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"We are compelled to ask God to heal our world": Nigerian Bishop at Chrism Mass

Bishop Emmanuel Badejo blessing the oils during the Chrism Mass at at Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral Oyo, April 7, 2020.

The call for divine intervention to heal the world including the people of God affected by COVID-19, a pandemic that has occasioned unprecedented restrictions, is a key highlight of Bishop Emmanuel Badejo’s Chrism Mass message for the Priests in his diocese of Oyo, Nigeria.

“We are compelled to ask God to heal our world, heal our land and heal his people so that we may return to the best of times in worship of Him,” Bishop Badejo states in his message shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, April 7.

Referencing the limitations occasioned by COVID-19, Bishop Badejo says, “It is a most unusual atmosphere in this Cathedral at the Chrism Mass this year which we are having to celebrate with a very small representative number of the people of God because of the Coronavirus pandemic.”

He added, “I feel that this day is like a birthday for priestly brotherhood which we wish to celebrate in defiance of COVID-19 and other diseases and problems, which assail us. We prefer to pray for healing for our sick world, country and peoples that God may visit us soon and restore us.”  

“We pray for the authorities, for Doctors, Pharmacists, Nurses, Care givers, donor priests and all others who are working hard to stop diseases and especially coronavirus,” the Nigerian Prelate said and added, “May God strengthen them and make them successful in their work.”

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There are 238 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, including 35 recoveries and 5 deaths, according to a report.

The West African nation, which is Africa’s most populous country has requested US$6.9 billion from multilateral lenders to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, the finance minister said Monday, April 6.

The continent's largest oil producer, which is still recovering from a recession caused by the last period of weak oil prices, has pt in place a series of measures to contain the spread of the disease including a two-week lockdown for the country’s largest city, Lagos, neighboring Ogun state as well as the country’s political capital, Abuja.

The lockdown has affected an estimated 25 million people, with majority of them being casual laborers who have been rendered jobless.

Addressing the faithful during the Chrism Mass at Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral Oyo, Bishop Badejo who heads the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communication (CEPACS) said, “It is no secret to anyone that so many things in our life have had to change in the last few weeks.”

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“The Church has complied with all restrictions from the experts and civil authorities not out of cowardice but because COVID-19 threatens human life which is a gift from God and is sacred,” the Prelate clarified and added, “The Church is unapologetically pro-life and would do anything to preserve and protect life. This is because of her founder who said “I have come to give them life, life to the full (Jn. 10:10).”

Emphasizing the importance of the Chrism Mass where priests “celebrate and renew their vows,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo invited the Clerics in his diocese to “joyfully recall the spirit of God by whom we have been called and anointed.”

At the same time, Bishop Badejo reminded the priests that to qualify to be called servants of God, “we must serve in the mould of the one who came 'to serve not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45).”

Referencing Pope Francis' recent address at a conference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy on the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decrees Presbyterorum ordinis [Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests] and Optatam Totius [Decree on Priestly Training], the Nigerian Prelate said, “We are not priests for our own sake, and our sanctification is closely linked to that of our people, our anointing to their anointing.”

In this light, citing Pope Francis, Bishop Badejo encouraged the clerics to be “authoritative, not authoritarian; firm, but not hard; joyful, but not superficial…in short, shepherds, not functionaries.”

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“The good that priests can do comes primarily from their proximity to - and a tender love for - their people,” he said and added, “They are not philanthropists or functionaries, but fathers and brothers.” 

The Church leader encouraged priests to remain firm in their faith, sacrifice and in the service of the people of God, for despite difficulties, there are great testimonies to celebrate too.

The Bishop of Oyo also rejoiced at the news of the acquittal by Australia’s highest court of Cardinal George Pell, who had been jailed over accusations of child abuse.

Despite spending over a year in jail, Cardinal Pell on his release said he did not want to increase the injury and damage already done by his incarceration and let go any remorse against his accusers, Bishop Badejo noted.

“Did Pope Francis not ask us as good shepherds to smell the smell of our sheep?,” the 58-year-old Prelate probed in his address to Priests of his diocese and continued, “My brothers this in itself is a visible example of who we really are priests taken from among the people to offer sacrifice for them. As other Christs we are proud to represent the good shepherd who never abandons his sheep. We do not do business as usual because the times are not normal.”

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He went on to say, “As we bless the Holy Oils today, let us recommit ourselves to doing so prayerfully, dutifully and joyfully.”

Recalling the words of Pope Francis who said that priests cannot afford to be sad or nervous and must create serenity,” Bishop Badejo urged the people of God “not (to) be afraid.”

“May our faith and hope see us through these rough times to come back to a holier, stronger and a happier community of God’s people ready to meet our savior and Lord, Jesus Christ announced to us today in the book of Revelations,” the Nigerian Prelate concluded.