Ignatius Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, has said the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a period for all clerics to demonstrate that they are real men of God and really care about their congregants.
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Speaking in an interview in response to objections by some prominent Christian and Islamic clerics over the continued closure of worship centres due to COVID-19, Kaigama said religious leaders must be prepared to pass the “acid test” presented by the pandemic.
He stated that pastors must be able to prove their dedication to their religious call by giving up everything they own, adding that clerics who are more concerned about amassing material wealth are businessmen and not true shepherds of the flock.
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He added that real pastors have a duty not to abandon their congregation even as offerings and tithes have stopped flowing into the churches’ account.
“This is the time to know who are true shepherds of the flock and those who are just engaged in work of religion in order to amass wealth for themselves or to acquire wealth and prosperity,” Kaigama told the Punch.
“This is the acid test now. If you are a pastor or priest in order to serve the people and lead them to heaven, then whether coronavirus is active or not, you will still go on to do that.
“But if you are a pastor or priest in order to acquire material wealth, in order to enjoy prosperity, then, I’m sorry, you’re not called by God. You’re a businessman or businesswoman and not a priest or pastor.
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“This is the time we should see real men of God who are dedicated, even to the point of giving everything they have, including their lives in the service of the people of God.
“This is a moment of trial for us, we hope that we will pass the test with distinction as pastors and we will be able to stand by our people solidly without money.
“If the collections are not coming to the church, tithes are not there, how do you do? Will you run away and abandon the sheep? No, as a good shepherd, you should stand strong and firm and be there for the people and pray for good time to come again.”
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The archbishop also supported the suspension of key activities in churches, including the conduct of marriages.
“We have to be alive first, our priority now is to be alive and healthy. So, whatever we need to do to stay alive is more important. Things can be put on hold and if you can’t put things on hold, you have to manage by scaling them down.
“You can see, even in the church that we have not been holding our regular activities because we want to make sure we don’t increase the spread of this coronavirus. The same with government, banks and many other institutions. Everything has to be scaled down.
“The situation dictates what is possible, if there wasn’t any pandemic, things would go as normal. But now with the way it is, everything has to change. Life can’t be the same and marriage is good but must not be done according to what society feels it should be. Marriage can be done quietly and it is still marriage,” Kaigama said.
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