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Nigerian Bishop Known for Good Governance Advocacy Appointed to a Vatican Dicastery

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah with Pope Francis in Rome.

A Nigerian Bishop vocal about good governance in the West African country has been appointed as a member of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The news of the appointment of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto was made public in a Monday, January 18 statement by the Director of Communications in the Diocese of Sokoto, Fr. Christopher Omotosho.

In the statement shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Omotosho says the appointment “was contained in a letter to Bishop Kukah dated 11 December 2020, and signed by His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery.”

“By this appointment, Bishop Kukah will join other members of the Dicastery drawn from different regions of the world to advise and promote the Holy Father’s concerns on issues of justice and peace, human rights, torture, human trafficking, care of creation and other issues related to the promotion of human dignity and development,” says Fr. Omotosho.

He adds that the appointment to the Dicastery is renewable for an initial period of five years. 

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Ordained a Clergy of Kaduna in December 1976, he served as a Priest for 36 years before Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese. He was ordained as the Local Ordinary of Sokoto in September 2011.

The 68-year-old Nigerian Bishop currently chairs the Dialogue Committees of both the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).

In his 2020 Christmas Message, Bishop Kukah was critical of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government amid multiple cases of insecurity in parts of Africa’s most populous nation characterized by abductions and killings.

In the message titled “A Nation in Search of Vindication,” he highlighted the “endless woes” the people of God in Nigeria are experiencing.

The Bishop’s Christmas message triggered mixed reactions, with some quarters accusing him of “very serious crimes like treason and incitement for a coup.”

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However, various Church leaders in Nigeria have come to his defense, the latest being Nigeria’s Christian leaders who called on the President to protect Bishop Kukah.

“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari and all the security agencies to ensure that no harm befalls the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Kukah,” the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said in a January 14 message.

Earlier, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese said he stands “firmly with Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message.”

“Where else could I stand, given my conviction that the Bishop of Sokoto wrote it sincerely for the purpose of making Nigeria better,” Bishop Badejo said in a message shared with ACI Africa on New Year eve.

Muslim groups in Nigeria have accused Bishop Kukah of attacking Islam. Bishop Kukah, on his part, has sought clarifications about his specific faults saying, “I'm ready to apologize if shown where I insulted Islam.”

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Reacting to Bishop Kukah’s appointment to the Dicastery, the Director of Communication in Abuja Diocese, Fr. Patrick Alumuku told ACI Africa Tuesday, January 19, “This appointment is symbolic, significant and means so much to the Church in all of Nigeria.”

“It is a loud voice from Rome acknowledging what Bishop Kukah is doing in Nigeria. It's a clear recognition and blessing to him in the midst of his fearless efforts to keep the flame of faith alive in our nation,” said Fr. Alumuku. 

On January 11, the Holy Father also appointed Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Cameroon’s Douala Archdiocese to the Dicastery.

Archbishop Kleda’s appointment was announced by Papal representative in the Central African nation Archbishop Julio Murat on January 15 during the 44th annual seminar of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC).

In their final communique issued at the end of their  January 9-16 meeting, the members of NECC expressed their appreciation to the Holy Father for the appointment  saying, “We rejoice at the news of the appointment by Pope Francis, of Archbishop Samuel Kleda as member of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.”

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