Senate did well by resisting same sex marriage – Bishop Okeke
By IJEOMA ONUORAH, Nnewi
Wednesday, December 28 , 2011
Photo:The Sun Publishing
More Stories on This Section
Most Rev. Hilary Paul Odili Okeke, is the Chief Shepherd of Nnewi Catholic Diocese, one of the three Catholic Dioceses in Anambra State. In an encounter, issues such as same-sex marriage, fuel subsidy, bombings, Ikemba Nnewi and others were discussed.
Do you believe that the advocates of same-sex marriage are being denied their rights as they claim?
Sexual immorality and perversion are the order of the day. Right is not something absolute, it also has responsibilities, and the public good overrides rights. In all constitutions and all legal systems, the exercise of right is overshadowed by the public good. So, when we talk about same sex marriage, and we see that the religious and natural tradition are opposed to such aberration, then it will be preposterous for them to say that that is their right. I’m not sure these people who say it is their right, are aggrieved that it is the right of another person to kill his nieghbour, to carry cocaine anyhow, to shoot people and to kidnap anybody. If they mean that their right is absolute and unfettered, then I don’t think so.
Even those countries that are advocating same sex marriages. Don’t allow anybody to just do whatever they like. Society cannot exist without rights being regulated by certain principles. That is why I commend the Senate for making the law, at least giving the direction and even resisting the pressure from some Western countries that want same sex marriage in Nigeria. It is a very courageous thing to do and that is what we mean by doing the right thing, regardless of what you’re going to lose. Like, Nigeria might stand to lose foreign aid from America. Britain and all those countries that are putting pressure on Africans to change their tradition and their religious tradition. Since it is not something we can say it is somebody’s right, evil can never be the right of anybody.
Fuel subsidy removal
If the president goes on to put his foot down in the face of Nigerian masses, and then we can begin to wonder if the masses elected him to oppress them. I believe that democracy is a question of listening; listening to the masses. Removal of subsidy may be a good thing, but in this situation, is it the right thing in the face of the opposition? Let him go through an intelligent discourse with the Trade Unions, the Media, let everybody be given an opportunity to express his views and if the consensus is to remove fuel subsidy, then the people are prepared to face the sacrifice that comes with it. But then, the people will be assured that the money made from removing the subsidy will be used judiciously to enhance the quality of life of the masses.
Then it can be wrong logic to say that we are removing subsidy in order to improve the lives of the people. People will pay more for fuel and suffer more. So, let the issue be debated intelligently. Let there be consultations. And let the President who was elected to be the voice of the people, take a decision that is guided by democratic principles.
Message to Christians in the face of continued bombings
Always the message of peace. Christians must follow Jesus Christ, we cannot follow any other person. Whatever the situation we find ourselves, Christians must be first in peace, praying for peace, working for peace and especially, the Catholic Church has been strong on this. The last Synod for Africa was for peace and reconciliation. And the Pope recently released a document that works for that peace. We strive to give the message of peace, which comes from right conduct. If people behave, and do the correct thing, peace will be the result. And we wish everybody the peace that comes from God.
People make impact in various ways. Knowing he had not been living in this diocese for a long time and that he has been sick, you would not expect too much impact on this diocese. But he was a man who was larger than life and he continued to make impact on politics. Ojukwu was a great man, a great leader, who has left his mark on Ndigbo. He was a wonderful man.
Morality in school children after return of schools to churches
Government has returned primary schools to their rightful owners, believing that the rightful owners are in the best position to use those schools to deliver integral education to the majority of the children of Anambra State. Governor Peter Obi knows that the churches are not business people, they are there for the integral development of human beings and to teach. Now, the government knows that those children did not fall down from the sky, there are Anambrarians and the money brought for that purpose is for the good of these children, and the government is wise in investing its money on the future of these children.
In the Catholic Church, especially in this diocese, we are getting ready to rebuild human beings. This is our first priority. The takeover of schools has destroyed human beings, discipline and character. We have to even start rebuilding the humanity of the teachers themselves. So, when we have done that, we will rebuild infrastructure. You cannot admit children in an unhealthy environment, which is also depressed. These are not good for them. We believe that the government has taken a large step in the transformation of the state, by rebuilding the human capital which is a very important source of cultural agent. We are preparing to discuss with the state holders to see that the good intentions of the Church and the government are realized for the benefit of the children of the state.
The diocese 10th anniversary
Well, we are happy that on February 5, 2012, Nnewi Diocese will be celebrating its 10th year as a diocese. This celebration will be an important landmark in the history of this diocese. We are expecting the Papal Nuncio, Most Rev. Augustine Kasujja will be here for the celebration. It will be not just a national, but international event. We are also expecting delegations from France, Sierra-Leone, Ghana and from other African countries and Nigeria. We equally want to thank God for his graces, these years we have been here, because, without Him, the progress we have made so far wouldn’t have been possible. But God the great provider has been smiling at this diocese, and I am grateful for that. We also have wonderful people who have been very generous. We thank God for them. As we prepare for this 10th anniversary, we are confident that God, who brought us so far, will continue to lead us. Our dreams and ambitions are becoming bigger, buy my trust in God is also becoming deeper. God has raised up Mr Ifeanyi Uba to help us build God a befitting cathedral to the greater glory of God.
Presently, we have about 225 priests and 180 senior Seminarians in this diocese. For me, we don’t yet have enough. We still have to borrow two priests from Onitsha. We have six priests outside the diocese, working in Nigeria and Seirra-Loane. We don’t yet have enough, but we thank God who has been keeping and sustaining us, by giving us vocation. We continue to thank God also that since 2002, when we took over, we have expanded; in the number of Catholics, parishes and activities that are making Christ more present in the society. I took off with 47 parishes, today; we have 88 parishes, which is almost double. And the number of Catholics continues to increase, and we continue to thank God that the work of new evangelization is going on strongly. This in our own context means bringing Christ to people who have gone away, either into noe-paganism or traditional religion, or people who have left the Catholic Church for other churches.
In the coming years, we would want to bring Christ anew through this new evangelization to our brothers and sisters who have left Christianity.
The less privileged
Faith without good works is dead in itself. Christianity is all about hugging our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need, so the diocese has always taken care to be always available to listen to the cry of our brothers and sisters. We have a regular office, which is the Justice, Development, Peace and Charity (JDPC) that takes care of the less privileged on a regular basis. But in other to have a sustained and sustainable programme, the diocese set up ‘Chukwunenye Charity Trust Fund’. This trust fund makes it possible for us to have at our disposal, funds and other resources to be able to care for our brothers and sisters in amore sustained way. Also, we took up the RECDOT at Ozubulu. We are sponsoring that outfit started by Mrs Rosemary Odunukwe and Bro Azubhekai. It is not a diocesan project but we are sort of sponsoring it. Since we have not been able to set one up in the dioceses, we took up the one that was already set up by private individuals, to make also a diocesan project and support it in various ways. We equally urge people to support it.
Vision for the next 10 years
Big vision. Yes, that our diocese will continue to be a family of God. Our 10 year pastoral plan covers evangelization, catechetic, vocation, the dignity of women, Construction and other things in that plan. But we have this vision of where the diocese will become the family of God, where everybody is at home with every other person and is in solidarity with every other person, especially, those that are in need. We are really confident that God, going with us as he has been with us, our diocese will move from strength to strength in grace and truth.
“Even those countries that are advocating same sex marriages. Don’t allow anybody to just do whatever they like. Society cannot exist without rights being regulated by certain principles. That is why I commend the Senate for making the law, at least giving the direction and even resisting the pressure from some Western countries that want same sex marriage in Nigeria”