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Let us walk together in unity, Archbishop Martins enjoins Priests, Faithful

By Neta Nwosu

  • Tasks faithful to foster unity among priests

Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos has tasked the people of God in the Archdiocese of Lagos to manifest unity through fostering good relationships with God and one another. In his Pastoral Letter to Priests in the Archdiocese, entitled, “Walking Together: Journeying in unity as Brothers in Christ,” on the occasion of 2024 edition of the Chrism Mass, the Archbishop noted that the priestly vocation is a call to be one priesthood with Jesus and with one another, just as Jesus and His Father are one.

He said, “Today, we gather to celebrate the sacred Priesthood, a divine gift and the highest privilege that God has ever bestowed on men. This moment calls for us to renew our commitment to unity as brothers in Christ. At the heart of our priestly vocation is unity with Christ and fellow priests, reflecting Christ’s priesthood and His communion with the Church. “Our relationship with the Bishop and each other should mirror the relationship between Jesus and His disciples and the disciples among themselves.” Archbishop Martins posed Prophet Amos’ fundamental question to the priests, “Can two walk together unless they have agreed?”

He counseled the clergy, “Our unity has its ultimate root in the unity of the Trinity and in the bond of love that lead to working and walking together united in heart and mind. St. Paul also challenges us in Ephesians 4:1-6: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The Archbishop urged the clergy not to be in conflict with one another, admonishing that their exercise of priesthood should serve as a worthy example, beacon of hope and reconciliation for those they serve. “St. Paul’s admonition is indicative of the need to make deliberate efforts to work toward greater unity.

Cardinal Robert Sarah once said: “The sign of Satan is division. Today there are serious conflicts within the clergy and the devil is partying. The devil loves to divide the Church. The prince of darkness wants first to sow opposition among us. He sets a terrible trap for us…(and) tries to tear the Church apart, first by attacking the priesthood,’’ Satan intends to destroy the Church by attacking priests and sowing division among themselves and in the teaching of the doctrines of the faith. He is horrified by the liturgy, the sacraments, and the apostolic succession. In trying to take out his hatred on consecrated persons, he means to ridicule the Church. Priests frighten him because they are the ministers of mercy,’’ he stated.

The prelate tasked the priests, “Therefore, our unity must transcend mere personal relationship; it must permeate our teaching, preaching, communication of the teaching of the Church, exercise of charisms, prayers, and other services that we offer. It must resonate throughout our parishes, deaneries, and archdiocesan activities. In other words, ‘’Our unity will be forged around the truth of Catholic doctrine. We owe the Christian people clear, firm, stable teaching.’’ (Cardinal Robert Sarah).” His Pastoral Letter read in part advocating for a team spirited clergy, “In the exercise of our priestly brotherhood, we face challenges, uncertainties, and temptations. Yet, it is because of our vulnerability that God wishes to give us strength by His grace and unity with our fellow priests.

We can draw inspiration from the interconnectedness and interdependence of the spider web – where each strand, though delicate alone, contributes to the web’s strength and resilience. Just as one strand cannot weave the web alone, we cannot thrive in isolation. A single broom is easy to break but not a bunch of brooms. The priestly journey would be long and lonely if exercised without unity.” The Chief Shepherd charged the priests to embrace the diversity within the priesthood valuing the distinct differences that makes each Priest special and unique for an enriched Church. He said, “While unity is our goal, we must also recognise and embrace the diversity within the priesthood.

Each priest brings unique gifts, talents and experiences enriching our shared faith and ministry. Despite differences, we are all integral members of the Body of Christ, called to work harmoniously for the Gospel and the Church. Our gifts and talents should not lead to unhealthy competition or rivalry of any sort; least of all to self-aggrandisement. Instead, they ought to be used in the service of the kingdom of God and the good of the Church. Mother Theresa reminds us, that unity among priests is essential for the Church to flourish. Like the fingers on the hand, each priest has a unique role to play, but together they form a powerful force for good.” Archbishop Martins urged the priests to remain vigilant in supporting and uplifting one another along the way.

He explained, “Whether in fraternal gatherings, spiritual retreats, or simple acts of kindness- such as extending a listening ear, making a phone call, sending a text message, paying a visit, or offering words of counsel – let us make concerted efforts to connect with our brothers in the priesthood, providing affirmation, encouragement, and prayer. This solidarity strengthens our fraternity and enhances our dedication to serving God’s people with joy and compassion. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that fraternity among priests is not a luxury but a necessity.

Through our unity and mutual support, we bear witness to the love of Christ and fortify the body of Christ, the Church.” The prelate further charged the lay faithful to unite the priests rather than divide them. His pastoral letter read, “To our cherished lay faithful, I implore you to foster unity among priests and assist them in their ministry of unity in the Church. I urge you to cherish the varied gifts and talents that different priests bring to their ministry so as to foster the flourishing of each one rather than comparisons that can only foster division. “Lift up your priests in prayers, asking God to endow them with wisdom, strength, and holiness in their vocation.

Show appreciation for their service and dedication; simple gestures such as expression of thanks or words of encouragement, can go a long way. If anyone of them fails or buckles under the weight of the burden of the priesthood, we urge you to bring them to God in prayers and correct them with prudence and in love. “Actively participate in parish activities, seek opportunities to contribute to parish initiatives, foster charitable communication, show compassion and be patient with your priest, put into practice the values of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

 


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