of the Archdiocesan schools will go a long way to guarantee proper and objective management. This unification will help sustain the desired standards for a catholic school. In a situation where pastors are also managers of schools confusion of issues arises and denies the full attention required for a smooth running of the schools. Consideration should be given to the appointment of independent managers of schools apart from pastors who should report directly to the central administration. This approach will enable pastors to devote full attention to the ever increasing demands of pastoral work in the parish.

25.          In the maintenance of appropriate standards, efforts should be made to ensure that those faithful who still are in the best position to teach and form the young students are retained as teachers. An effective means of ensuring this would be to set up a supervision apparatus which is aimed at keeping the teachers focused on the vision of the Church. Keeping focus would look beyond a narrow approach of teaching to the test (studying for examinations) and explore fuller understanding of issues at hand for overall human formation and development.

26.          In the maintenance of standards, recruitment of teachers should be restricted to those with the requisite knowledge, qualification and faith. Should there be a central management of teachers and their welfare, it will help stem the tide of the exodus of experienced teachers from the Archdiocesan schools.

 

Preserving Catholic Identity

27.          Catholic schools are more than mere places for the acquisition of skills. It is therefore important to remember that dialogue is at the centre of Catholic education. A teacher should not work in isolation but work in interdependence with the others. Three cardinal points in Catholic Education include: taking responsibility for the whole, treating educators as whole persons, and responsible citizenship. Schools should be communal than competitive. It is to be noted that Catholic Education is both stable and vulnerable. It is stable in Jesus Christ but vulnerable in the contexts within which we have to operate.

28.          We do observe some ugly trends of students' misbehaviours in different forms. To succeed, we have to undertake in the formation of the formators. We must invest in lay persons as the more stable group to carry the banner of our education rooted in faith. More so, creating programs through which we teach morals like students' choir, bible club and so on in our schools hold great promise of redemption. We have to strengthen “Thursday moral instruction” in many ways. These include having a stable pool of faithful and interested teachers, committed volunteer laity, sending moral instructors, monthly, from the centre among others. This will help make up for the shortages of moral instructors in many schools where this lack is experienced.

29.          Since cleanliness in next to godliness, and in line with Pope Francis' call to sustain our environment, Archdiocesan schools should endeavor to care for God's creation. This can be done by reintroducing the beautification of the schools environment through planting of economic and aesthetic trees, provision of dust-bins and respect of non-human creatures like birds and insects. This should be sustained through periodic monitoring and award-giving by a group to be set up in conjunction with the Archdiocesan Education Office.

30.          As the official language of the church, Latin should be taught in Catholic primary and secondary schools to preserve our Catholic Identity. Given that the Catholic education is holistic in approach; extracurricular activities form an integral part of that process. Therefore dignity in labour, nobility and honesty should be emphasized such that examination malpractices should not be heard of in our schools. Again, efforts should be made to train students in both primary and secondary schools on the appropriate use of cellphones and its etiquette. It is best if cellphones are discouraged during school hours. To reinforce pupil's creativity, skills acquisitions should be given a special place in Catholic schools. To this end, establishing vocational schools in riverine areas will empower the teeming unemployed youths which will turn help curb crime.

 

Financing Catholic Schools

31.          A core aspect of the Church's social teaching is the preferential option for the poor. The Archdiocese should therefore create a template for financing Catholic schools in such a way that the poor are not excluded from quality education. Catholic schools should not be elitist and exclusive. Among the sources of financing available to Catholic schools are: establishing Annual Education Support Fund, endowments, student/schools adoption by affluent faithful through grassroots sensitization, asking students who can, to pay more to offset the cost of educating indigent ones and entering into partnership with the State. Care should be taken that,“Catholic education does not become too selective and elitist in that only people with means and skills can access education. Owing to this separation, education separates than unites people” (Pope Francis, 2015).

32.          It is counter culture to Catholic social teaching to see Catholic schools being priced above what many qualified students can pay. To engender preferential option for the poor, the Archdiocese should set up a scholarship program wherein every school is required to award tuition-free education to a minimum of ten (10) indigent students broadly selected across the intellectual ability spectrum.

33.          It means then that not all parishes should establish schools when it is not necessary. Parishes are advised to co-establish schools when they are within safe distance of each other. In doing this, pastors of souls and the faithful should remember the primary purpose of Catholic education which is evangelization and not commercial interests.  To this end, the Archdiocese should look into the tuition in Catholic schools in the urban and as well as in rural areas as the case may be considering the contexts within which each group have to operate. There should be strict guidelines for increase or introduction of fees in Catholic schools to avoid exploitation of the students.

34.          Teachers' welfare and paying them just wage is another aspect of the Church's social teaching. The Archdiocese should work as of urgency and necessity, to review teachers and other staff's salaries/emoluments to reflect fairness and justice. Building success on the backs of the defenseless labourers makes a mess of the church's justice and mercy.

 

PART THREE: CATECHESIS

Mission of the Church

35.          The vocation of the Church is to evangelize. This is the primary mission Christ entrusted to his Church when he mandated her to “go therefore and make disciples of nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and behold, I am with you always, to the end of time” (Mt.28:19-20). In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI clearly asserts that “Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize that is to say, in order to preach and teach” (n.14).

36.          The synod highly commends all the agents of evangelization in the Archdiocese of Onitsha for their diligence in carrying out the work of disseminating the gospel in our Archdiocese and beyond. In this regard the synod appreciates the sacrifices of many dedicated priests, religious men and women, catechists, catholic teachers and all those who contribute in one way or the other in spreading the good news of salvation.

 

Ignorance of the Doctrine

37.          However, the synod observes that ignorance in the area of Catholic doctrine and faith still constitutes a great challenge to the full appreciation of the salvation brought to humanity by Christ. The prophecy of Hosea that “my people perish for lack of knowledge”, still holds true for a good number of the faithful in our Archdiocese. At this point, the synod feels the duty to invite all hands to be on deck in the area of catechesis in order to assist all the Catholic faithful of Onitsha Archdiocese to know their faith, live their faith and share their faith.

 

Personal Encounter

38.          In the first place, the synod reminds all that in as much as we evangelize the individual person, the subject of evangelization that is Jesus Christ, needs to be given the primary place. This involves having a personal encounter with Christ by moving from the head experience to the heart experience of Christian faith. Pope Benedict XVI eloquently points out that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). This encounter is by grace and not by personal effort, yet without it, one remains an empty gong and can hardly be committed to his Christian vocation.

 

Sunday Evening Instruction

39.          The Synod happily invites all priests working in the Archdiocese of Onitsha to dedicate more time and energy in using the Sunday evening instruction as a veritable means of deepening the faith already planted in the heart of our people. Failure to attend the Sunday Evening Instructions on the part of the lay faithful should be seen as a serious omission of one of the important Sunday obligations. In order to make this possible the Synod strongly recommends that all meetings on Sunday Evenings should be avoided.

 

Retreat

40.          The Synod calls on all retreat preachers to prepare very well in order to have messages to give to the faithful especially on Catholic doctrine, the family, the cross, etc. This applies also to those who teach during Catechetical Week since many absent themselves from these because they scarcely learn anything from the teachers.

 

Aberrations

41.          This Synod also notes with serious concern about the pervading aberrations and wrong teachings militating against the local Church in the Archdiocese of Onitsha. Some pious associations teach their adherents to receive Holy Communion only from priests, and that they must kneel down to receive. Worse still, many now abandon the God of the sacramentals for the sacramentals of God. This has led to the introduction and over-multiplication of non-approved sacramentals in the Chruch. This synod therefore invites all the faithful to go back to our old penny catechism since it is very rich in theology and must be read constantly by the young and old.

 

Bible and Catechesis

42.          Bible stories and teachings of the Church should be prepared as cartoons for children. Adequate catechesis should be given to candidates for the sacraments. As part of her catechetical responsibility, the lay faithful should be encouraged to enroll in their respective statutory bodies as their responsibility to God, and to humanity. Traditional practices like laity week, Marian week, etc should be re-emphasized.

 

Trinitas School of Evangelization

43.          As part of the effort to strengthen our evangelization strategies, the Synod notes the serious need to equip the Trinitas School of Evangelization and make it very functional. This school needs to be reactivated with adequate curriculum so as to train and form people after the heart of Christ and the Church. The Archdiocese may need to consider taken over the responsibility of market outreach program to assist in both the financial involvement and also enforce commitment on the part of the priests. The faithful must also be enlightened on the proper structure of the Church such that each group would be able to know its role and carry it out well. All agents of evangelization should live exemplary lives.

 

Curses and Blessings

44.          The Synod observes that there are lots of wrong teachings on curses and blessings in our day. Many faithful, easily, lose their faith as every misfortune is blamed on the fore fathers and evil spirits. It has become so bad that some even change their names. Worse still, some clergy and lay people who operate Healing Ministries charge exorbitantly to go for family or town prayer liberations. The Synod reiterates that through Christ is accomplished full and authentic liberation of the human person from sin, evil and death.  St. Paul teaches that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal.3:13-15). Through Christ, God bestows new life that is divine and eternal. This Synod therefore calls on some of these priests and lay faithful to desist from exploiting the gullibility of our people and allow them to enjoy the free salvation wrought through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Doctrine of the Faith Committee

45.          The Synod reminds all the parishes about the need to take Doctrine of the Faith Committee seriously. The parish priests must encourage parishioners to participate in the Annual Quiz Competition organized by Doctrine of the Faith Committee so that our faithful will “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1Pet.3:15).

 

PART FOUR: LITURGY

Uniformity

46.          The Second Vatican Council desired “to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful.”  It is not surprising that the first aspect of the life and mission of the Church the Council discussed was the Sacred Liturgy “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished.” This Synod, therefore, emphasizes the need for overall uniformity and decorum in our liturgical celebrations. Adherence to the rubrics and texts in the liturgical books while performing liturgical functions is seriously called for. Priests are encouraged to educate the laity on the nature and importance of sacred liturgy as well as their role therein so that they do not exceed the limits of the demands of their common priesthood.

 

Participation

47.          Liturgy is a communal worship. Hence it is expected that all participate actively. For instance, parishes should provide Hymn Books for the congregation so that it would not be just the choir singing. We remind ourselves that by virtue of our baptism we are all called to participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ. We are, therefore, called to the Church's mission of evangelization. Since effective evangelization requires collaboration, we call on the faithful to responsibly work together in carrying out this mission of evangelization.

 

Eucharist

48.          The Holy Eucharist is at the centre of the Church's life. The Eucharist makes the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is a continued manifestation of the faith of the people and the love of Christ. In it, all the people of God share and offer themselves.

49.          There is a problem when some of our brothers and sisters think that Holy Communion received from Bishops or priests are holier than the ones received from The Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist. We, therefore, call on such brothers and sisters to understand that Holy Communion can be validly received from any person properly authorized by the Church.

 

Homily

50.          The homily should be clear, based on the scriptural and magisterial texts, nourish the people and lead to witnessing. It should be delivered with a method that is attractive and not be too long. Minimizing homilies to make time for fund raising trivializes the sacredness of the Mass. Parishes should consider saying the Liturgy of the Hours as this would help deepen the faith of the faithful and help them be familiar with the psalms.

 

Use of Electronic Gadgets

51.          For public liturgical celebrations, the use of i-pads and other electronic gadgets is not encouraged. However, for private prayers, especially when one has health challenges, it is permissible. As for administering the sacrament of reconciliation through telephone, it is strictly forbidden.

 

Sacrament of Reconciliation

52.          Priests are reminded to be careful with the Confessional Seal. The sacrament of Penance must not be exploited for any reason whatsoever. Penitents, including public sinners, must be handled with patience and love. People with speech impediment could write down their confessions for the priest and then get their penance and absolution.

 

Sacrament of Matrimony

53.          The Church teaches that marriage is indissoluble. Contemporary times have really witnessed a lot of turbulence in family life ranging from marriage breakdown to separation, etc. This is not unconnected with lack of adequate knowledge as to the nature and implications of marriage by those going into matrimonial life. This Synod encourages prospective couples to take the Marriage Course seriously and priests should endeavor to stick to the Archdiocesan policies regarding marriage. Effort should be made to ensure that Catholic Marriages are celebrated in registered places to let them be in compliance with civil requirements.

 

Sacramentals

54.          We uphold the teaching of the Church that sacraments are instituted by Christ while sacramentals are instituted by the Holy Mother Church. The latter are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church (CCC 1667). So, it is not allowed that individuals create their own sacramentals.

 

                Christian Burial

55.          We urge that widows not be subjected to humiliation in the name of mourning their husbands and we denounce the occasional disrespectful handling of the coffins of the deceased.

 

Healing ministry

56.          We thank God for the gift of healing ministries in the Church. However, we urge that the guidelines for such ministries be strictly adhered to with the aim of curbing religious syncretism, aberrations and abuses, especially liturgical abuses. This Synod recommends that the three liturgical oils, solemnly blessed by the bishop for use in the Church, should be made use of. This is, however, without prejudice to the use of olive oil for private devotions.

 

PART FIVE: EVANGELIZATION AD EXTRA

Ecology

57.          In line with the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si (on the care of our common home), it was suggested that we be conscious of our environment and do what we can to keep it healthy so that we stand a better chance of being healthy ourselves. Some practical approaches would be to begin with planting fruit trees in our schools, providing dustbins, and generally beautifying our schools. The same goes for our environment in general, that is, Church premises, homes, places of work, hospitals, etc. They should be well taken care of. Respect for birds and animals was also called for. Except for the purpose of consumption, they should not be killed for the fun of it. It was also suggested that a seminar be organized on the papal encyclical Laudato Si so as to sensitize the people on the proper relationship with the environment. Introducing ecology in our seminaries as a course would be a good idea.

The Church and Self-Reliance

58.          We must check properly our aim of having a self-reliant Church. While we thank the Archdiocese for her efforts in making the Church self-reliant, ranging from the establishment of Oluchukwu Oil and Gas, Oluchukwu Microfinance Bank, Youth Village, etc., we must make sure that our goal is primarily to aid evangelization and not mundane, otherwise, we are sowing the seed of destruction instead of saving souls. Let us most importantly emphasize human investment/development above material investment.

Health

59.          Attention was drawn to the alleged high cost of medical treatment in the mission hospitals. Effort should be made to give quality health care at affordable costs even if such means having investments to subsidize payment for the patient. It was suggested that the hospital personnel be advised to be more caring in the handling of the patients. Attention needs be given to the possibility of providing subsidy for the poor.

Security

60.          The faithful look up to the Archdiocese of Onitsha and the CBCN to take a common stand on security issues (herdsmen) to serve as a guide.

CONCLUSION

61.          The Synod rose with renewed commitment to new evangelization in Onitsha Archdiocese. This will be done with ardour, new method and new expression. All people of God in the Archdiocese are urged to know their faith, live their faith and share their faith that they may have life and have it in abundance (John 10,10). May Almighty God in this Extra-ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which, is intended to make each and every one of us blessed and rich in mercy in our Christian lives, bless and direct our good intentions, reinforce our little efforts, and grant us success in internalizing, living and sharing the Good News as demanded by new evangelization.

Rev. Fr. Anthony Chidozie                                                                                           Most Rev. Denis Isizoh

Sec. Gen. Synod Committee                                                                                                       Chairman, Synod Committee

 

Most Rev. Valerian Okeke

Archbishop of Onitsha, Convener

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