Don’t “play to the gallery”: Bishop in Nigeria on Dishonest, Insincere Religious Practices


“True religion requires an honest heart and a change of heart”, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Katsina has said and cautioned the people of God against delinking honesty and religious practices during this year’s Lenten Season.

In his Lenten and Valentine’s Day reflection obtained by ACI Africa on Wednesday, February 14, Bishop Gerald Mamman Musa says that people have mistaken religion “as a demonstration of symbols and rituals” rather than practices that engage the heart.

Over time, is has become “common for religious people to play to the gallery by displaying popular acts of piety that will make them appear deeply religious,” Bishop Musa observed, adding, “The danger of acting to the gallery is the tendency to disconnect religion from a sincere heart and becomes an outward appearance that leaves the heart out.”

Referring to Ash Wednesday Readings that highlight the essence of Lent, with Jesus cautioning against the display of acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the pioneer Bishop of the Nigerian Catholic Diocese that Pope Francis erected last October says that the receiving of ashes a reminder that “true religion is a matter of the heart”.

He goes on to say this year’s Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day happening on the same day is not a coincidence, but rather “providential because it reminds us about the deep connection between love and the heart.”


“The love celebrated on Valentine’s Day is a matter of the heart,” he says, and continues, “The celebration of Valentine is often adorned with heart-shaped symbols, cards and crafts.”

The Local Ordinary of Katsina Diocese since last December explains, “Interestingly, the symbol of Valentine is not just a heart, but a heart pierced by the cupid, the ancient god of love. This wounded heart depicts a broken heart.”

The 53-year-old Nigerian Catholic Bishop also reflects on the manner of repentance by Old Testament people that involved the tearing of their garments. He says in reference to Ash Wednesday’s First Reading, “The people began dramatizing this act without an iota of inward repentance. This was the reason why Joel challenged them by saying, ‘Tear your hearts and not your garments.’”

According to him, “Tearing of garment without repentance is similar to confessing to God without an act of contrition that comes from the depth of the heart.”

Bishop Musa further says that since love stories of heartbreaks and tears are not self-inflicted, “anyone who ventures into an honest and wholehearted love must be willing to tear his heart and to experience discomfort and pains.”

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“Lent is a matter of the heart as it affords us the opportunity to renew our hearts,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop says in his Lenten and Valentine’s Day reflection, and adds, “It is a time when we make sacrifices of subduing the pleasures of the flesh to purify the soul.”

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.