Solemn Assumption of office of Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama As Archbishop of Abuja.
FEED MY LAMBS. TEND MY SHEEP (Jn 21:15-17)
We have gathered here today to mark a historic event. The Catholic Archdiocese of
Abuja is today witnessing the installation or enthronement of her third bishop, Ignatius A. Kaigama. We shall reflect on the Episcopal office – the life and ministry of the Bishop; The uniqueness of Abuja Archdiocese and Abuja Metropolitan See; finally, we shall welcome our new Archbishop and Metropolitan. This will lead us to concluding remarks and prayer.
1. LIFE AND MINISTRY OF A BISHOP
The Church teaches us that, every Bishop, by vocation, hears from the lips of Christ the words: “Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:17). Each bishop is a successor of the apostles who like Christ the Master laid down their lives for the sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11).
The office of the Bishop constitutes an enormous challenge. Christus Dominus summarizes it in the following words: “The Bishops… have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the apostles as pastors of souls and together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority. They are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the Eternal Pastor.” By his Episcopal consecration the Bishop enjoys the fullness of the priesthood of Christ. He is truly an Alter Christus as he makes Christ present in his person and his ministry. In his function as the Spiritual Father of God’s children, he presides “in loco Dei Patris,” (in the place of God the Father).
The ministry or office of the Bishop can be summarized in his three-fold functions:
- Munus Sanctificandi – the ministry of sanctifying souls
- Munus Docendi – the ministry of teaching and
- Munus Regendi (munus gubernandi) – the ministry of governing
The Bishop is expected to sanctify the world, believers and non-believers, the families, the youth and indeed all children of God – under his pastoral care (cf. Can. 383). It is good to remind ourselves that the appointment into the office of Bishops is an exclusive right and duty reserved to the Supreme Pontiff, our Holy Father – the Pope (Can. 377). Any attempt to make it a worldly affair will be missing the mark. According to Canon 381, the diocesan bishop has ordinary, proper, and immediate power to exercise his office. He exercises this power personally in the name of Christ.
If Bishops are to perpetuate the work of Christ in Nigeria of today, they very much need to be prophetic in reminding the people of God of the obligation to follow the road that leads to salvation. But to be authentic, this prophetic function must both be contextual and have special bias on the side of the youth, the family and on the side of the holders of power, especially political and economic powers.
As our nation appears to be cascading down the slope of decadence; as our politicians continue to squander the fortunes and the future of their people; as corruption continues to ebb away the life of our nation, and as sectionalism, nepotism, statism continue to be more and more the operational norm in our country, the Church must rise to the challenge. We can no longer pretend that our situation is healthy and normal. We cannot close our eyes to often brazen discrimination and marginalization based on religious affiliation, regions of origin, on language, gender, etc. We as a Church in troubled nation are called to show the light, and to serve as the conscience of our nation. In doing this, we would be fulfilling the most fundamental duty entrusted to us as followers of Christ and leaders of his people: being the servants of the people, especially the poor and the deprived. The priests and the Bishops will always play their roles as servants of the people in their work as priests, prophets and teachers. Please help them to serve you better.
2. THE UNIQUENESS OF ABUJA ARCHDIOCESE AND ABUJA ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE
Some of us in their fifties and sixties and above will remember that the area called Abuja today was virtually unknown until the creation of a new capital territory by the then military government, a territory which eventually replaced Lagos as the capital city of Nigeria on December 12, 1991. The Archdiocese of Abuja was developing as the Government was working on the new Federal capital. On 6th November 1981, it was established as an Independent Mission (sui iuris – of its own right). By a simultaneous decree, His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ignatius Ekandem, the then Bishop of Ikot Ekpene diocese was appointed the Ecclesiastical Superior of the new
Jurisdiction. Eight years later in 1989, the Independent Mission of Abuja was raised to
the status of a diocese, a suffragan to the Metropolitan Church of Kaduna. His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Ekandem was enthroned as her first Bishop. In 1994, the diocese of Abuja was raised to the status of a Metropolitan Archdiocese of Abuja with Archbishop John Onaiyekan as the Archbishop (now His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan).
Today 5th December, we are enthroning the third Bishop of Abuja. To our God be joyful praise. What the Archdiocese of Abuja has become is completely unimaginable by any human being by the early 1980. Today’s event reminds us of the pivotal importance of the time; time as one of God’s most important earthly endowments, time as an opportunity to make positive change in God’s field and for the benefit of all his children. The ministers in God’s vineyard in “Abuja mission” have put time into good use. To God be the glory and praise!
The Archdiocese of Abuja finds itself by God’s providence at the very centre of our national life. In this our beloved country but very disunited nation, the diocese and the territory in which it exists is a veritable centre of unity. So that in practical terms, there is hardly any other place where Nigerians of all ethnic groups, religions, languages, political convictions, social status, etc feel or should feel more at home than in this one Federal Capital Territory. That gives the Episcopacy of the Archdiocese of Abuja a very special character, as a centre of convergence for all the children of God in Nigeria as well as foreigners many of whom have many reasons to sojourn in Abuja. It also confers very special responsibilities on whoever is assigned to shepherd the people of God in Abuja. Every diocese is unique, but Abuja Archdiocese is especially unique in many ways.
3. WELCOME, OUR NEW ARCHBISHOP IGNATIUS AYAU KAIGAMA
We are happy that Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama that is being enthroned today as the Archbishop of Abuja and the Metropolitan of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province has been very much prepared by divine providence to undertake and creditably fulfill this task through his wealth of experience in the spiritual and pastoral spheres. His Grace, Archbishop Kaigama after his priestly ordination has gone through serious academic training and administrative duties. He has served as the first Catholic Bishop of Jalingo in Taraba State (1995 – 2000); Archbishop of Jos (2000 – 2019); Vice President,
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN (2012 – 2018); President, Regional
Episcopal Conference of West Africa; Member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization; Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja and now the Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja.
There is no iota of doubt that by God’s design, he has gone through the crucible of leadership, spiritual formation and exposure and God has all these years prepared him to be where he is today. To God be glory and never-ending praise for ever.
REMARKS AND PRAYER
Your Grace, Archbishop Kaigama, in a very special way, you are being raised to the throne of Chief Servant in the Archdiocese of Abuja. That your Archdiocese is peopled by all regions, States, Local Governments, Religions, Languages of nations gives it an unmistakable Cosmopolitanism, which you cannot ignore in your pastoral engagement. All Nigerians must find a home in your pastoral sphere, and to be true to the world that is God’s property and family, you must extend this welcome beyond the immediate bounds of your Church, to ensure that all the children of God find home first in your church, and then by extension in the wider Abuja and Nigerian Society.
Like the Apostle Peter, the Lord Jesus is asking you, Ignatius do you love me… and he is telling you, “Feed my Sheep.”
We pray that the Good Lord who has called you to this enormous responsibility will sure give you all the necessary graces to fulfill it with humility, but also with credibility, and ultimately with success through Christ Our Lord!
Be confident in Him because despite your human limitations, he will never abandon you. His Grace will always be enough for you.
To Him be glory, honour, and never-ending praise, for ever and ever. Amen!