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Priests Called to “defend oppressed, re-establish justice”: Prelate in Togo at Chrism Mass

Priests in the Archdiocese of Lomé renewing their vows during Chrism Mass at Cristo Risorto de Hedzranawoe Catholic Parish Church in Lomé, Tuesday, September 8.

At the celebration of the previously postponed Chrism Mass in Togo's Archdiocese of Lomé Tuesday, September 8, the presiding Prelate has underscored the need for Clerics to rediscover the value of their ministerial Priesthood by paying attention to the plight of the deprived in society and working toward re-establishing social justice.

“As Priests, we are called to defend the oppressed, committing us to re-establish a minimum of social justice at the heart of society. This is why we cannot close our eyes to situations of injustice, corruption, discrimination and exploitation of others,” Archbishop Nicodème Anani Barrigah said during the Tuesday, September 8 celebration.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of the evil that is being committed around us,” Archbishop Barrigah said in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration held at Cristo Risorto de Hedzranawoe Catholic Parish Church in Lomé and live streamed on Facebook.

Referencing Pope John Paul II, the Togolese Prelate said, “The structures of sin are all situations of injustice, those institutions and laws that lead people to commit sin. It is these structures that hardens the human conscience and makes it insensitive to evil.”

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“These situations are deliberately maintained to keep entire people in misery or fear,” the Prelate who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Atakpamé said and added, “Our vocation imposes on us the duty to denounce them.”

He went on to remind the Priests about their full-time ministry saying, “We cannot reduce our priesthood to the rank of a mere function, a livelihood or a career. No Priest can exercise his ministry on a part-time basis as if certain dimensions of his life are not concerned with his priesthood. Indeed, we are not only a Priest within the Church and just ordinary men as we see in some places.”

“We are not a Priest only when we wear the cassock and ordinary men when we dress in civilian clothes. We are not only a Priest when we teach, or celebrate the Eucharist, but also and above all, when we act because the priesthood is inseparable from our being,” Archbishop Barrigah emphasized.

He continued, “We cannot, under the pretext of being men like others, indulge in spiritual indifference if not mediocrity. More than others, we must aspire to surpass ourselves, not because we are better, but essentially because we are inhabited by the spirit of God.”

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He also explained the symbolism of the Priestly anointing saying, “By receiving the anointing, a Priest becomes a new creature, a servant of God who no longer belongs to himself. His whole body and soul is as if absorbed in the new identity he receives on the day of his ordination.”

As anointed servants of God, the 57-year-old Archbishop said, Priests are expected to reach out “to all those who are enslaved by the spirit of darkness” alongside “those who are deprived of their freedom of movement.”

“In our world that is losing the essential values of life, there are many slaves who ignore each other. When one is no longer able to tell the difference between truth and lie, when one is no longer able to see the misery of others, indulging in unbridled (unrestrained) waste, do you think that one is really free?” Archbishop Barrigah probed during the Eucharistic celebration attended by members of the Clergy, Religious and Lay faithful. 

He highlighted “pride, selfishness, and the thirst for domination” as some of the indicators of spiritual blindness that Priests need to facilitate those under their pastoral care to overcome because they “prevents us from seeing reality.”

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“As we renew our Priestly commitments, let us ask the Lord for the grace of allowing ourselves to be transformed by his Spirit so that we, in turn, can better assume the mission that He entrusts to us in the footsteps of Christ,” the Togolese Archbishop concluded September 8.