Nigeria’s bishops closed their latest assembly with a view toward the upcoming Synod on the Family, re-affirming the family while warning about LGBT activism.
The bishops said “we reaffirm the validity of the family as a divinely instituted community of persons made up of a man and a woman who are open to life in love, together with their children and relatives.”
They commended the Pope for his recent document Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which aimed at accelerating the process for investigating the nullity of a marriage.
“We pledge to use this new process for the pastoral and spiritual benefit of our people,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria said in a wide-ranging statement closing its second plenary meeting, held Sept. 10-18 in Port Harcourt, the capital of Nigeria’s Rivers State.
The bishops also voiced “deep concern” about homosexual, bisexual and transgender activism in many parts of the world.
“We reiterate our unreserved condemnation of all acts of homosexuality as sinful and opposed to the natural law of creation,” they said. “We call on our government to continue to resist the attempt by some external governments and agencies to impose an acceptance of same-sex unions.
“Nevertheless, we maintain that persons with these orientations should be assisted pastorally, spiritually and psychologically, with respect for their dignity as human persons created in the image and likeness of God.”
Nigeria’s bishops also welcomed Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation, Laudato Si’.
They said the ecological crisis requires “all persons of good will” to work for justice and to have “a profound spiritual and ecological conversion: from consumerism to sacrifice; from greed to generosity; and from wastefulness to sharing.”
“The changes we have noticed in our climate are affecting everyone,” they added. “Locally, the degradation of our environment is worsened by such collective bad habits as littering everywhere with plastic sachets and bottles, loss of tropical forests, lack of proper disposal of waste and a contemporary throwaway culture.”
The bishops commended Nigeria for holding peaceful elections. They called on the country’s leaders to work for the common good, and congratulated the national government and security services for achievements against Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group.
“The refugees and internally displaced persons are gradually returning to their homes,” they said.
The bishops pledged assistance in refugee resettlement and asked the government and other humanitarian agencies to take practical measures to help the families and victims of the conflict rebuild and reconcile.
They said the growing youth population in Nigeria is among the challenges facing priestly ministry.
“Priests should love their Church as Christ does. This era more than ever requires that priests be modest and honest. The youth are crucial agents of transformation that require our sincere pastoral concern,” they said. “We invite the young people to be courageous and proud of their faith and while investing in the life of the Church seek the truth of the gospel in which lies freedom.”
The bishops hoped for “practical demonstrations of mercy and compassion” from all sectors of society and all religions. They prayed for comfort for the poor and homeless and for healing for the wounded and broken-hearted.
The bishops also warned of the dangers of an economy in distress and unemployment that pressures young people to migrate.
“In many cases, young promising lives are wasted on our streets, in the deserts of some African countries and on the shores of Europe,” they said.
The bishops called for more productive investments and lamented the high cost of governance at a time when many workers are not paid a basic salary.
They repeated their condemnations of corruption and violence, as well as the presence of personal interest and vendettas in national life.
The bishops renewed a call to prayer and encouraged Catholics to pray a family rosary. The bishops have written two special prayers for this rosary: one for Nigeria in Distress, and another against bribery and corruption.
‘The bishops also called for repentance, inviting the faithful and all Nigerians to “a true conversion of heart.”