Don’t stop supporting the poor, Kumuyi urges Christians

The General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor Williams Kumuyi, has called on Christians to intensify support for the poor.

The preacher made the call, according to Church Times News Online, in a recent message titled, “Emmanuel, Jesus the Healer,” monitored by our correspondent.

Kumuyi said, “I learnt of a preacher somewhere. He told his congregation now, we are going to collect offerings. He asked those who had N10,000 to give to raise their hands, and he asked those who had N20,000 to give to raise their hands.

“He asked those who had N50,000, they raised their hands. And he said all the money they wanted to give to the church, they should go and give to the poor in their neighbourhood rather than bringing it to the church.

“All the offerings are not just for church. There are poor and unemployed people around. There are indigent people around, but we must build our campground. I understand, we are going to build. But while you are building your neighbours are dying. Those who do not have anything to feed are there. Your fellow brother, your fellow sister have nothing to send children to school.”

(Punch)

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Shi’ites grace Christmas service, present gifts to church in Kaduna

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ites, on Monday, joined the Christmas Service at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Samaru, Zaria, Kaduna State to strengthen religious harmony and unity between religious groups.

Leader of the Shi’ite group, Prof. Isah-Hassan Mshelgaru, said the Islamic group acknowledged Christmas as a day for festivities, friendliness, and unity.

He added that joining the Christian faithful as they marked Christmas was meant to renew hope for divine unity among Muslims, Christians, and other religions.

Mshelgaru said  Islam and Christianity were revered faiths with more than 90 per cent of Nigeria’s population as adherents.

“When other faithful unite with the two faith groups, it means the whole of Nigerian is united,’’ he said.

Speaking on the impact of the visit, Mshelgaru said IMN, as a group, started visits to churches more than 25 years ago and since then there has been an improved understanding between the group and Christians.

“The visit has reduced the fears and some animosities between the two faith groups. They (Christians) are now open to us; we share sentiments and problems together. The regular exchange of visits has bridged the gaps between us,’’ he said.

Earlier, the parish priest, Most Rev. Isak Augustine, commended the Islamic group for the visit and urged the group for more visits to strengthen religious harmony and unity.

He prayed for the peace of God to come into Nigeria and to salvage the country from the myriad socioeconomic challenges.

The Shi’ite group later presented gifts to the Catholic Church.

(Punch)

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Yuletide: Moderate your celebration mode, Anglican bishop tells Nigerians

The Anglican Bishop of Ibadan North, Rt Rev Williams Aladekugbe, on Sunday, called on Nigerians to celebrate the season in moderation and keep their hopes and dreams alive.

Aladekugbe, in his Christmas Day message in Ibadan, Oyo State, entitled, “Significance of Christmas,” further advised them not to punish themselves due to their inability to achieve certain dreams or desires between the last celebration and today.

He said, “Christians celebrate Christmas each year to show their gratitude to God for what He did, to remember the birth of Jesus Christ by giving gifts, worshipping Him and thinking of the poor and less fortunate.

“It reminds us of the Saviour who gives us salvation. It should be celebrated to reflect the reason(s) Jesus came into our world. To erase the curse of sin, to bring salvation to man and to restore us back to God. We should reflect on our relationship with God and our neighbours.

“My advice for Nigerians at this season is that we should do things moderately. If there is anything we cannot achieve before Christmas this year, there will always be another Christmas.

“We should not be involved in evil or dabbling in crimes. We should adopt cost-cutting measures as a way of addressing the current economic challenges in the country.

“We equally appeal to the Federal Government to make good its  campaign promises of making life better for the people. The government must be sincere with us. The government must be considerate in their politics, actions and decisions by walking the talks.

“Frivolous spending should be avoided. Our appeal to Mr President is that he should fulfil his campaign promises to us. He told us to put our minds to rest and that everything will be fine.”

On why the season is celebrated, the Bishop said, “Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the word.

“Christmas is celebrated to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life.

“It reminds us of the importance of giving and sharing with friends and family. Through Christmas, we know that the birth of the Lord Jesus is symbolic of new beginnings. It is an opportunity to think about nature and the reason for our existence.”

(Punch)

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Christmas message: Tinubu urges patience, says new dawn closer

President Bola Tinubu, on Sunday, again urged Nigerians to be patient with his administration, pledging that the country would  “shortly emerge into a new dawn of prosperity, peace, and irreversible progress.”

The President said he would continue to roll out more palliative measures to ease the hardship occasioned by the discontinuance of petrol subsidy, and the unification of the exchange rate, among other economic reforms of his administration.

In his personally-signed Christmas goodwill message released by the State House on Sunday, the President acknowledged that the past six months of his administration “has been a time of transformation and relentless change in our country”.

“I am aware that the necessary reforms we are implementing to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful nation for all have imposed unique sacrifices,” he said, and therefore appealed to Nigerians to “hold fast and rest assured” of his commitment to “govern with vision, dedication, and empathy,” as he transits the nation “to stability, prosperity, and Renewed Hope.”

“Be confident that by the strength of our joint endeavour, we will shortly emerge into a new dawn of prosperity, peace, and irreversible progress,” Tinubu said.

He promised that “my administration will continue to implement palliative measures to ease the burden on the most vulnerable, address current hardships and alleviate the suffering of all our nation’s people.

“Fellow Nigerians, Christmas is a special time of the year for all of us. For  Christians, this time of the year marks the birth of Jesus  Christ and celebrates the hope and redemption that are the hallmarks of Christ’s life.”

“For people of all faiths, this is an opportunity to enjoy the company of family, celebrate life, and delight in the gifts of love and friendship that make life worthwhile.

“This is also a time to look out for each other because, amidst the festivities, this time of year for many will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of loved ones and others grieving the hopes that failed to materialise and the dreams that fell short,” Tinubu said in his maiden Christmas message to Nigerians as President.

He also urged Nigerians to, in the spirit of Christmas and reflecting the best of Jesus Christ, extend the warm embrace of kindness to those around them who need it.

“…and let the multiple acts of kindness serve as a light that guides us into a happy and wonderful new year,” he advised.

The Nigerian leader also asked citizens to “please spare a moment of remembrance and prayer for the men and women of our nation’s armed forces, bearing arms in our names and ensuring our safety” praying that “God protects them and bring them back to their families.”

Ahead of the January 15 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, Tinubu called on Nigerians to “let us together commemorate the memory of those who, in their service, have paid the highest price for our nation. May God bless their souls and comfort their families and loved ones.”

(Punch)

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Controversy over blessing for same-sex couples, clerics clarify Pope’s position

Amid the controversy over Pope Francis’ statement on the blessing for same-sex couples, Gbenga Oloniniran writes on the explanations given by some Catholic priests

The Vatican on Monday approved a landmark ruling to allow Roman Catholic priests to administer blessing to same-sex couples as long as it was not part of regular Church rituals or liturgies, nor given in contexts related to civil unions or weddings.

Aljazeera reported that a document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office approved by Pope Francis on Monday said such blessings would not legitimise irregular situations but be a sign that God welcomed all.

The document backed “the possibility of blessing for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex” but “this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them.”

It said priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and “should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing”.

The document elaborates on a letter Francis sent to two conservative cardinals that was published in October. In that preliminary response, Francis suggested such blessing could be offered under some circumstances if it didn’t confuse the ritual with the sacrament of marriage.

The new document, according to Aljazeera, repeats that rationale and elaborates on it, reaffirming that marriage is a lifelong sacrament between a man and a woman. It stresses that blessing should not be conferred at the same time as a civil union, using set rituals or even with the clothing and gestures that belong in a wedding.

Emphasising that the Church requires a pastoral approach towards people in irregular situations – including same-sex relationships – Cardinal Blase Cupich says the Archdiocese of Chicago welcomes the ‘Declaration Fiducia supplicans’ “which will help many more in our community feel the closeness and compassion of God.”

According to VATICAN NEWS, at the heart of the declaration, says Cardinal Cupich in a statement on the Archdiocesan website, “is a call for pastors to take a pastoral approach to being available to people” who recognise the need for God’s help and presence in their lives, without claiming a legitimation of their particular status.

“As such, the declaration is a step forward,” the Cardinal explains, adding that it is in keeping both with Pope Francis’ “desire to accompany people pastorally” and with “Jesus’ desire to be present to all people who desire grace and support.”

Also reacting, the spokesperson for the Abuja Archdiocese, Fr. Patrick Alumuku, in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday, put the issue in perspective. He maintained that the Pope’s position should not be misinterpreted to mean sacrament.

Alumuku said, “My position is the position of the Catholic church. I think we need to put this issue in perspective because what has happened up till now is that no one has been allowed to deal with people who are lesbian until now (in the church). What the Pope is saying is that this discrimination is not necessary – that is basically what he’s saying, and that there is a need to help these people understand that they are children of God. In the process, they could be converted, and they can change their position.”

“What I see in the media is as if there is a change in the law of marriage in the church.”

He said this was not the case, as he added that anyone could ask for a blessing. He says blessing a man who meets you on the road, for instance, does not mean you give him a sacrament, as he notes anyone could say to the priest to bless him, “literally saying ‘pray for me’. That is different from the sacramental stage which the sacrament of matrimony gives to people. So these people are not being given the sacrament of matrimony. They’re not being made to feel or to believe that they are wedded. All the pope is saying is that attention be given to all persons whether they are gay or not,” he said in the telephone interview.

He added, “At some point, black people were segregated. So at a point, they said black people could be exempted as Christians – some were scandalised by it because, at some point, people held that black people did not even have a soul. And so, at some point, they just discovered that these people had a soul. So breaking this barrier is strange for some people and difficult for people to understand, but this is exactly the barrier being broken here.”

A Knight of St John, Iheanyi Ochor, who spoke with our correspondent from Owerri, Imo State, however, disagreed with blessing for same-sex couples.

Ochor, who is also a lawyer, noted “It is as controversial as it has been.”

Speaking on Tuesday, he said, “Ninety-five percent of us do not accept that it should be; It doesn’t matter how they want to explain it to us, if you want to bless the sinner and condemn the sin, to me, it’s not acceptable, but the best he (the pope) could have done in this circumstance is to keep quiet about the whole thing. Many of us don’t think it is the best thing to have been done now.”

A popular cleric on Facebook, Fr Kelvin Ugwu, said if he were to summarise the document ‘Fiducia Supplicans’, and the teaching from Pope Francis on the blessing of same-sex couples, “The document still echoed the fact that in the Catholic Church, marriage is still between a man and a woman and nothing changes this.”

He said, “Blessing same-sex couples is not in any way a form of recognising their union as a marriage. Anyone can ask for a blessing, and asking for a blessing can be a sign of humility, trust in God, and expression of the desire to do better. The central message of the document is hinged on the church’s desire to welcome everyone with God’s love and mercy with the hope of repentance.”

Fr. Ugwu, who identified himself as a Nigerian Catholic priest on a mission in The Gambia, further said on his verified Facebook page on Tuesday, “But, If I am to say what is on my mind, I will say that this whole thing is just unnecessary. The document did not even give a clear-cut direction on how the blessing should be. Usually in the Catholic church, there are rituals for every blessing, even the blessing of pets. But the church refused to provide a ritual and even stipulated that no ritual should be provided by priests for this all talked about ‘blessings of same-sex couples.’ It says a lot. Also, I find it totally wrong to refer to the people in question as “same-sex couples”. There is nothing like a same-sex couple. We should not even use the term ‘couple’ to address them in the first place.”

“All these push (es), in whichever angle they are coming from, (are) not coming with a good intention. There are emphases that should be made. That emphasis is that man and man cannot be a couple, and woman and woman cannot be a couple. Homosexual acts should be condemned emphatically while respecting the human person.”

He urged people to read the original document slowly to see that “you ought to be examining yourself and repenting, instead of celebrating sin.”

On his part, a Nigerian Catholic priest identified as Father Ugochukwu Ugwoke on X said the church did not condemn same-sex couples even though same-sex marriages were “sinful.”

“All the laws and regulations in the Catholic Church may be divided into three kinds: Those that the Church has no power to change, never has changed and never will change; Those that (the church) has the authority to change, but most probably never will change; Those that (the church) can change, has changed and may change again according to the circumstances of a given period of time,” he wrote on X formerly Twitter via @FrUgochukwu.

According to him, under the first type of laws, there are two kinds of laws that the Catholic Church has no authority to change or tamper with in any way, saying “they are natural moral laws and positive divine laws.”

“A good example of natural moral laws is the Church’s teaching regarding marriage as a union between a man and a woman. As a natural moral law, this teaching is universal, unchanging, and unchangeable. Over such laws, the Catholic Church headed by the Pope, has no authority other than that of manifesting how clearly they stand out in human nature and reiterating them to the end of time.

“So, if you think that blessing of same-sex couples will lead to the eventual endorsement and approval of same-sex marriage by the Catholic Church, I want to tell you that such will never happen without the Church running into the risks of schism. Same-sex marriages are sinful and can never be approved. But then, while the Church rejects same-sex union and considers it disordered, she does not condemn same-sex couples.”

(Punch)

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Review Nigerian laws to allow married women bear fathers’ names – MURIC tells FG

The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has called on the Federal Government to review the Nigerian marriage laws with the aim of allowing women to bear their father’s names after marriage.

MURIC’s executive director, Prof Ishaq Akintola, made the call in a statement he issued on Monday.

Akintola is of the opinion that the current practice that permits women to bear only their husbands’ surnames is wrong, describing it as gender discriminatory, archaic, and oppressive.

He argued that it is unfair for a man who did not take part in the upbringing of a woman to suddenly surface and change her surname.

He said, “No woman dropped suddenly from the sky and even if some appear out of nowhere, they must have been born, bred, nurtured, and marmaladed by certain parents before they grew up and matured into womanhood.

“Their education was also sponsored by their parents at a time when the future husband probably knew nothing about them and spent no kobo on their upbringing and their education.

“It therefore beats logic, fairness, and natural justice that a husband appears out of nowhere to commandeer a woman’s parental identity simply by marrying her”.

He lamented that most educated women are forced to advertise their change of names in newspapers to retain the validity of their documents and properties obtained before marriage.

(Daily Post)

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Pope Francis approves blessings for same-sex couples

Pope Francis has granted permission for priests to bestow blessings upon same-sex couples, marking a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community within the Roman Catholic Church.

The BBC reports that the head of the Roman Catholic Church stated that, in some cases, priests ought to be able to bless same-sex and “irregular” couples.

However, the Vatican has emphasised that blessings should not be incorporated into routine Church ceremonies or associated with civil unions or weddings.

It added that it continues to view marriage as between a man and a woman.

A Vatican document outlining the move was approved by Pope Francis on Monday.

Although the document itself states that priests must make decisions on a case-by-case basis, the Vatican said it should be a sign that “God welcomes all.”

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Church, while introducing the text, made it clear that the revised position does not confer official recognition to same-sex couples within the Catholic Church.

The declaration signifies a shift in tone, albeit without altering its stance. The Pope had in 2021 declared that priests are prohibited from bestowing blessings upon same-sex marriages, citing the belief that God cannot “bless sin”.

Within the Catholic Church, a blessing consists of a prayer or entreaty, typically recited by a minister, requesting that God provide favour to the individual or individuals receiving the blessing.

In October, Pope Francis hinted that he might be willing to see same-sex couples blessed by the Church.

According to the BBC, while the position of Church officials remained unclear, bishops in several countries had previously permitted priests to bless same-sex marriages.

(Punch)

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Fighting Nigerian leaders fruitless, pray for them – Adeboye

The Pastor-in-charge of Region 12 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Richard Adeboye, has called for more prayers for the leadership of the country to overcome its array of woes and challenges.

Adeboye said rather than protesting and cursing them as done in the past with no reprieve in sight, Nigerians should rather rely on the instrument of prayer for a desired turnaround for the good of the country.

The cleric disclosed this while speaking with newsmen at this year’s Halleluyah Mega Praise Night, Season 2 with the theme, ‘Dominion’, held at the Shimawa High School, Ogun State.

Adeboye said, “There is no nation like Nigeria. The fact that we are still surviving is a symbol that God has created this nation in a very unique way and very soon, we shall shout victory at last.

“Nigerians should stand in the place of responsibility, because I have this philosophy that every possibility of God is compelled by the responsibility of man. Let’s do what we’re supposed to do.

“Let’s move closer to God. And let’s believe in God and whatever we need to do physically, let’s do it. We’re not saying we should protest or fight against the government. We have done that in the past, we didn’t win the battle.

“The Bible says that the heart of the king is in the hand of God. If only we could talk to God that put them there, I believe things will change and very soon, it will change for the better.

“My message to our leaders is that they should recognise the one that actually put them on the throne. We should stop fighting our leaders. The role of the church is to preach righteousness and establish integrity. If the world sees that what we preach is what we are doing, I believe it will go round and it will be contagious, and very soon, everybody will be affected.”

(Punch)

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Ahmadiyya to hold mass weddings during 2023 convention in Ogun

The National Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Nigeria, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Alatoye, has revealed plans to conduct mass weddings for interested Muslims during the forthcoming conference of the group.

Alatoye explained that hard-working Muslims with the zeal to settle down are advised to participate in the solemnisation of mass nikkah, which will take place at the 69th edition of Jalsa Salana, an annual conference scheduled to be held between December 22 and 24, 2023 in the Ilaro-Owode area of Ogun State.

Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday at the Jama’at’s headquarters in Ojokoro, Lagos, the Islamic cleric said about 40,000 Muslims were expected to attend the annual conference across the country.

Apart from the mass marriage, the Amir said the conference would feature special daily and night prayer sessions, exhibitions, and awards for members of the jama’at who distinguished themselves in academics from various institutions of higher learning at home and abroad.

While lamenting that the state of affairs of individual Nigerians and the nation was at a crossroads, Alatoye said the conference, with the theme “Taqwa: a pathway to justice and peace,” would address the current situation of the country.

He added, “For this year’s edition, we have chosen the theme: Taqwa: Pathway to Justice and Peace. The rationale behind this theme is informed by the need to address the current appalling and worrisome state of world affairs, in general, and Nigeria, in particular.

“The conference, therefore, promises to feature a number of sessions where various scholars will deliver lectures addressing various critical issues and aspects of the theme.

“Importantly, Taqwa simply means engaging in acts of righteousness and avoiding evils and sins as inspired by the fear of Allah in one’s heart.

“By the grace of Allah, over 40,000 participants are being expected from across the country, including political, traditional and religious leaders, among others.

 “The conference will also feature special daily and night prayer sessions for the prosperity, development, peace and security of Nigeria, innocent people of Palestine, the world and humanity in general.”

Speaking on the war between Palestine and Israel, the Islamic cleric condemned the alleged act of violence against civilians whether by Hamas or Israel.

While calling for an immediate ceasefire and allowance for humanitarian aid in Gaza, Alatoye urged the United States to stop the supply of ammunition to Israel for the extermination of the Palestinian race.

“All these will be impossible without the fear of God or devotion to righteousness. We commiserate with the people of Kaduna State about the accident that happened on the day of their maulud in which the military accidentally dropped bombs on innocent civilians celebrating instead of the bandits. May Allah grant us peace in Nigeria.

“In this light, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community urges the political class to reduce, moderate the ostentatious lifestyles and make sacrifices to the people, as the economic situation in Nigeria is becoming unbearable.

“While we believe in hope, cheering news on the revival of the refineries in Port-Harcourt and the coming on stream of the Dangote refinery at the end of December keep Nigerians’ hope alive for a reduction in prices of petroleum products.

“The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, therefore, urges the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Dangote Group to ensure that refined petroleum products get to the people at affordable prices.”

(Punch)

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Hajj: Saudi Arabia increases Nigeria’s tour operators from 10 to 40

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has increased the 2024 Hajj slots of Tour Operators from 10 to 40.

This development came following the Federal Government’s demand for an increase in the 2024 Hajj tour operators.

In September, Saudi Arabia announced that only 5% of each Hajj-participating country’s Licensed Tour Operators would be permitted to conduct the 2024 Hajj exercise.

This means that Nigeria will only have 10 slots.

However, the federal government unrelentingly engaged the Saudi Ministry over its course of promoting indigenous entrepreneurs as a tool in sustaining the country’s socioeconomic development.

Responding to the request, the Saudi Ministry in charge of Hajj and Umrah reverted the decision in Nigeria’s favour.

Consequently, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, in a press statement released on Sunday night, in Abuja by its assistant director of public affairs, Fatima Usara, disclosed the development.

Usara revealed the criteria for screening the earlier announced 110 qualified tour operators.

The criteria used in selecting the initial 110 tour operators included capacity of operation; years of experience; historical antecedents, and clean bill of operation.

The commission noted that the top 40 scoring by a seven-man team of experts were adjudged to qualify and were consequently approved after the evaluation of each operator’s ability, experience, and quality of services.

The Commission urged the remaining 70 that have qualified (from the 110 earlier approved) to consider aligning with the qualified 40 in the discharge of this religious obligation.

It assured that, as a stakeholder, it was desirous of ensuring that this partnership was entrenched even before the issuance of letters of approval.

In the principle of inclusivity, the Commission announced that it will soon hold a meeting with the overall 110 qualified operators to explore avenues of synergy to ensure all parties are carried along amicably.

(Punch)

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