End “tribalism, all other forms of division”: Nuncio in Nigeria to Bishops in West Africa

Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi addressing participants during the fourth RECOWA Plenary Assembly that started on May 3 in Abuja, Nigeria. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria has called on Catholic Church leaders in the 16 West African countries that make up the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) to make every effort to end “tribalism and all other forms of division” that seem to be on the rise in Catholic communities.  

In his remarks at the fourth RECOWA Plenary Assembly that started on May 3, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi said Catholic Bishops need to collaborate in creating fraternity among the people of God in West Africa.

We need to make every effort to achieve a true conversion of mentality, which overcomes tribalism and all other forms of division and opposition based on ethnicity or other affiliations or factors,” the Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria said in his address to delegates of the RECOWA Plenary in Abuja.

RECOWA comprises 154 Catholic Dioceses spread across 11 Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in 16 countries of Anglophone and Francophone Africa. The 16 countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

In his address at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, Archbishop Filipazzi regretted the fact that “tribalism and exasperated particularism are increasingly spreading within Parish communities, Catholic groups and associations, Religious institutes, and Dioceses.”


“It is up to the Bishops to have a ‘Catholic’ mentality, as Catholic is that Church of which they are Shepherds, and then to watch, educate and correct everything that leads to closure and exclusion.” 

If the Bishops manage to educate the people on the importance of shunning divisive elements, Archbishop Filipazzi said, “Then we will also be more credible in inviting human society to live in an authentic fraternity!”

There is need for greater unity of purpose and closer collaboration, the Italian-born Archbishop said, cautioning that if the direction of unity and collaboration is not taken, “the efforts of some will be weakened because others do not follow the criteria indicated by the Church in these matters.”

Delegates taking part in the Plenary Assembly that is expected to end on May 9 are deliberating on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on human fraternity, and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti, and challenges facing the region in view of strategizing for “sustainable peace.”

In his address, Archbishop Filipazzi said that there is need for the Plenary Assembly’s theme to be witnessed within Catholic communities. 

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“The theme of the building of fraternity, which will guide the work of this Assembly, must be seen first within the Catholic community, emphasizing that fraternity that the blood of Christ and the Baptism objectively create among all disciples of the Lord,” he said.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria also called on members of RECOWA to seek solutions to the spread of groups that claim to be Institutes of Consecrated Life, adding that those that are illegitimate have to be disregarded.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.