Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6: 36)

My dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy, we in Nsukka Diocese are blessed to be celebrating three other important Jubilees: the Silver Jubilee of the erection of our Diocese, the Silver Jubilee of the Episcopal ordination of Bishop Francis E. O. Okobo and the Golden Jubilee of his Priestly ordination.

In the solemn atmosphere of these Jubilee celebrations, I am happy to present to you the review of the placement of the principal Church Personnel in our Diocese for the year 2016. As you will notice immediately, the review this time is deliberately minimal. This is because a more thorough review would distract all of us from our main focus in this year, namely, openness to the loving mercy of God the Father which the Jubilees make available to us.

As we thank God for his blessings in the last year, let us equally thank him for the many graces of this year of multiple Jubilees, in particular for his mercy, which, by the special provision of the Holy Father Pope Francis, we are all called upon to experience more intimately during this year. Pope Francis teaches us: «Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by with God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness... Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive» (Misericordiae Vultus, 2-3).

I therefore earnestly urge all pastoral agents to devote more time to the catechesis on mercy and to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The Faithful have to be encouraged, as individuals and as groups, to be reconciled to God, to the Church and to one another. I would like to make the following wish of the Holy Father mine: «How much I desire that the year ... will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!» (Misericordiae Vultus, 5).

Nevertheless, I hasten to add that the exercise of mercy by the Church does not entail encouraging sinful behavior or admitting people to the Sacraments without proper instruction or adequate preparations. On the contrary, admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful are among the spiritual works of mercy.

Just as no responsible doctor would "out of mercy" administer a sugar solution to a diabetic patient in order to make him regain lost energy quickly (that would cause death), so also no responsible pastor of souls would "out of mercy" admit people to the Sacraments about which they have been taught little or nothing. Mercy has to do with the conversion of hearts and not with the watering down of doctrine or with the setting aside of necessary Church practice.

It goes without saying that for persons who are really poor in the Parish, dispensation from some financial contributions in this Year of Mercy would be a welcome gesture. And as we all know, on no account should a Faithful be excluded from the Sacraments only because he or she is unable to make such contributions. May I here repeat the point I made clearly at this time last year: «Parish Priests, as pastors of souls, should know that they bear a grave responsibility before God to form their Parishioners in the faith.

They should therefore bear in mind that it is no sign of pastoral charity to admit people to the Sacraments without sufficient instruction. On the contrary, to do so would harm the faith of the Christians and inflict serious wounds on the Body of Christ, the Church. In the same vein, it ought to be emphasized that no fine or financial contribution can substitute for proper instruction for the reception of the Sacraments.»

Furthermore, I hereby direct all Parishes and Chaplaincies who have not already done so to work out an organized programme of assistance to the poor. All religious societies and associations engaged in the apostolate of assistance to the poor should liaise with the Parish JDPC for better coordination. The diocesan JDPC is in a position to help any Parish or Chaplaincy with guidelines on how best to organize this important aspect of our pastoral ministry.

Similarly, the diocesan Education Secretariat is already offering much help to see that our schools are exemplary in all aspects. The poor are often further impoverished by lack of qualitative education. The Catholic Church has always seen the provision of affordable qualitative education as part of its evangelizing mission.

Our schools should not simply impart knowledge but, above all, transmit values. Even with our very limited resources, we should strive to make our schools exemplary. Sub-standard Catholic Schools are an eyesore in the society and a contradiction in terms.

This year, I have created 13 new Parishes and 3 Centres of Worship. To mark the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, one of the new Parishes is the Divine Mercy Parish, Obukpa Layout (formerly St. Peter's Station Obukpa Layout). May I continue to remind all, especially our Lay Faithful, that new Parishes are created for pastoral and spiritual reasons and not in response to the local political agitations of the people.

In this year of Jubilees, therefore, I appeal to all those who have tended to politicize the creation of Parishes to please set aside their sectional and personal interests and embrace the opportunity their new Parishes offer them for spiritual growth, while we continue to seek for ways of resolving real problems that may have arisen in the process.

All those who are leaving their present places of assignment to other places are hereby reminded that comprehensive, clear and updated hand-over notes are a sign of respect for oneself and of the in-coming Parish Priest. We should do all we can to avoid accusations and counter-accusations arising from poorly prepared hand-over notes or even total lack of them. To this effect, some members of the Parish Council and the Parish Finance Council should be involved in the preparation and endorsement of the hand-over notes.

These postings take effect from Friday, 5 February 2016.

Once more, I thank you very sincerely for your fraternal solidarity and cooperation as I gladly impart on you my Episcopal blessing. May God keep you in his love.

Brotherly yours in the Lord,

+ Godfrey Igwebuike ONAH
        Bishop of Nsukka

   Nsukka, 6 January 2016


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