After about five years’ absence due to alleged misunderstanding that was later described as “political,” the Catholic Church has announced its return to the Christian Association of Nigeria.
The return was reportedly perfected on Thursday and Friday in Abuja when a delegation of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, led by Rev. Fr. (Prof) Cornelius Omonokhua, appeared at the expanded National Executive Committee and quarterly meeting of CAN for the amendment of its constitution.
The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria had, in a letter to CAN dated September 24, 2012, announced its withdrawal from the organisation.
The CSN delegation participated fully in all the discourse while the two days meeting lasted.
The President of CAN, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, according to a statement issued on Sunday by his Special Assistant, (Media & Communications), Adebayo Oladeji, could not hide his happiness on the new development.
He said, “Their return is one of the best things that have been happening since I was given the mandate to become the President of CAN. One of my visions for CAN is to bring our Catholic brothers and sisters back to the fold and I must acknowledge the support and understanding of my brother in Christ, Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and his team.
“I give kudos to all the Principal Officers, the Directors and some Christian leaders in the country for their support and understanding while the dialogue lasted.
“My joy knows no bound with the presence of the CSN at the constitutional amendment meeting of CAN held on Thursday and at the NEC meeting on Friday. It is our prayers that the Body of Christ in the country will remain one forever in Jesus’ name.
“At a time like this when Christians are almost becoming endangered species in Nigeria, when churches are being denied the Certificate of Occupancy especially in the core North, when Christians are being denied of key public offices and when the Church is expected to speak for the voiceless especially over the economic and social hardship in our country, we cannot afford of being at war with ourselves. CAN is united in diversity. Jesus Christ prayed for the Church shortly before He returned to heaven in John chapter 17.”
CAN’s Director of Legal issues, Kwankur Samuel, said that the organisation was working on the new constitution to ensure that “CAN has an effective internal mechanism to address any misunderstanding among its members. We are all happy with the return of the CSN. Our strength lies in our unity.”
The CAN Chairman (North Central Zone), Rev Dr Israel Akanji, said the return of the Catholics was a sign of good omen to the Body of Christ in Nigeria.
“We are all happy with this new development, now the Body of Christ in Nigeria is one, virile and strong. We can now speak with one voice. With their return, CAN is even now stronger and greater. We have learnt one lesson or two from the challenges that led to their withdraw. Never again will any of the blocks withdraw its membership”, he stated.