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One of Nigeria's COVID-19 contact-tracing teams at a Primary Health Centre One of Nigeria's COVID-19 contact-tracing teams at a Primary Health Centre 

Nigerian Bishops salute COVID-19 frontline workers

Catholic Bishops of the Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province have urged Nigerians to cooperate with authorities if the dreaded coronavirus pandemic is to be defeated.

English Africa Service – Vatican City

Catholic Bishops of Nigeria’s Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Ibadan Archdiocese, Ilorin, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osogbo Dioceses have issued a statement urging adherence to guidelines dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

 Adherence is the way to go

“The Coronavirus is real, but available evidence shows that if we all cooperate in fighting it by our adherence to the wearing of face masks, maintaining social/physical distance and constant sanitising and washing of hands, we can drastically reduce its effects and conquer it,” said the Bishops. 

The Pastoral Statement of the Bishops comes at the end of their plenary assembly held at Nigeria’s M&M centre, Ilorin, Kwara State which concluded Tuesday. The statement released on behalf of other Bishops was signed by the Archbishop of Ibadan, Gabriel ’Leke Abegunrin. The Bishop of Osogbo Diocese, John Oyejola, co-signed in his capacity as Secretary.

Appreciation especially for medical personnel

The Bishops express empathy with the suffering of Nigerians due to measures put in place by authorities. They, however, praise various frontline workers for their selflessness during the ongoing health emergency.

“We commend and thank all those who have acted to bring succour (assistance, support) and comfort to our people, be this in the form of services, palliatives, counselling and even prayers. These include the effort of governments, institutions, professionals, especially doctors and other medical personnel and other kind-hearted individuals. We urge Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to all guidelines and instructions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus,” said the Bishops.

Collaboration between authorities and religious leaders

As Nigeria inches towards the re-opening-up of more social space, the Bishops urge caution where places of worship are still closed. They recommend closer collaboration between local governments and religious leaders in view of re-opening them.

Tragic increase in the crime of Rape

The Bishops, in their statement, also turn their attention to issues that concern the dignity of women and the crime of Rape. Nigeria has, in recent months, seen an increase in the crime of Rape against women and the girl child.

The “upsurge of rape in our country is tragic,” say the Bishops. They continue, “Since all are born of women, Rape does not only hurt women, it is also the greatest form of self-degradation by the very perpetrators. It is a crime deserving of the strictest corrective punishment and is a sin against God, the Creator of all.”

A call for more Collaborative Ministry in the Nigerian Church

On a specifically pastoral note, the Bishops urge more space and scope for collaborative Ministry in the Church.

“Collaborative Ministry in the Church seeks to enhance the collaboration between Consecrated Persons and the Diocesan Clergy wherever they work. It shows the face of the Church as family of God on mission. Such synergy and harmony surely bring a lot of benefit to the Church and her mission. We urge that the concept and substance of collaborative Ministry be maximally exploited to enhance the work of mission and evangelisation by different segments of the Church, namely, Clergy, Religious, Women Organisations, Men Organisations, Youth and Children,“ emphasised the Bishops.

14 July 2020, 22:55