29 April 2018
Ad Limina Visit

Nigeria: A Dynamic and Vibrant Church

On two consecutive days, April 24th and 25th, our Dicastery received a large group of Bishops from Nigeria on their Ad Limina Apostolorum visit to Rome. With its nearly 200 million inhabitants, of whom approximately 20% are Catholics, Nigeria is the home to the largest Catholic community on the entire African continent. The fresco painted by the Bishops presents the image of a dynamic and vibrant Church that is constantly growing both in number and quality. In fact, the innate sense of God that unites all Nigerians is reflected in the parishes, where 90% of the faithful regularly attend Sunday Mass.

The Bishops also praised the dedication and commitment of lay faithful in the Church at all levels, especially in areas where their expertise is most needed (finance, management, health, education, charitable works). Their dedication is the result of the constant solicitude of pastors who have always seen in the laity the anchor of the Church itself. Indeed, already back in 1973, the Bishops’ Conference created an organism—the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria—to coordinate the apostolate of the laity and guarantee their good catechetical-pastoral preparation through resources and formation programs. Today, thanks to initiatives such as the Catholic Social Forum, the number of faithful who decide to engage in the administration of public affairs is constantly growing.

“Filling the churches is not enough—the Bishops reiterated—but it is necessary to look at what happens beyond Holy Mass, in daily life, where the existential choices are not always in consonance with the faith. We need more coherence.” Just to give some examples: they talked about the problem of polygamy, which weakens the institution of Christian marriage, and the spreading phenomenon of corruption that does not spare the Catholic faithful. The situation of the youth, struggling with unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, and a lack of prospects appears preoccupying. Yet, above all, young Nigerians are exposed and defenseless in the face of pernicious ideological currents that come mostly from the West. For the same reasons, these young people are also the victims targeted by the numerous sects that are swarming in the country and transmitting the “Gospel of prosperity.” Therefore, the Bishops feel the urgent need to combine the care of souls with the commitment to every initiative aimed at creating better social conditions.