This is the True Meaning of Valentine’s Day: Catholic Bishop in Nigeria

Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria's Oyo Diocese. Credit: Oyo Diocese

Is Valentine’s Day just about lovers hanging out in pairs? Is it all about those who claim to be in love going out for ice cream on a single day in the year and gifting each other material things? Is Valentine's Day just for young people who claim to be so much in love that they set aside one day to show each other how they feel?

According to a Catholic Bishop in Nigeria, Valentine’s Day is a lot more than the one day many have limited it to. 

In reflections shared with ACI Africa Sunday, February 12, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo explains that Valentine’s Day matters to everyone, including old couples, and should be celebrated every day in families, at the workplace, and in the whole world. 

Authentic love, Bishop Badejo says, should be shown to everyone, including politicians, security agents, parents, members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and people from all walks of life.

“Valentine’s Day is a day for all of us. It is for families, for husbands and wives, for young lovers, for old lovers, for every human being that is made in the image and likeness of God,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), an entity of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), further says.


He adds, “Saint Valentine, with whom the celebration is associated, lived a life of selfless and sacrificial love, which goes beyond flowers, material gifts, kisses, and sex. All who celebrate Valentine’s Day should become agents of authentic, life-giving love in all forms.”

“If Valentine's is truly about showing and spreading true love, then we all need it.  Children, youth, adults, the elderly, the dying, and even the dead, all need love,” he says, and continues, “No matter who we are, Bishops, Priests, pastors, politicians, businessmen, civil servants, traders, entertainers, sportsmen, and artisans, young or old, we all need love to remain sane and make everyday life meaningful.”

Valentine’s Day “is not just about lovers hanging out in pairs,” the Nigerian Catholic Church leader who was appointed member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications in December 2021 explains. 

Valentine’s Day, he continues, is also celebrated by “parents who selflessly care for their children with love.”

“Valentine's Day is celebrated by soldiers and security agents who lay down their lives to protect others and their nation. It is Valentine's Day when civil servants serve the public with a genuine sense of duty. Yes, it is Valentine when politicians work to address the true needs of the citizens under their care,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop says in the video recording and statement shared with ACI Africa.

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Bishop Badejo says that Valentine’s Day, as a time to show love, is a welcome celebration for today’s world, which he says is lacking compassion and love. 

He expresses regret that the world is filled with so much killing, so much hatred, and violent conflicts, and says, “We need authentic love around us, and we need agents of authentic love. How I wish all of us would become authentic agents of selfless love.”

According to the 61-year-old Nigerian Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in October 2007 as Coadjutor Bishop of Oyo Diocese, the kind of love that St. Paul describes in his letter to the Corinthians is what the world needs today. 

St. Paul talks about love that is “always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its advantage, it does not take offense or store up grievances,” Bishop Badejo says.

He further quotes 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, saying that “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love never ends.” 


“That kind of Valentine's love is needed in the world today,” Bishop Badejo emphasizes referring to St. Paul’s description of love, and adds, “We need it in our homes; we need it in our churches, mosques, and shrines. We need it in our schools; we need it in our streets.”

“We need authentic agents of love in our markets and we need them in our parks. We need them in our banks where people now suffer for no fault of theirs,” he says, making reference to the challenges being experienced in the ongoing process of redesigning Nigeria’s currency, the Naira.

Authentic agents of love are also needed “in our filling stations, in our businesses, and in our playgrounds. We need authentic love in every heart so that our country and our world can heal of all the hurts we have and be sane again,” Bishop Badejo says, adding that authentic Valentine’s Day makes a difference in homes, families, and society. 

He calls on the people of God to celebrate Valentine’s Day not only on February 14, but on every day of the year to help remake a more just, compassionate, and loving world. 

It is only authentic Valentine’s love that can conquer greed, selfishness, wickedness, and hate and such love never ends, Bishop Badejo says, and urges, “So get right ahead, celebrate a good Valentine’s Day, and light up the world for God is love!”

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.