Amid ongoing violence and attacks against human dignity in Nigeria, the Catholic bishops of the country released a pastoral communique promoting a culture of life within the Church and nation.  

“As the Church prepares to mark the golden jubilee of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae, we call on families to embrace and cultivate the culture of life, a culture marked by faith and solidarity,” read the statement released together by the bishops.

“In recognition of our divine mandate, may we remind all of the sacredness and inviolability of human life. No person, authority or institution has the right to terminate human life,” they continued.

The bishops particularly pointed to the “recent happenings in Nigeria” which have been the “cause for grave concern and worry.”

They said the faithful must stand against “senseless killings” such as “the wave of political assassinations, killing for ritual purpose, frequent mass murder of harmless, innocent and defenseless citizens.”

The bishops’ words came after the conference’s first plenary meeting of the year, held at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi, Abuja from Feb. 17-23. The theme of their statement was focused around John 10:10, “…that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

In addition to releasing the communique, the bishops elected a new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of the Benin City archdiocese. He will replace the previous president, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos.

Other executive officers were also elected, including Bishop Lucius Ugorji of Umuahia as vice president, Bishop Camillus Umoh of Ikot-Ekpene as secretary, and Bishop Charles Hammawa of Jalingo as assistant secretary.

“On behalf of my brother bishops who with me constitute the new CBCN executive, we want to thank God for giving us, unworthy as we are, the opportunity and the rare priviledge to serve you and by extension the Church in Nigeria,” said Archbishop Akubeze, according to the Catholic News Service of Nigeria.

“As your servants, we will be very open to diverse opinions and we will seek to build consensus on matters that requires collective decisions. We appeal to all of you to ensure that we speak with one voice on crucial matters that affect the life of the Church,” the newly-elected president continued.

Among matters discussed by the bishops was Nigeria’s “Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill,” which they warned “could provide an avenue for the legalization of many anti-human and anti-family activities.”

In addition to cautioning against such measures, the bishops also encouraged the youth to remain steadfast against the lures of illicit sexual pleasures, contraception, abortions, drugs, and other evils, noting that “parents have the primary responsibility of educating and supporting their children in this regard.”

The bishops also highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and the dignity of labor within the country, particularly among the youth, saying that there are “too many idle people in our country.”

“There is therefore the need to promote entrepreneurship as a means of engaging our many capable minds and hands in positive skills and so contribute collectively to nation building,” the bishops urged.

Through the pursuit of work, such as agriculture, medical professions, and education, the bishops said citizens can aid in building the nation’s economy and engage the youth toward resourcefulness and opportunity, while also fighting against the vices of extravagance and laziness.

In addition, they noted the “indispensable role” of the government in improving the standard of living within the country. They encouraged the government to “provide adequate social amenities, infrastructure, functional education, right policies, and good governance.”

With an upcoming election, the bishops also underscored the importance of making voter registration available throughout the whole country, and warned against voter malpractices. They urged the government to address these “serious lapses with utmost urgency and without discrimination and bias.”

During the season of Lent, the bishops said, “we invite all Nigerians to a radical change of heart and mind, especially in the way they think, in the things that they do and in their entire attitude to life in themselves and in the relations with their neighbours.”

“As we restrain our bodies through prayer, penance and almsgiving, let us continue to work for the things that make for peace in our hearts, families, and in our political life as a nation.”