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Controversial Priest’s Initiative in Nigeria is Now a Chaplaincy, “not personality cult”

Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka, Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry in Nigeria's Enugu Diocese/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Adoration Ministry Enugu, an initiative of a controversial Nigerian Catholic Priest, is to function as a Chaplaincy, and “not personality cult”, the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Enugu Diocese has directed.

In a 10-point letter, Bishop Callistus Onaga outlines ways of safeguarding the identity and integrity of the Catholic Church at the Enugu-based centre, and explains the meaning of the new status of Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka’s initiative.

“The Adoration Ministry, Enugu shall be administered and organized as a Chaplaincy,” Bishop Onaga says in his letter that provides “directives and guidelines for pastoral care and administration” of the chaplaincy.

Making reference to the code of Canon Law (Can. 564), the Nigerian Bishop explains, “Canonically, a chaplaincy is a special group of Christ's faithful entrusted to a priest in a faithful manner who is their chaplain in accordance with universal and particular law.”

“The Adoration Ministry Enugu is to be recognized as a chaplaincy in the Catholic Diocese of Enugu under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka,” the Bishop says, adding, “As a Catholic outfit of the Diocese of Enugu, it shall enjoy all the pastoral privileges of the Diocese of Enugu and is to be under the pastoral and managerial obligation of the same diocese.”

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Bishop Onaga’s directive and guidelines come a month after a section of Adoration Ministry Enugu members stormed the Cathedral premises and the Bishop’s residence, demanding to know the whereabouts of their founder, Fr. Mbaka who they thought to be missing.

In his letter dated June 3 that was shared with ACI Africa on Saturday, June 5, Bishop Onaga recalls the events of May 5 when “members of Adoration Ministry Enugu violently vandalized the residence of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, the secretariat complex and the Cathedral Church.”

Following the vandalism in which Fr. Mbaka’s supporters also desecrated the Holy Altar of the Cathedral Church, Bishop Onaga announced a week of prayer of atonement and reparation.

The protesters had claimed that Bishop Onaga had invited Fr. Mbaka for a meeting on May 2 and that since then, he (Fr. Mbaka) had not been seen.

In an interview with ACI Africa May 5, however, the Communications Director of Enugu Diocese, Fr. Benjamin Achi, described the allegations that Fr. Mbaka had been missing as “misinformation.”

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Looking back at the chaotic scenes of May 5, Fr. Mbaka who was presiding over Sunday Holy Mass at the Adoration Ministry premises on May 9 apologized to the Universal Church and to his Local Ordinary.

The member of the Clergy of Enugu Diocese said, “I render my sincere unalloyed apologies to the Holy, Roman, and Apostolic Church where I belong and say may the Mother Church forgive us in any way we didn’t do it well. Even in all that I said, where I didn’t say it well, we pray for their forgiveness.”

In a May 11 statement, officials of the Adoration Ministry announced that their “Spiritual Director”, Fr. Mbaka, had “embarked on a private prayer retreat that will end on 10th June, 2021.”

“No ministry activities shall be held in the ministry ground pending his return,” they indicated in their statement.

Announcing the new directives and guidelines for Adoration Ministry Enugu in his June 3 three-page letter, Bishop Onaga makes reference to canonical provisions that empower him, as the Local Ordinary of Enugu Diocese, “to supervise and issue norms concerning all centres where the word of God is proclaimed.”

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He is “the visible source and foundation of unity” in the Diocese of Enugu, he says, and citing Can. 392, highlights his mandate “to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline especially in what pertains to the ministry of the word, the sacraments, sacramentals and worship of God.”

Apart from decreeing that Adoration Ministry Enugu takes the status of a chaplaincy, Bishop Onaga gives nine other directives and guidelines aimed “to safeguard the integrity of the Church and forestall future abuses in the Adoration Ministry, and as necessary conditions for the existence of the Ministry.”

Henceforth, he says as his first decree, “Christ in the Blessed Sacrament must remain at the centre of worship and not personality cult.”

“Since Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the faithful must be taught to be truthful by word and example,” Bishop Onaga decrees, and continues in what is his third decree, “The use of dialogue and prayer, instead of violence, revenge or exchange of words, should be employed in the face of challenges and difficulties in the Adoration Ministry.”

He further decrees that Fr. Mbaka, as the Chaplain, and members of the Adoration Ministry “abide by the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church as well as its ecclesiastical governance.”

“Administration of sacraments should be preceded by proper preparation and documentation. The teaching of catechism must be made compulsory,” Bishop Onaga has also decreed.

In the letter he has co-signed with the Diocesan Secretary/Chancellor, Fr. Wilfred Chidi Agubuchie, Bishop Onaga adds, as a separate decree, “The Diocesan Bishop shall go on Pastoral Visit from time to time to the Adoration Ministry as is the case with Parishes, in order to assess their spiritual growth.”

Non-Catholics are prohibited from taking up liturgical roles at Adoration Ministry, the Nigerian Bishop directs, and further decrees, “Effort must be made to nourish the spiritual and moral life of attendees and not just their mundane desires.”

“There shall be no partisan politics either by way of active engagement or by prophetic naming of candidates for positions of power,” Bishop Onaga decrees, and adds in reference to Can. 287, “Priests are forbidden from taking part in any form of partisan politics.”

“I order that these guidelines and decree be faithfully observed in accordance with the universal and particular law and the custom of our diocese, anything to the contrary notwithstanding, even if worthy of special mention,” the 62-year-old Bishop who has been at the helm of Enugu Diocese since May 2009 states.