The significant role of the natural family as the bastion of the Church Family of God cannot be controverted and its natural harmony must be motivated for the benefit of the larger family of God - the Church. This position was contained in the communiqué issued by the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port Harcourt, Rivers State; at the end its 30th Annual Theology Week Conference, held recently at the premises of the Institution in Port Harcourt. The theme of the conference was: Becoming Church as the Family of God in Africa: Graces, Challenges and Prospects.
The conference which featured various academic presentations related to the theme, discussed extensively on: the Church as the Family of God; Church as Family of God and the Domestic Church; Managing Diversity, Protection of the Vulnerable and the Welfare of Priests and Religious in old age.
On the issue of the Church as Family of God and the Domestic Church, the communiqué which was signed by Rev. Fr. Professor Monsignor Sylvanus I Udoidem and Rev. Fr. Dr. Charles Essien, Rector and Registrar of the Institution respectively; noted: “The natural family is the domestic church and flourishing of the Church as the Family of God depends on it to bloom. It is in the natural family that the faith and values of the church are inculcated and lived out concretely. Therefore, harmony must be preserved in the natural family.”
The statement continued: “We call for the exploration of effective communication in families to prevent conflicts and to cure any that may arise. The natural family must strive daily to reflect the proper understanding of the family since ‘Every family in heaven and on earth takes its origin from God (Eph 3:4)”.
On the Church as the Family of God; the communiqué contended: “The Church as the Family of God in Africa must express this notion of covenantal bond concretely with emphasis on care for each other, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust.” It added: “We emphasise the need for solidarity, promotion of justice and peace and the common good. This is indeed an expression of the new model of ecclesiology of Pope Francis of the church as a field hospital.”
The communiqué among other things expressed concern on the mismanagement of the gift of diversity which has resulted in conflicts and therefore called for proper education for the management of these diversities for the enhancement of the Church, the Family of God. It also advocated the need for the education of the “biological family members of priests and religious for them to understand their role in supporting their children working for God in God’s vineyard and not constitute a burden of distraction to them”.
The Conference was attended by Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama (the Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja, Apostolic Administrator of Jos Archdiocese and Chancellor of the Catholic Institute of West Africa); Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins (the Archbishop of Lagos, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, CIWA Governing Council); Most Rev. John Okoye (Catholic Bishop of Awgu and Chairman, CBCN Committee on Theology); Most Rev Hyacinth Oroko Egbebo, MSP, the Bishop of Bomadi Diocese.
The Conference had tremendous input from Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Papal Nuncio to West Indies; Rev. Prof. Nathaniel Soede, President of the Association of African Theologians (ATA); Rev. Prof. Anthony Akinwale, OP; Sr. Prof. Teresa Okure, HSCJ; Rev. Fr. Dr. Ignatius Obinwa. In attendance were: Rev. Fr. Evworo Moses Iyara, OSA, (secretary, Inculturation and Translation, Theology and Ethics Units, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja); Rev. Prof. Hyacinth E. Ichoku (the Vice Chancellor of Veritas University, Abuja); CIWA Staff and students as well as guests from within and outside Nigeria.
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