The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigerian on Tuesday announced that Catholics in Nigeria would on Wednesday join their counterparts worldwide to mark the 2019 Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent.
The President of CBCN, Bishop Augustine O. Akubeze, said on Tuesday in Abuja that the Lenten season was a period during which Christians were encouraged to intensify prayers, practise abstinence, fast and engage in almsgiving for 40 days.
Akubeze, also the Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, commended Nigerians who came out for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections, and urged all registered voters to come out massively for the Governorship and State Assembly Elections scheduled for March 9.
He called on all security agencies to remain non-partisan and to protect every Nigerian.
“As we, Christians, begin the Lenten Season on Ash Wednesday, I call on all of us to be conscious of the three pillars of Lent; fasting, alms giving and prayers.
“Let us all be involved in these spiritual exercises. Through fasting, we are able to conquer our concupiscence, and recognise that God has given us the power to overcome all temptations.
“Through almsgiving, we are able to share our resources with those who are in need. This act helps us to know that we belong to one family of God,” he said.
The Bishop advised that political parties, ethnic differences, or religious differences should not be allowed to divide the country.
“There is only one God who is responsible for our being. For every act of kindness done through almsgiving, is done to Christ (Matthew 25:40).
Through prayers, we come to realise our dependency on God,” he stated.
The CBCN president said Nigeria would not move forward if its citizens did not turn to God in prayer.
“The prosperity of Nigerians is being held captive by corruption. Let us pray and work for the liberation of Nigeria so that every Nigerian can realise their God-given potentials.
“More importantly, that there should be justice and peace in Nigeria, without justice and peace, there cannot be progress. Let us all be agents of justice and peace in our land.
“Conversion of hearts is what Pope Francis calls for during his 2019 Lenten message. We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, also call for the conversion of hearts for every Nigerian,” he said.
He therefore charged all Catholics to do as the Holy Father had admonished; turn away from the culture of dominating the weak, and avoid the culture of individualism.
The clergy also called on all Nigerians to shun corruption and politics of bitterness; and also turn away from the rhetoric of hate speeches which often created mutual suspicion among people.
“Let us learn to love and trust one another because there is deficit of love in our nation. We, therefore, pray to God to help break our hardened hearts so that we can love the way God loves, and care for one another.’’