“Poverty menacingly threatening our rights, values, entire existence”: Nigerian Archbishop

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria's Abuja Archdiocese

A Nigerian Archbishop has, in a homily, decried the high levels of poverty among the people of God in the West African nation, likening its impact to that of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his Sunday, February 28 homily, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese said, “Like Coronavirus, poverty is menacingly threatening our rights, values and entire existence.”

Archbishop Kaigama added during the Mass to launch the Lenten Campaign of the Archdiocese, “Parish priests or St. Vincent de Paul officials will tell you how many requests for material assistance they receive daily.”

The Archbishop attested to receiving “requests from many qualified but unemployed youths; requests to pay house rent; school fees, dowries, and even for funerals, as well as requests to buy cars!”

“When you go to the periphery of our cities you see people who suffer the lack of basic infrastructure and worry so much about the safety of their lives and property,” he said during the Mass at Holy Trinity, Maitama Parish of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese.


Archbishop Kaigama went on to bemoan his country’s “poor social security system,” which he observed “negatively affects millions of Nigerian security personnel, youths, retirees, disabled persons, and families of retired or deceased workers living and contributes to the rising crime rate, leaving the authorities in a quandary.”

The current social security system has turned youths “into beggars and some embrace crime or violence or other criminal activities,” the Nigerian Archbishop said, and added, “Pensioners sometimes regret their faithful service to their fatherland as they languish in poverty, especially during tough times like these.”

Amid the challenges the people of God in Nigeria face, “Humanitarian activities of Church-based organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services (USA), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Britain), MISSIO and MISEREOR, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Germany, have supported many poor people in Nigeria,” Archbishop Kaigama said.

Making reference to the faith-based entities he enumerated, the Archbishop added, “Their income comes largely from Catholics who take up collections yearly; some of the organizations are supported by their Governments to reach out to us without religious or ethnic discrimination.”

“Despite all the Catholic Church has done and continues to do through social services, schools and hospitals, Government collaborative support of the Catholic Church needs radical improvement,” the Archbishop of Abuja said in his February 28 homily.

More in Africa

He invited the people of God under his pastoral care to contribute to the Lenten Campaign, referencing Maryse Quashie, a “Catholic human rights activist and former university lecturer in Togo” who “believes the African Churches have matured to the level of being more self-sufficient ‘to stop looking for handouts from the West.’”

The human rights activist was responding to the letter of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle “urging dioceses in almost all of Africa, Asia and Oceania and some parts of Latin America to consider renouncing the subsidies from the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) because donations have dropped considerably since the coronavirus pandemic,” Archbishop Kaigama clarified.

In her response published in the 10 February 2021 edition of La Croix, Mary Quashie “insists that it is time to stop being assisted Churches, but to grow up and become adult Churches; to begin to see that we, too, are rich and have something to share,” the Nigerian Archbishop said.

The dwindling subsidies from PMS are “an opportunity for our Church to look for ways to be more self-sufficient,” Archbishop Kaigama further said.

“St. James insists that faith without good work is dead and says if you see a person hungry, do not ignore him/her for according to Christ, whatever good you do to the poor, you do it to Him,” the Archbishop said making reference to the letter of St. James and the Gospel according to Matthew.


Thus, he added in reference to the letter of St. James, “The need to practice the corporal works of mercy by giving to the needy, beyond the eloquent and long recitation of prayers or the mere attendance of Church worship.”

By launching the Lenten Campaign with the theme “Nigeria, Insecurity and COVID-19 Pandemic: The Way Forward,” the Archbishop of Abuja said the leadership of the Archdiocese was inviting the people of God in the area “to progress from verbal prayers and interior purification to a more charitable relationship with fellow human beings especially the poor and the needy of our society.”

“As you give to support the poor, please pray also for the safe release of all kidnapped persons, especially the over 300 abducted school girls in Jangebe, Zamfara State,” he said referencing the February 26 incident within the Archdiocese of Kaduna.

“We pray that our authorities will take more concrete and immediate measures to ensure a holistic national security,” he said and implored, “May God save us from all harm and help all Nigerians to live in peace and harmony.”