Speech By Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama During His Formal Taking Possession As Archbishop Of The Catholic Archdiocese Of Abuja…


God is always a God of surprises. Never had it remotely crossed my mind that I would one day stand before a great congregation such as this as the Archbishop of Abuja.

After his very exceptional and wonderful tenure for which we remain happy and grateful to God, I respectfully salute His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, who for nearly three decades has led the Archdiocese of Abuja with Apostolic courage and zeal as he retires after clocking the 75 years as stipulated by Canon Law. I wish him a very tranquil and restful retirement.

My own little page has now opened in the history of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja. My unexpected and unmerited journey to become a member of Abuja Archdiocese began on the 11th of March 2019, when the Holy Father, Pope Francis, kindly appointed me as Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese. Not too familiar with the term “Co-adjutor”, some people address me as “co-adjucator”, “coadjutant” while some call it, “co-conjugator”.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria, His Excellency, Antonio Guido Filipazzi, informed me of my appointment by Pope Francis at 9.45am in the Nunciature on 15.2.2019. Noticing my apprehension and agitation while breaking the news to me, the Nuncio used the examples of Abraham and the Blessed Virgin Mary to reassure me that all would be well. Asked, as usual, if I would accept the assignment by the Holy Father, I could not give him any definite answer as I felt slightly disoriented.

With trembling and trepidation, I travelled back to Jos, my mind wandering like a wild cat. Arriving my house in Jos and kneeling in thanksgiving for a safe journey before the Blessed Sacrament, the thought of leaving Jos suddenly dawned on me and I felt like a stranger in my house!

After troubled reflections on the implications of my appointment, but knowing that it is neither an office one campaigned for nor influenced by powerful god fathers, but a doing of the Lord, I called the Apostolic Nuncio on Sunday 17.2.2019 to pledge my obedience and humble acceptance of the appointment by the Holy Father. I wish to thank the Holy Father for the confidence reposed in me by entrusting the pastoral leadership of the Archdiocese of Abuja to me and I hereby renew my pledge of loyalty and filial devotedness. To His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, I express my gratitude for your generous words of encouragement and support as I count on your fraternal collaboration as well as the support of my brother Bishops in the Abuja Ecclesiastical Province and indeed all members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).

Life is said to be a series of beginnings. This is another new beginning for me. God knows better why he asked the Pope to look in my direction. When I was appointed the Archbishop of Jos some nineteen and a half years ago, after only a little over five years as the pioneer Bishop of Jalingo Diocese, someone in a goodwill message sympathetically and I would say, skeptically said that I would not have the physical and spiritual energy of my predecessor in Jos. By this present appointment, the temptation to feel grossly inadequate returned forcefully to me, but I convinced myself that I was being appointed to Abuja to humbly serve even despite my shortcomings and limitations. I trust and depend on the grace of God which will support me day by day, because God is our hope and our help.

My predicament is that I have always been given heavy assignments, namely, to succeed people who are many times more experienced and more gifted than I am. My predecessor in Jos, the Servant of God, Archbishop Gabriel Gonsum Ganaka, was a person I referred to as an “Ecclesiastical guru”; as CBCN president, I succeeded Archbishop Felix Alaba Job, a veteran in pastoral affairs whom I call a “mobile archive” (he does not easily forget pastoral or statistical information) and my immediate predecessor here, Cardinal Onaiyekan, an intellectual colossus. I lack their outstanding credentials (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). However, I have the conviction that the Lord uses leaders to build, not by human wisdom and power but by His grace. I may not be exceptional but I assure you that we shall continue to pray and work together for social cohesion, spiritual and pastoral progress.

My earnest prayer is that the Lord will take control and guide the course of events in Abuja Archdiocese during my tenure. May He guide and bind in redeeming love the priests, the religious and the wonderful lay faithful of Abuja Archdiocese, moulding us more into a strongly united and indivisible family in His service, so that at the end, we shall receive the crown of glory and hear the words of Mt. 25:34, “Come and enter the kingdom of my Father”. I pray and hope that we will be able to trust one another, be friends and colleagues and be a happy family together.

With the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of Abuja, we need to make more conscious effort to promote dialogue, harmonious coexistence, reconciliation and peace both ad intra and ad extra, through constant meetings, interactions, fervent prayers, which I believe are the antidote to disunity, polarization and fragmentation.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja in the Federal Capital should be a home to all and should belong to all and not be seen as a colony of a specific group or region. We must always champion the common good rather than sectional interests. Everyone living or working in Abuja Archdiocese should find a home in our Church. Whether you are the majority or minority, whether you are many, few or alone, please, feel at home in our Church, family of God.

God has given us multiple gifts and talents, which everyone should use effectively and selflessly for the benefit of our Archdiocesan family and humanity. You have always supported the physical growth, development and expansion of parishes, schools and other socio-pastoral projects. Please, do not be tired. There is still work to be done. Our beautifully designed new cathedral is not yet completed. The best retirement gift we can give our highly esteemed Cardinal is to complete this project. I am confident that with the support of everyone; men and women, young and old, rich and poor, we can complete it as well as the other plans His Eminence informed me about, namely, the building of a permanent Archdiocesan Secretariat, a permanent Archbishop’s house, etc.

I know very well that before my announcement as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja there were speculations, conjectures and guesses and even wishful thinking about whom to expect as the new Archbishop. Even after my appointment, some were perhaps shocked and some may still be thinking about what should have happened or worrying about what will be. These anxieties are natural, but they must now give way to our unity of purpose and mission. Let all we do be dominated by true fraternal spirit, mutual acceptance and understanding.

My thesis is that by the grace of God, we all have something to contribute in building our Archdiocese; we can add a few blocks (spiritual and physical) to the many blocks John Cardinal Onaiyekan and before him, late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, have built together with you since the creation of this jurisdiction.

We, the priests, must be known for who and what we are. We are not big men or rich men competing with lay people or politicians. We should let the light of Christ shine in and through us. We should be the salt of the earth, bringing good taste not sour taste. This exhortation applies too to all the religious.

As priests we know that our role is to lead the People of God after the model of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. It is about servant leadership, in simplicity, humility and holiness. It means celebrating the Eucharist with reverence and not introducing unnecessary practices, visiting the sick at home and in the hospitals, those in prison, being attentive to the plight of the poor and empathizing with them, and being the voice of the voiceless without being partisan.

To my good friends, family, associates, acquaintances, I need your understanding and support. It is easy in contemporary Nigeria where some religious leaders preach prosperity and flaunt incredible wealth in the midst of biting poverty, to see my position as the Archbishop of Abuja in terms of worldly elevation or promotion and even to compare it with the position of a powerful and affluent Senator or Minister. My duty is spiritual and pastoral. I neither have a salary nor have I accumulated material things in my over thirty eight years of priesthood. I have always depended on charity and donations from benefactors which I in turn distribute to the needy or to promote the cause of the Church. I say this because when I was the CBCN president, some people thought that all the money collected in Catholic Churches across the country ended up on my table and so many requests for financial assistance kept pouring in!

The Catholic Church is always willing to contribute to the growth and development of our nation by spiritually and morally supporting our elected political leaders and public officials to focus on serving in truth and justice our nation and its about 200 million people. In exercising my prophetic duty, I will respectfully seek to dialogue with government leaders about the common good; remind our leaders to remember the poor, the youth, the widows and orphans; to remind them of the words of both our national pledge and anthem: “to serve our fatherland with love and strength and faith; with heart and might; one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.” I will pray with them and dialogue on how our youth can be better helped. I will continue to stress the need to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians and to provide jobs for our teeming youth used by ethnic, religious and political bigots for violence, cultism and other anti-social practices.

Our political leaders should be faithful to the words of their oath of office; to serve rather than be served; to be closer to their people not only during election times, but to always feel their pain and agony rather than being tucked away in air-conditioned offices or travelling in jets or helicopters to avoid the deplorable roads that are left unmaintained for years or just simply poorly built. The tendency for leaders to surround themselves with weapon-wielding security personnel or trained security dogs and becoming inaccessible and insensitive to the needs of the ordinary people must be avoided and they should ensure that the poor, the children, the teenagers, the youths, the widows, the orphans, those in the periphery are not deprived of social amenities or unjustly treated.

To my new family, please help me to be the shepherd of the flock of God that is entrusted to me, to watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money as 1 Peter 5:1-4 says, but because I am eager to do it. I look forward to collaborating with you the laity, female and male religious, priests, other Christian denominations, and the Muslim community.

I will count on the Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Anselm Umorem, MSP, as a fraternal ally. He has been on ground for some years now. I will continue to draw from the wisdom and wealth of experience of His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, who even after retirement is still looking dynamic and energetic to kindly help me as I continue with the relay race. I hope that he will always help where and when his help will be needed.

I hereby reconfirm for now, the previous appointments made by His Eminence: the Vicar General, the Chancellor, the Consultors and the Deans. I request you to support my spiritual and pastoral initiatives. In the coming days I shall hold separate meetings with the clergy, female religious and leaders of laity, women, youth organizations, etc.

With the words of Philippians 2:2-4, I exhort all of us to be united in our convictions and united in our love, with a common purpose and a common mind, avoiding selfish personal interests and parochial sentiments. “There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.” Be patient with me. I am a slow learner. It will take me time to know things, places and people.

I am very grateful for the many goodwill messages received assuring me of prayers to succeed. Special thanks to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, who sent me a goodwill message and to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, who called me on phone. I thank my brother Bishops for their unending support, prayerful wishes, goodwill messages and for being physically present here or through their representatives.

The presence of dignitaries in large numbers is gratefully acknowledged and appreciated: I recognize and truly appreciate the presence of Traditional Leaders, government functionaries, Christian leaders, Muslim leaders, distinguished personalities, etc. A special welcome to His Eminence, Philippe Cardinal Ouedraogo, the President of SECAM, being represented here by Archbishop Bonaventure Kwofie of Accra, Ghana. My special regards to my two Governors, one of my State of birth, Gov. Darius Ishaku Dickson and the other of my adopted home state, Plateau and Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon. Barr. Simon Lalong. They have been not only my Governors, but truly brothers. Please allow me to use Dame Pauline Tallen, Minister of Women Affairs, the legal luminary, Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, the Walter and Winifred Akpani family, as points of contact to those other brothers and sisters who were and are strongly committed to helping me succeed in my priestly life and service. I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful people I have worked with in the Archdiocese of Jos, the priests, religious, laity and indeed the good and generous people of Plateau State. I also thank God for the Bishop, priests and people of my home diocese of Jalingo whose Bishop I was from 1995 to 2000.

Kindly allow me to be a bit partial by mentioning the Jukun Supreme leader, His Majesty, The Aku Uka of Wukari, Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa-Ibi, Kuvyon II and the traditional ruler of Jukun Kona land, His Royal Highness, Augustine Njenmang Vengkani. I acknowledge and appreciate also my fellow members of the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre, Jos, made up of Muslims, Christians, Community leaders and youths.

I thank the organizers of this event headed by Bishop Anselm Umoren for their sacrifices and selflessness. I thank Archbishop Valerian Okeke for his inspiring reflections in the homily. I am so grateful to the security agents, gentlemen of the media, Church organizations and pious movements and many people who worked and are still working behind the scene.

To all who have come, I invoke God’s powerful blessings on each of you. In Latin we say, ora pro nobis mutuo (Let us pray for one another). Peace be with you all and safe journey to your respective destinations.

Covid-19 has shown nations of the world how redundant technology is —Bishop Kaigama

The Bishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese, Ignatius Kaigama has said that the novel coronavirus, ravaging the world, has shown that technology cannot do much.

According to the cleric, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced all nations, big or small to same level, shown that God remained on the throne and that all must return to Him.

He stated this on Sunday, after he marked Palm Sunday Mass in an empty Church due government ban on public gatherings.

He said, “The disease has reduced us to one level. The mighty and small nations have all been reduced to the same level with all feeling the hit and unable to do much about it.

“The pandemic has taught us that we must come together to conquer the ills of the society.

“All nations, big or small, developed and undeveloped, poor and rich, have seen that technology cannot do much. Everyone is running from pillar to post in search of safety.

“Clearly, it is a new beginning for humanity. It means we must return to the golden rule of love and respect for one another. Above all, it has shown that God is on the throne and all must return to Him.

“It should never be about what we can gain from the situation. It should be about what we can contribute to the system.”

COVID-19: Archbishop Kaigama optimistic of triumph

As Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday amid COVID-19 Pandemic, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama has expressed optimism that the Coronavirus is bound to be over as Christ triumphed over death.

Archbishop Kaigama stated this at the 2020 Palm Sunday Celebration at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Pro-Cathedral Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Archbishop Kaigama, who delivered his message through the social media, enjoined Christians to comply with the orders by the government with respect to the pandemic.

“The Holy Week which is the peak of our Lenten observance begins today with this Palm Sunday celebration. During this week we are going to be journeying with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and then to Calvary where He will pay the supreme sacrifice to save us from our sins and the sins of the whole world.

However, remember that in the Eucharist we pray for the living, the dead, those who are present for the Mass, those far away like our brave soldiers in the North East doing security work and now many of you who are at home watching or listening, either because you are sick or elderly or because you are obeying the restriction orders by the government to stay at home as a measure to curb the ravaging coronavirus.” Archbishop Kaigama said.

Kaigama also lauded Media Practitioners as a great asset in fighting the spread of the COVID-19 as well as Medical workers.

“I appreciate the presence of media practitioners here from different media houses who are a great asset in fighting the spread of the coronavirus virus.

“They are our great bridge, getting relevant and authentic information to you and you can see how important their role is in linking us at this Eucharistic celebration here to you by bringing this Holy Mass  to you either directly or through the news they will give about it later.” He said.

The Archbishop comforted Catholics who could not attend the mass because of the restrictions saying it is due to the peculiar situation prevailing in the Country. He urged them to be at peace as he prays that soon a cure can be found and all their anxiety will be over and they can resume normal spiritual and pastoral activities.

“Hosanna means save us.  We cry out to Jesus to save us from our sins and eternal death as well as the coronavirus. We are carrying a heavy cross in the world today.

“Our prayer is that as we come to the end of the forty days so shall we experience the end of the coronavirus. We should continue to say the prayer of Pope Francis to MARY during the corona pandemic.” The Archbishop said.

He also commended the measures put in place by the Nigerian government to curb the pandemic while stressing that funds should be used with maximum prudence.

”Since this is the peak of the Lenten season, if we procrastinated, this is injury time. Do more: alms, prayer, fasting. Government apart from imposing understandable restrictions of movements in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus must ensure that people don’t suffer lack of food, water, electricity and basic medical care.” Archbishop Kaigama said.

He called on the church to sacrifice from the little it has in solidarity with those infected or affected as well as those who stay home with very little to survive on.

“I call on everyone to act fast Catholic; including the clergy and the religious to make personal sacrifices. All men and women of goodwill should help with whatever they can. Let us act fast. No time to waste For the sake of the sorrowful passion, Jesus have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Archbishop Kaigama added.

Nigerian Prelate Calls for Collaborative Efforts to Curb Crime of Rape

The Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese is calling for joint initiatives to put an end to the upsurge of rape cases in Africa’s most populous country, describing the crime as “an intrinsic evil that infringes on the dignity and privacy of the victims.”

In a report issued by the Director of Social Communications in the Archdiocese of Lagos, Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins was quoted saying, “Rape is not only appalling, and reprehensible, but it is an intrinsic evil that infringes on the dignity and privacy of the victims, causing deep scars on their psyche.”

“Rape is not only a serious crime against the victim, it is also a gross violation of the sacredness of the person’s body and an affront on the Almighty God who created the victim and every other person in His image and likeness,” Archbishop Martins was quoted as saying in the Sunday, June 28 report.

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Nigerian Prelate underscores the negative impact of the sexual crime on the victim.

“The Holy Scriptures and the Church down through the ages have condemned all sexual perversion including rape. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, physical and moral integrity of the victim. It causes grave damage to the victim, sometimes for life,” the 61-year-old Prelate says.

He adds, “Rape is an intrinsically evil act that is even more grave and condemnable when inflicted on children either by parents (incest) or those who exercise any form of authority over them especially those responsible for their education.”

Referencing the Nigeria Police Force statistics that indicate 717 recorded rape cases, the Archbishop of Lagos says the high number of these cases is “an attestation that the society was fast plunging into the abyss of immorality.”

Increasing cases of rape have prompted protests in Nigeria’s streets with some citizens taking on social media under #WeAreTired to demand urgent action and justice for victims.

As a result, Governors in the 36 states of Nigeria declared a state of emergency over rape and other gender-based violence against women and children in the West African country.

The lamentations of the Archbishop of Lagos come days after Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Abuja decried the “heinous crime of rape” and demanded legal action against the perpetrators.

Archbishop Adewale of Lagos has called on various stakeholders in society to “work together to quell this social malaise before it consumes everyone.”

“Parents, religious bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) must deliberately teach the boy-child respect for women; concerned government agencies must pay attention to suggestive contents that sexualize girls in musical videos as well as enforce more strict restrictions on pornographic materials that are so easily available on the internet,” Archbishop Adewale says.

He adds, “Each person must also resist the common view that people must satisfy whatever urge or desire they have as if we are lower animals that have no control over their desires and urges. Everyone must also advocate for justice for victims of rape and severest possible punishment for rapists.”

In the report, the Local Ordinary of Lagos calls on the security forces to “make justice for victims of rape a priority” and invites “health workers across the country to join hands with other relevant professionals to offer care and necessary counselling to victims of rape in order to help them overcome the trauma of the sad experience.”

To the country’s Members of Parliament, the Nigerian Archbishop says, “Find ways of ensuring that all States in the country domesticate the Child Rights Act in order to give full legal protection and guard against abuse of children, especially the girl child.”

Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese Outlines Safety Guidelines for Resumption of Public Masses

Days after the Federal Government of Nigeria lifted restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the leadership of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has announced the resumption of public Mass and outlined a raft of measures aimed at containing the possible spread of the coronavirus disease.

The directives range from hygiene, the time between masses, and the handling of offerings among others.

“Parishes should ensure that places of worship and church premises are clean and ventilated at all times,” the Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama directed.

In his letter issued Thursday, June 4, Archbishop Kaigama asks all Parishes in the Archdiocese to provide “handwashing facilities at strategic places, hand sanitizers at entry and exit points of all church buildings, including church conveniences, facilities for proper waste disposal and infrared thermometers which should be used at entry points.”

“The first Masses in all parishes and institutions must not begin earlier than 5 a.m. and must end no later than 8 p.m.,” the Nigerian Archbishop directs, adding that “all liturgical celebration must not last beyond an hour” and that “there should be at least thirty minutes intervals between Masses.”

“Only one third (⅓) of the holding capacity of the Church is allowed per liturgical celebration,” he further directed.

The Archbishop called for a collaborative approach in the activities in Parishes saying that “the number of Masses in the parish, suitable times for Masses, spaces that may be used for the celebration of Masses, Parishioners who may attend Masses” be decided by Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) under the direction of the Parish Priests.

Nigeria has recorded at least 11,516 cases of COVID-19 including 3,232 recoveries and 323 related deaths.

On Monday, June 1, the chairman of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha announced a four-week easing of COVID-19 restrictions effective June 2.

In a televised briefing, Mustapha said that churches and mosques are free to resume worship services while adhering to conditions such as wearing of face masks, proper washing or sanitizing of hands and the maintaining of physical distance.

During the celebration of Holy Eucharist, the Local Ordinary of Abuja directs, “all liturgical ministers in the sanctuary should wear face masks, except the concelebrating priests.”

“No more than one (1) Lector and two (2) Mass servers may stay in the Sanctuary with the Priests,” Archbishop Kaigama further directs in his June 4 statement and adds, “All the readings, prayers of the faithful and announcements should be taken by one person.”

“To ensure that the faithful whose hands would have been sanitized would have received the Holy Communion on their palms before touching money with their hands,” Archbishop Kaigama directs that the collection of offertory takes “place after the post-communion prayer.”

Extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion will be required to sanitize their hands before distributing communion, which should be received “directly on the palm.”

The sacrament of confession, the Archbishop directs, be celebrated in spacious venues that allow “required physical distancing and utmost confidentiality and physical distancing.”

He cautions against compromising the sacredness of the sacrament saying, “No confession through telephone or Zoom teleconferencing.”

For the Sacrament of matrimony, the 62-year-old Archbishop said it “may be administered taking into account the observance of physical distancing, except for the couple whom physical nearness is inevitable.”.

“Priests may celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism (for infants and children) within or outside Mass,” he said and directed that while administering the sacrament, cotton buds “be used for anointing and properly disposed afterwards” and that Clerics should not baptize more than ten persons in any liturgical celebration.

“Celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation has been put on hold for now,” Archbishop Kaigama announced.

He dispensed “those above 70 years, children below 10 years, nursing mothers, those who feel sick and those who don’t feel safe or comfortable enough to gather in a crowd” from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass and advised that these categories of people stay at home.

Hi, How Can We Help You?