Let’s Emulate Early Church’s “synodal” Way to Address Challenges: Nigerian Archbishop

Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria's Abuja Archdiocese. Credit: Archdiocese of Abuja

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria has said that the people of God today can apply the same approach of dialogue that the early church used in solving issues to address the current challenges that are affecting the institution of the church and society.

In his Sunday, May 22 homily at St. Peter’s Catholic Church of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama reflected on the first council of Jerusalem as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and underlined the need for the Holy Spirit in effective dialogue.

“The ‘synodal’ way of solving problems in the early church should inspire us to do the same in order to avoid the wrong approach to issues and even fanatical tendencies, leading to the breach of the peace,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

He added, “If we must avoid the crises and conflicts of our time, we must make the Holy Spirit, an agent of peace and transformation, our Advocate and our Partner.”

The Nigerian Archbishop said that it is only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the struggles of life can be handled and enable Christians to proceed with the missionary work.


Archbishop Kaigama said that the Holy Spirit was effective in addressing the complaint presented by Greek speaking Christians about their widows being sidelined as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

“There was no need for violent demonstrations with the destruction of lives and properties,” he said, and explained, “The same spirit of dialogue and fraternity inspired their decision as we read today, to address the issue of circumcision. We should notice the spirit of consultations, dialogue (round table conference) rather than arbitrary decisions or actions.”

The Catholic Church leader made reference to the Gospel of the sixth Sunday of Easter, and encouraged the people of God to embrace Jesus Christ saying that in Him (Jesus), there is that kind of peace that the world cannot offer.

He said that true religion that is guided by the Spirit of God does not place “any unnecessary burdens on anyone”, and that true religion lives according to the Spirit of truth.

“We must make the distinction between essentials and non-essentials in religion. The Apostles made it clear to the entire body of Christ that true religion is that which lives according to the dictates of the Spirit of Truth,” Archbishop Kaigama said during Holy Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church of his native Diocese of Jalingo.

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The Local Ordinary of Abuja Archdiocese who started his Episcopal Ministry in Jalingo Diocese in April 1995 added in reference to true religion, “While it acknowledges the importance of religious traditions, norms and practices, it is above all concerned with the meaning or the spirit behind the worship that we offer to God.”

He continued, “In the different religions we have always witnessed the presence of certain individuals who are out to distort the message of their scriptures with falsehood, tainted by crass ignorance or fanatical aggression.”

The 63-year-old Nigerian Archbishop encouraged all Christians not only to listen to the Holy Spirit but also to let Him be in charge of their lives by directing and guiding their affairs especially amidst the current confusion caused by the spirit of the world.

“As we draw nearer to the feast of Pentecost, our minds are being prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the One who teaches everything: He teaches us to love, He teaches us the truth, He teaches us how to pray, He brings us forgiveness of sins and peace, and to free us from religious fanaticism and violent extremism,” he said.

Archbishop Kaigama urged the people of God in Africa’s most populous country to shun revengeful tendencies and instead pray for the perpetrators since revenge belongs to God alone.


He said, “Beyond the demand for retributive justice, Jesus teaches to love your enemies and pray for those who hate you. This He demonstrated while hanging on the cross saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”

However, the Nigerian Archbishop said that the attack on places of worship in the West African nation and also continued kidnappings and killings makes it hard for one to imagine peace in the country, saying that the situation is disturbing.

“The sad thing is that almost all the penetrators of these acts belong to one religion or the other,” he said, and added, “This, sometimes, paints the picture that religion is our problem. Our inability to do the right things is the problem.”

Archbishop Kaigama called upon the people of God in the country to embrace conversion of heart, mind and the will to do what is required. He said that conversion of heart will lead not only to justice but also equity in the country.

He added, “We must encourage ourselves to take seriously the call by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on the need to build bridges and extend a hand of brotherhood to those who are not of our religious belief.”

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The Nigerian Archbishop challenged the preachers in Nigeria to always preach about love. He said, “If we continue to claim that our religions are founded on peace then, the challenge is ours to prove to the world that we are a people of peace by word and action.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.