First of all, my elevation to the position of Archbishop of Lagos eleven years ago did not come to me as a surprise. Of course, I wasn’t aware of all that was going on, such that when the Nuncio gave the news to me, I couldn’t believe it. But of course, it was the Nuncio that was speaking, and so, I had no other choice but to believe it and accept it as another role that God wanted me to play. I didn’t expect to go to the seminary and teach at the time I was sent there. I certainly didn’t expect to be Bishop of Abeokuta at the time that I was made Bishop. And so, this was another round of surprise that came to me.
But after the shock of it settled down, I began to say ‘Well, ok, there must be something that God wants me to do there, and there must be something that God knows that I am in a position to do in Lagos, that’s why he made it to happen.’ And so, that gave me a bit of rest of mind. Ordinarily, the Church is the same in terms of its organisation wherever you may be. If it’s in Nigeria or in Australia or in Canada, the Church is the same in terms of its structure and its organisation.
The teachings are the same. The dispositions to things are the same. However, there are peculiarities. And one of the peculiarities that I found in Lagos is the diversity of its population, compared with Abeokuta that is basically mono-cultural, so to say. But here, first of all in terms of the size, meaning the population, the number of Catholics is much bigger in terms of its being the Metropolitan See of the Province. Obviously, that gives it a way also.
And I also looked at the expectations that people have of Lagos Archdiocese as an archdiocese and whoever is the local ordinary there. The expectations are different than if one were in Abeokuta. And so, those peculiarities of course drive whatever one had to do in ensuring for instance, that there is a unity of life among the various groups of people that are in the place, and ensuring that everyone is given an opportunity to be part and parcel of the life of the Church in the Archdiocese, and that no one sits on the fence.
In fact, that’s one of my own objectives that everybody should be engaged with the Church. Everybody should be so engaged with the Church that he or she takes it as his or her personal responsibility for its growth in faith of the people within the Archdiocese and for its stability and unity. Everyone ought to take it as a personal responsibility. And I hope that we are achieving that.
• Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins is the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.
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