You are on page 1of 301

Table of Contents

THE IMAGE OF THE CHURCH AS MOTHER, NIGERIAN SOCIAL SITUATIONS:


IMPLICATIONS..................................................................................................................5
GENERAL INTRODUCTION..........................................................................................5
Statement of the Problem.............................................................................................. 8
Aim of the Work............................................................................................................10
Methodology................................................................................................................. 11
Work Plan..................................................................................................................... 11
CHAPTER ONE:THE ETYMOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF THE CONCEPTS................12
1.0 Introduction.............................................................................................................12
1.1 The term Church.................................................................................................... 12
1.2 Mother and Motherhood ........................................................................................15
1.3 The Meaning of the word Image............................................................................ 19
CHAPTER TWO: BIBLICAL FOUNDATION OF THE IMAGE OF CHURCH AS MOTHER
......................................................................................................................................... 21
2.0 Introduction.............................................................................................................21
2.1 The Image of the Church Mother in New Testament............................................. 21
2.2 The Gospel Accounts......................................................................................... 22
2.3 Pauline Epistles.................................................................................................. 24
2.4 Second Letter of John 1..................................................................................... 26
2.5 The Book of Revelation 12................................................................................. 27
2.5.1 The book of Revelation 19...............................................................................29
2.6 Chapter Resume.................................................................................................... 30
CHAPTER THREE: THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT AND APPLICATION OF THE
IMAGE OF THE CHURCH AS MOTHER........................................................................ 31
3.0 Introduction................................................................................................................ 31
3.1 Christianity in early Century................................................................................... 32
3.2 TERTULLIAN 160-220 AD..................................................................................... 34
3.2.1 Tertullian's understanding of the Church as Mother........................................35
3.3 ORIGEN 182-254 AD.............................................................................................40
3.3.1 Origen's understanding of the Church as Mother........................................... 40
3.4 CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE 248-258 AD................................................................42
3.4.1 Mater Ecclesia in Cyprians Work....................................................................43
1

3.5 AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO 345-430 AD....................................................................48


3.5.1 The Church as Mother in the work of Augustine............................................. 49
3.6 Material sources for the Fathers on the Maternal Image of the Church ................55
3.6.1 The Father's Methodology...............................................................................56
3.7 The Church in Medieval Ages................................................................................ 58
3.7.1 Church as Mother in the Middle Ages: HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179) 59
3.7.2 The image of the Church as Mother by Hildegard of Bingen ..........................60
3.8 Chapter Resume.................................................................................................... 61
CHAPTER FOUR: CHURCH AS MOTHER IN THE WORKS AND THOUGHTS OF
MODERN THEOLOGIANS, DOCUMENTS AND ENCYCLICALS OF THE CHURCH...63
4.0 Introduction................................................................................................................ 63
4.1 HENRI DE LUBAC, 1896-1991..............................................................................64
4.1.1 Henri De Lubac and the Motherhood of the Church ....................................... 64
4.2 HANS URS VON BALTHASAR 1905-1988........................................................... 66
4.2.1 Hans Urs von Balthasar's understanding of the Church as Mother ................67
4.3 JOSEPH RATZINGER 1927.................................................................................. 70
4.3.1 Image of the Church as Mother in Joseph Ratzingers Ecclesiology..............71
4.4 The Female Theologians on the Church as Mother.............................................. 73
4.5 MATER ET MAGISTRA 1961................................................................................76
4.6 Lumen Gentium 1964............................................................................................79
4.7 Chapter Resume.................................................................................................... 82
CHAPTER FIVE: THE MOTHERHOOD OF THE CHURCH EXPRESSED THROUGH
THE SACRAMENTS AND THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL.................................. 84
5.0 Introduction.............................................................................................................84
5.1 Mother Church and her Liturgy.............................................................................. 84
5.2 Mother Church and the Sacraments......................................................................85
5.3 The Sacrament of Baptism vis-a-vis The Childbearing Role of the Mother
Church..........................................................................................................................87
5.4 The Sacrament of Eucharist vis-a-visthe Nourishing Role of the Mother Church
......................................................................................................................................90
5.5 The Sacrament of Healing vis-a-vis the Caring Role of the Mother Church .......93
5.6 The Preaching of the Word vis-a-vis The Educative and Nourishing Role of the
Mother Church.............................................................................................................96
5.7 Chapter Resume................................................................................................... 99
CHAPTER SIX: NIGERIA PEOPLE AND THE DAWN OF CHRISTIANITY.................100
6.0 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 100
2

6.1 A Brief History of the three Major Ethnic groups in Nigeria ..................................100
6.1.1 The Yoruba ethnic group............................................................................... 101
6.1.2 The Hausa ethnic group................................................................................ 102
6.2.3 The Igbo ethnic group....................................................................................103
6.3 An Overview of the Significance of Religion in Nigerian Cultures and Society. .104
6.4 The Advent of Christianity in Nigeria: Contact, Expansions and Challenges ......109
6.4.1 The Early Dawn of Christianity in Nigeria......................................................110
6.4.2 The Penetration of Christianity in Western Nigeria (YORUBA) .....................113
6.4.3 Christanization of the Eastern Nigeria (IGBO) .............................................. 114
6.4.4 The Advent of Christianity in Northern Nigeria............................................. 116
6.5 Methods Adopted by the Early Missionaries in Evangelizing of Nigeria ..............119
6.5.1 Approaching first the Royal and Nobles of the Land (THE ROYAL COURT)
................................................................................................................................ 119
6.5.2 The Establishment of Villages of Hope........................................................ 120
6.5.3 Education .....................................................................................................122
6.5.4 Medical Apostolate Progamm .....................................................................123
6.6 The Dawn of Independent Churches in Nigeria .................................................125
6.6.1 The Aladura Churches in Nigeria.................................................................. 128
6.7 The Situation of the Church in Nigeria Today...................................................... 130
6.7.1 Vocation increase in Nigerian Mother Church...............................................130
6.7.2 Other signs of Development Growth and Expansion in the Church in Nigeria
................................................................................................................................131
6.7.3 The Surge of Prayer Ministries and Healing Centres in the Church in Nigeria
................................................................................................................................133
6.7.4 The Prayer Ministry Directed by the Lay Faithful.......................................... 134
6.8 The Challenges Facing the Church in Nigeria..................................................... 135
6.8.1 The Upsurge in Founding Churches, Ministries and Healing Centres in the
Church in Nigeria....................................................................................................136
6.8.2 Manipulation in the Name of God..................................................................138
6.8.3 The Mentality of Devil Menia........................................................................ 139
6.8.4 Sacramentalism.............................................................................................139
6.8.5 The Practice of Family Deliverance ..............................................................141
6.8.6 Marriage Problems........................................................................................ 143
6.9 Chapter Resume.................................................................................................. 145
CHAPTER SEVEN: THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL AND SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGE OF
WOMEN IN NIGERIAN CULTURES AND SOCIETY....................................................147
3

7.0 Introduction...........................................................................................................147
7.1 The General Understanding of the Concept and Structure of Family.................148
7.2 The Family in Nigerian Cultures and Society.......................................................151
7.3 Motherhood in Nigerian Cultures......................................................................... 154
7.4 Contextual Applications of the concept Nne in Igbo Culture of Nigeria ............156
7.5 The Roles of Women in Nigerian Cultures and Society: Family..........................158
7.5.1 Traditional Marriage in Nigerian Cultures (Igbo)........................................... 159
7.6.1 The caring role...............................................................................................163
7.6.2 The educative role.........................................................................................165
7.6.3 The protective role.........................................................................................167
7.6.4 The economic role.........................................................................................168
7.7 Further Roles of Women in the Cultures and Society of Nigeria .........................170
7.8 The Religious Roles of Women in Nigerian Cultures and Society.......................171
7.8.1 The role of women in Nigerian Traditional Religion as priestesses ..............171
7.8.2 Women as diviners in Traditional Religion.................................................... 173
7.8.3 Women as traditional medical personnel...................................................... 175
7.8.4 Women as agents of social critics.................................................................176
7.9 Women in the history of the Church ....................................................................177
7.10 The Role of Women in the Church in Nigeria.................................................... 179
7.10.1 The Role of the Women Religious Congregations in the Nigerian Church . 181
7.10.2 The Role of the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) in the Nigerian
Church.................................................................................................................... 182
7.10.3 The objectives and goals of the Catholic Women Organization in Nigerian
Church.................................................................................................................... 184
7.11 Women as Victims of Violence in Nigerian Cultures and Society......................185
7.12 Chapter Resume................................................................................................186
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE CHURCH AND THE SOCIAL SITUATIONS IN NIGERIA: THE
IMPLICATIONS..............................................................................................................189
8.0 Introduction.............................................................................................................. 189
8.1 Exposition of Life Situations in Nigeria: Poverty................................................. 190
8.1.1 Political situation............................................................................................193
8.1.2 Corruption......................................................................................................194
8.1.3 Boko Haram...................................................................................................197
8.1.4 The Educational situation.............................................................................. 199
8.1.5 The Health-care system................................................................................ 199
4

8.1.6 The Religious situation.................................................................................. 201


8.2 THE IMPLICATION OF THE IMAGE OF THE CHURCH AS MOTHER..............205
8.2.1 The Mission of the Church in Nigeria............................................................ 205
8.2.2 Biblical Foundation of Mission......................................................................205
8.3 The Maternal Mission of the Church...................................................................206
8.3.1 The Social Implications of the Church as Mother for Nigerians ....................207
8.3.2 The mother church and the poverty situation in Nigeria ............................... 208
8.3.3 The mother church and education situation in Nigeria ..................................210
8.3.4 The mother church and political situation in Nigeria ..................................... 212
8.3.5 The mother church and health-care system in Nigeria ................................. 215
8.3.6 The mother church and Nigerian religious situation......................................217
8.4 Theological implication of the image of the Church as Mother for Nigerians ......218
8.5 Chapter Resume................................................................................................. 219
CHAPTER NINE: BEING A CHRISTIAN TODAY IN THE NIGERIAN SITUATION......221
9.0 Introduction...........................................................................................................221
9.1 Theological perspective....................................................................................... 222
9.1.1 Need for impacting theological virtues especially that of Faith ..................... 226
9.2 The Sacramental perspective.............................................................................. 227
9.3 Pastoral Maternal perspective: Solidarity............................................................ 229
9.3.1 Pastoral Maternal Solidarity of the Church with the Poor in Nigeria .............231
9.3.2 Maternal Pastoral Solidarity with the sick and aged ones in Nigeria ............231
9.4 The Mother Church: Marriage and Family in Nigerian Cultures and Society ......233
9.4.1 Maternal Patoral Solidarity with the Childless family in Nigeria .................... 235
9.5 Need for Practical Maternal Solidarity with other Christian Churches and Religions
in Nigeria.................................................................................................................... 239
9.6 Appropration of her Maternal Prophetic Quality...................................................243
9.7 Effective Agenda for the Liberation and Empowerment of Nigerian Women. ....245
9.8 Need to Promote Effective Justice in Nigeria...................................................... 246
9.9 Need for Maternal Education and Catechesis..................................................... 248
9.10 Recommendations............................................................................................ 249
9.11 Limitation............................................................................................................ 253
9.12 General Conclusion............................................................................................253
SELECTED BIBLIOGRPHY

.......................257

PROJECT TOPIC: THE CHURCH AS MOTHER: AN ECCLESIOLOGICAL INSIGHT


INTO ITS IMPLICATION TO THE NIGERIAN SOCIAL SITUATIONS

CHAPTER ONE:THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHURCH AS MOTHER


1.0 Introduction
One of the strongest instincts in every living thing is that of life preservation for
continuity. The same is applicable to any given human institutions and organizations
with regard to her members. It is natural then, that all species of living things desire
continuity and abhors extinction. Thus, the sustainability of human species come
through human procreation. The procreative activity is one of the most precious gift God
gave to his creatures. Living a good life is one of the fundamental values every man and
woman strives to attain. Every other value one aspires for is based on the assumption
that there is life; hence the saying, once there is life there is hope. This is why among
all the existent; life ranks the most valuable. Surprisingly, God gives this special gift of
life at no cost.
The Genesis account of creation presents to us how the first male and female was
created and entrusted with the power to multiple and care for the earth. Through the act
of coming together of man and woman, life comes into existence in the form of a child.
Life is mediated to the offspring through the mother. This does not imply that the fathers
play lesser role in this regard. The parents are involved in this act together. But mothers
are very prominent in the process. From conception to the point of delivery of her child,
the mother is very much close to the baby and so on. Accepted that mothers play crucial
role in bearing children, it is observable that with breakthrough in science one hears
today of test tube babies and cloning. It is therefore not abnormal to hear the Church
being referred to as mother. The Christian spiritual life we have is through this means
persevered, sustained and so on. In this section therefore, our concern will centre on
investigating on the church as mother in the Bible. Accepted that the church was born
during the New Testament period, there are pointers of this image in the Old Testament
Scripture. Thus, we are going to focuse much on the New Testament Bible because, the
church was born in this era. As a mater of fact, we are not going to engage ourselves in
all the chapters and pages of the New Testament Bible for this, rather, we select some
chapters that deal with the issue under investigation in this work. In other to achieve the
aim of this chapter therefore, we begin our investigation first and foremost from the
Bible especially the New Testament. This will provide theological base for the work.
Again, the knowledge gained will serve as prerequisite to argue for or against the image
of the Church as mother. It will also clear the minds of some groups that might be
tempted to question and flaw the credibility of the image of the Church as Mother as not
been biblically founded.
1.1 The Biblical Foundation of the Church as Mother in the Old Testament
This caption sets minds into rigorous thinking. The reason is not far because,
6

historically, the Church is a child of post-resurrection event. Because of this, some may
be quick to ask, why Old Testament, and why not begin with the New Testament. One of
the reasons is that the event of human salvation is a single, unified and continuous
action that stems from one source and will eventually finds its course back to the
beginning. Moreover, we are to bear in mind that whatever that is found in the New
Testament is already in the Old Testament foreshown. According to Preston, The
Church as a woman, whether as a girl or bride or wife or mother or widow, is an image
rooted in the Old Testament and finding new life in the New. 1 In other to investigate on
the church as mother in the Old Testament, we begin with some books of the prophets.
Although, it is evident that the term church as we have it today was never used in this
period. The prophets developed the idea of the church as mother in the context of
marriage covenant or relationship between Yahweh and Israel as a nation. This could
be one of the reasons why Israel, Zion or Jerusalem appears as wife of Yahweh as a
major theme that cuts across the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament. And
among all the nations on the face of the earth planet, God chose for himself a particular
set of people destined to be his own in a very special way. This does not mean that
others are not important for God. The choosen nation by Yahweh is to serve in the
realization of God's salvific design for every other nations of the earth. Yahweh was the
one who initiated the entire process to liberate, guide, educate and purify the chosen
one and raised her to the statue of wife to himself. He was the one who first loved Israel
and made himself the ultimate responsibility towards the realization of the peoples'
salvation. Yahweh created a people to become his bride. He espoused Israel for himself
alone for a mission he want to achieve through and with them.
1.1.1 Propet Isaiah
There are instances in the prophecy of Isaiah where Zion or Jerusalem was depicted as
a woman, bride and mother.2 One of such examples is where the prophet lamented that
the faithful city Zion has become a harlot as result of denial of justice (cf. Isa. 1:21-26).
Going through chapter 49:14-26, we see the lamentation of Zion that God has
abandoned her. There is a seemingly clash of image of Jerusalem as both child and
spouse of God in the text. The childless mother Zion is filled with children. 3 He cannot
forget, based on his nature and promise which never fails. Yahweh cannot forget his
love and covenant he made with their forefathers that extends to them. This suggests
that Yahweh stands in this context in relation of a parent (mother) to his people Israel.
The people of Israel in turn stand as sucking children Yahweh breastfeeds. They suck at
the breasts of his word and sacraments. By acting as a mother, Yahweh cared and
provided for them. However, scholars argued that Zion in this text mean the Jews
1

Preston, Geoffrey, O.P., Faces of the Church: Meditations on a Mystery and its Images, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 78.

The other books of the prohets have also something to teach about the representation of Jerusalem, or Zion, or
Israel as either as a girl, or woman, or wife, or bride, or mother, or widow See, Ezekiel 16ff, Jeremiah 2:2,
51:5, Hosea.

Carroll, Stuhlmueller, C. P, Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah, in : The New Jerom Biblical Commentary, edit, by
Remond, E. Brown, S.S. Et al, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc. A Division of Simon and Schuster Englewood Cliffs,
1990, p. 340. see also,

during their Babylonian exile and the accession of spiritual Israelites to the mother
church of Jerusalem from the Gentiles. 4 The exile period serves as a short moment of
divorce between Yahweh and his bride Zion. Yet, Israel was not completely thrown out
by God despite their crimes. Therefore, what they suffered was as result of their own
fault. However, God as husband has right over his bride. And over the children he has
fatherly right. Thus, both the mother and the children belong to Yahweh the husband
and the father. In the context of Isaiah 50:1, Zion is 'the mother', the Jews her children.
God is the hausband of the mother and the father of the children.
Speaking of the future glory of Jerusalem, in Isaiah 54:1-6, the mother and husband
motif appeared once again. There is a change or transformation that took place in the
event. Jerusalem the barren woman was asked to shout for joy for she has more
children. The barren one is now a mother of many children. John Gill interprets the
period of barreness from the times of Old Testament till the era Christ lived. Hence,
during Jesus' life, the time of his death, and before the day of Pentecost John Grill sees
as the period of barreness. There were lesser number of converts, as it was seen as the
Jewish church, under the Old Testament dispensation. After the death of Christ, the
church flourished, became more fruitful and increased in number. Conversion took place
in Judea and among the Gentile world. 5 In verses 1-3 is a sequence of mother. While
from verse 4-6 is that of wife. From verse 7-10 we see the mother/wife to be loved in an
everlasting love. In verse 5, the husband declared his name thus, For your Creator is
your husband, Yahweh Sabaoth is his name, the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer,
he is called God of the whole world (cf. Isa 54:5). Not only that Yahweh is the Husband,
his descriptive names as, the Creator, Holy One of Israel, Redeemer and God of the
universe was given. This shows the nature of the relation of Yahweh towards Israel that
extends to the entire world. He is related to the church as her husband and redeemer,
and shall be known to all human beings as the Lord of host and God of the whole
earth.6 The other pericopes mother or wife or bride, bridegroom, or husband motifs were
used by prophet Isaiah to illustrate the maternity of either Jerusalem or Zion on one
hand; and the paternity of Yahweh on the other hand include chapters 62:5, 52:13, 53:810.
It is obvious that Israel, or Jerusalem or Zion is a mother. But one question that calls for
our attention is, how do these people see themselves in the entire episode. In order
words, did Israel, or Zion, or Jerusalem sees itself as a mother? The people realized
that they are mother and said:
As a pregnant woman near her time of delivery writhes and cries out in her pang,
so have we been, Yahweh, in your eyes: we have been pregnant, we have writhed,
but we have given birth only to wind: we have not given salvation to the earth,no
inhabitants for the world have been brought to birth (cf. Isa 26:17-18).
4

www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/isaiah/isaiah-49.htm. Visited on 02.03.2016.

Www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/isaiah-54-1.html. Visited on 03.03.2016.

Joseph, A. Alexander, Commentary on Isaiah: Two Volumes Complete in one, Kregel Publications, 1992, p. 311.

The text presents before us the communal lament of the Israelites that signifies state of
helplessness, extreme pain and anguish. In the context of this work, qualities that
makes a woman mother is evident in the above text. Being with child brings hope,
expectation of something great, the birth of a child. But the revise is the case in the
situation of the mother Jerusalem. Instead of giving birth to life, the end product of their
pregnancy was a birth of 'wind'. All their efforts, hopes, expectations proved abortive.
Though, a woman, Israel was a barren one during this period. Notwithstanding, the
prophet resolved the issue of Israel's barrenness in chapters 54:1-17, 66:1-13. In Isaiah
49:14-15, 42:14 and 66:13 are instances Yahweh was represented in a feminine image
of a mother in different levels. Stricktly speaking, we can argue that it is unusual for a
man to assume the image of a mother. In this situation, it is something quite different
that unveils God's intention towards the economy of human salvation. In creation
Yahweh God is our Father; to whom Zion, or Jerusalem, or Israel is a wife as we have
seen. Therefore, there are two feminine personification of Jerusalem by prophet Isaiah
as a barren and rejected woman, and as a faithful and fruitful mother. Evidently from
what we have said, Jerusalem, Zion, Israel appears as a woman, bride, wife of Yahweh
the husband. Whatever happens here speaks of the immediate situation of the people
of Israel. It demonstrates also, the nature of the relationship that exist between the
people of Israel and Yahweh. As means of continuity, it is futuristic. This necessitates a
new beginning fulfilled in Jesus Christ that ultimately leads to new and re-election of the
remnant, the disciples, and the birth of the church. This effects the new marriage
between Jesus Christ the bridegroom and the church his bride, the mother of christians.
1.1.2 New Testament
In the course of the history of the church, various images were used to describe the
Christian community either by the members or from those who had encounter with them
in one form or the other. This is evident in the New Testament Bible, where we discover
galleries of images used to designate the church. The evangelist Luke who is also the
author of the Acts of the Apostles and Paul bequeathed us so many of such images with
which the early Christian community were known. The actions and stories about the
human redemption have its historical beginning from the Old Testament, but finds its
way into the New Testament. This section sets out to find out how the church is
understood as mother in the New Testament. As it is, we are not going to delve into all
the chapters and pages of the New Testament for this; rather, we take selected sections
of books of the New Testament Scripture.
1.1.2.1 The Gospel Accounts
Jesus period on earth is known as the messianic time. One of the outstanding features
of this era is festivity that brings and expresses joy and peace. For his people the
Israelite, it is a moment of fulfillment of hopes placed on the long expected Messiah. In
the Synoptic Gospel of Luke we read: your mother and brother are standing outside
and want to see you. Jesus answered, my mother and my brothers are those who hear
the word of God and put it into practice (cf. Lk. 8:20-21). With this reply, Jesus prepares
9

the stage for something new. Although, the word church was not use by Jesus in the
text, but implied. In view of this, John Paul II says, Jesus wishes to divert attention from
the motherhood understood only as a fleshly bond, in order to direct it towards those
mysterious bonds of the spirit which develop from hearing and keeping Gods word. 7
The teaching of Christ of who his mother, brother and sister is a radical shift from what
use to be to something new. It is a revolution. Jesus extends his family scope. He
shows also that His word creates a new family. And to belong to this new family, one
has to hear, receive the word and put it into use. There is going to be a shift from his
natural family to the new family made of the disciples. It teaches of the unity of the
members of the church in one hand. On the other hand it entails the unity of the church
and Jesus Christ. It transcends above and beyond cultural, biological and social
division, grouping and categorization of the human beings due to gender either as men
or women that divides the human beings and kept them apart from each other. This new
meaning and expansion of motherhood, brotherhood and sisterhood by Jesus, finds its
realization in and through the church as group and the church as that individual person
(s). It goes beyond that particular church or the other. The term church from this
perspective means all those who hear his word, listen to his teachings and put what
they have learnt into practice. It is not the issue of this particular church or the other.
In many occasions during his life, it is either Jesus or people that identify him as
bridegroom. Later the church thought of him as the bridegroom of the people of God,
the bride.8 There are instances of Jesus' self identification as bridegroom. One of such
was his response to the question concerning his disciples not fasting like those of John
the Baptist (cf. Matt. 9:14-17, Mk. 2:19-20). Interestingly, the application of the
bridegroom image to Jesus is influenced by Old Testament metaphor that referr to
Yahweh as husband of Israel.9 Jesus is the messianic bridegroom. Therefore, it is
unthinkable to deliberate about the bridegroom without the bride. Thus, any discussion
about the bridegroom suggests the bride. This indicates the motherhood of the bride church. John the Baptist identified him as the bridegroom when he said, you yourselves
can bear me out. I said I am not Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of
him. It is the bridegroom who has the bride (cf. Jn. 3:28-30). John the Baptist
recognizes Jesus as the bridegroom of the bride, whose name was not disclosed. There
is no evident of the actual identity of the bride. This lack of important information about
the bride leads to diverse conclusions in an attempt to disclose the identity of the bride.
Some scholars and theologians would likely read the bride in question to mean the
church. For others, like Raymond E. Brown, the bride is the house of Israel. If we
considered it from the perspective of the era of John the Baptist the forerunner of Jesus
Christ, the house of Israel during this period was in the process of transformation into
becoming the bride Jesus will take to himself. The bride is already there waiting for her
bridegroom Jesus. If Israel or the church is the bride it means progression, expansion
and inclusion of the past the (house of Israel) and the present (church) that belongs to
7

Pope, John Paul II, The Mission of the Church, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Mater, 1990, no. 20.

Preston, Geoffrey O.P, Faces of the Church: Meditations on a Mystery and Its Images, Edinburgh, 1997, p. 80.

Harrington, J. Daniel, S. J., The Gospel According to Mark, in The New Jerome Bible Commentary, edit, by,
Raymond E. Brown, S. S., et al, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1990, p. 602.

10

the bridegroom. Consequently, in Matt. 22:1-4The parable speaks of a feast


prepared by a king for the wedding of his son. The New Testament would therefore
bring out a connection between the theology of Wisdom and that of the nuptials of the
bridegroom with his Church.10
In the pericopes of (Lk 13:34; Matt. 23:37) Jesus speaks of Jerusalem as a mother and
person in a very negative way as killer of prophets sent to her. He is aware that he will
also meet his death in Jerusalem. However, he sees himself perfoming a mothering role
of gathering together the children the mother Jerusalem failed to do. This is in
anticipation of his mission to be continued after his resurrection. That Jerusalem is
referred as mother here falls in the category of metaphor use to describe a nation or
land. What does it mean to be a bridegroom and a bride? The Hebrew word for
bridegroom is Hatan, which means to make a covenant or son-in-law. The word bride in
Hebrew is Kallah meaning, completion or perfection. 11 The bridegroom Jesus is in
marriage covenant relationship with his bride the church. Normally, in marriage
situations the two parties involved complement and lead each other to perfection. But
in the context of Jesus and the church, the bridegroom solely initiates and brings about
the perfection of the bride. This leads to the wisdom and theology of the church as the
Body of Christ.
John the Baptist played significant role in this marriage situation as the best man of
the bridegroom. Apart from his active involvment in the preparation of the wedding,
according to the Jewish tradition, his other crucial duty includes witnessing to the
consummation of the marriage. With regard to the nature of the function of John the
Baptist, Boismard said: Jesus is the husband of the new people of God and John the
Baptist is his friend, that is, the shoshebin of the Jewish weddings, whose role was to
prepare the festivities. More precisely, he is to prepare the bride by purifying her and
leading her to the bridegroom.12 In her opinion, Baril maintains that, through the
baptismal rite, John prepares the community of disciples (the old Israel) to pass into the
Church, that is, to become the bride of the one who is the bridegroom. 13 As a special
friend of the bridegroom, the Baptist guided carefully the bride (Israel) throughout the
expectation and time of waiting for the coming of the bridegroom (Jesus) to take her to
his home.14 Obviously, in the Gospel accounts, the bridal and bridegroom terms are
common. The church was not clearly presented as mother. In any case, the often bridal
expression of the church in relation to Jesus Christ suggests the motherhood of the
10

Colson, Joseph cited in Baril,Gilberte, Feminine Face of the People of God: Biblical symbols of the Church as
bride and mother, transl, by, Florestine Audette RJM, UK, 1991, p. 82.
11

www.angelfire.com/supper2/redhorse/chaplain/Teachings/teach12.html. Visited on 13.03.2014.

12

Boismard, Traditions Johanniques quoted in Baril, Gilberte, Feminine Face of the People of God: Biblical symbols
of the Church as bride and mother, transl, by, Florestine Audette RJM, UK, 1991, p. 83.
13

Baril, Gilberte, Feminine Face of the People of God: Biblical symbols of the Church as bride and mother, transl,
by, Florestine Audette RJM, UK, 1991, p. 83.
14

Raymond E Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2010,
p 342.

11

church.
1.1.2.2 Pauline Epistles
After Jesus Christ, another prominent person that contributed so great to the
development and spread of Christianity in history is Paul the Apostle. 15 He was an
effective missionary of human salvation. Paul took the gospel message of Christ to the
gentile world. His theology gave rise to many theological literatures. Reading through
Pauls second letter to the Corinthians one sees his development of the bridal and
bridegroom theme,( in a nuptial context). To investigate on the topic (the maternal image
of the church from Pauline perspective), we take look at different pericopes of his
epistles. In one of such pericopes, the apostle says; see the jealousy that I feel for
you I gave you all in marriage to a single husband, a virgin pure for presentation to
Christ. (cf. 2Cor. 11:2-4). At the end of his instructive words, the apostle Paul made it
clear that the 'husband' in question is no other one than Christ, the bridegroom of the
community he prepared. The bride and virgin motifs appear very clear. The bride and
virgin is no other one than the Christian community in Corinth. It is this Christian
community that is to enter into this marriage relationship with Christ. Taken from the
stand point of the phrase 'you all' we conclude that Paul means a collective bride of the
bridegroom, and not the individual christians. Granted that Paul in this context speaks
of collective bride, we can argue that his position equally applies to the individual
Christians. This is because, the individual Christians form the collective bridal
community.
From this point of view Paul plays the role of a friend of the bridegroom, just like John
the Baptist. Preston highlights this when he argues that, Paul sees himself here as the
best man, the marriage arranger whose task it is to make man and woman belong
definitively to each other. He looks forward to the eschatological marriage, the time
when Christ will come as bridegroom to take his bride to himself. 16 Paul's role in this
context is more like that of a paternal image, a father who trains his daughter up to the
age of going into marriage. And as tradition demands the father arranges a husband for
her daughter. In this situation, Paul stands as the figure of a typical Jewish father to this
young woman he admonishes to keep to the good moral character she learns from
home. In Galatian he says, My children, I am going through the pain of giving birth to
you all over again, until Christ is formed in you... (cf, Gal. 4:19). Paul performs act of
mothering by giving birth to his children. In this context the giving birth of Paul suggests
teaching and formation of his children properly. He goes further to demonstrates the
mother metaphor in a typological manner. He sees in the motherhood of Sarah as a
typology of the motherhood of the church, and in Hagar a typology of the Jerusalem on
earth (cf, Gal. 4:22-31). When Paul speaks of Jerusalem as a mother, he simply shows
his awarness of the long tradition of the Old Testament that attribute motherhood to
cities symbolized as either a woman, or a wife, or a widow, or a mother and so on.
While writing to the first Christian community of Thessalonica, the apostle said, .Like
a mother feeding and looking after her children, we felt so devoted to you, that we would
15

Raymond, E. Brown, ibid, p. 422.

16

Preston, Geoffrey, O.P, op. cit., pp. 80-81.

12

have been happy to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives...
(cf.1Th. 2:7-8). In the text, we encounter clear expressions of motherhood. He
compares and sees himself and fellow apostles as mothers. In Paul therefore, we see a
reflection of the spiritual motherhood of the church on one hand. On another hand, it
signifies the individual motherhood of the christians toward others which is spiritual
achieved through act of mothering role.
In the letter to the Ephesians 5, Paul draws his analogy from the natural and cultural
setting to bring to fore the hidden mystery of the theology of the relationship between
God and the church. One identifies the image of a humble wife and a caring husband. In
this case Christ is the head and bridegroom of his bride the church. However, the
female figures: church and wife assume submissive role. This is one of the many issues
feminist theologians argue against. The implication we can arrive at with this also, is
that in the family setting, both men and women are called to be obedient and
submissive to God and to each other. We discover therefore, that Ephesian 5 depicts
order of husbands and wives living in Christian homes. Verse 25-33, focuses on Christs
love for the church and the image of the church as his bride. 17 Baril argues, that:
in Ephesians 5:25-33, the bride of Christ, given as a mode to woman, is
clearly identifiedthe church is shown by the Apostle as being constantly
presented by her spouse to himself through the cleansing waters accompanied
by words which probably evoke both the nuptial cleansing of the betrothed
and the baptism of the new believers: for he wanted to present the Church to
himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind,-yes, so
that she may be holy and without blemish. 18
It is important to point out that the bride is already holy. Her holiness stems from the
sacrifice underwent by her bridegroom Christ. This becomes permanent through the
continuous sanctification process by means of the sacraments that gives life to the
mother church. This loving self-giving act of the bridegroom is for the salvation of the
entire humanity. The mother church has it as her fundamental mission to lead human
beings on the process of achieving the status of spotless or perfection. This is one of
the reasons while she exists in the world to actualize the sanctification of human beings
that portrays her maternal nature and function. The mother church is and operates as
continuous sacrament of God in the world through her motherly mission. Commenting
on the same issue of the ongoing purification Schlier says, Once led to Christ by
himself, as his bride (in the gift he made of himself), the Church is presented as such
(that is as a bride) in each baptism. Christ has given himself up for the sanctification of
the church in the sense that he always presents the Church to himself as his bride at
the time of the baptism of each believer. 19 In further analysis of Ephesians 5, Preston
17

Kobelski, J. Paul, The Letter to the Ephesians, in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edit, by, Raymond, E.
Brown, S.S, et al, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1990, p. 890.
18

Baril, Gilberte, op. cit., p.88.

19

Heinrick, Schlier, Der Brief an die Epheser ein Kommentar, Patmos Verlag Dusseldorf 1965. Cf. also, Baril
Gilberte, op. cit., p. 89.

13

maintains that, some commentators think that the writer to the Ephesians sees the
Church as already cleansed by Christ, so that it is spotless; others, more weighty, hold
that it is in process of purification, a process founded on the fact that Christ gave himself
up for it. So much in the rest of the letter makes it clear that the author knew the Church
to be quite certainly not spotless.20
Theologically, if we considered the foundation on which the bride and mother church is
laid, she is spotless and holy. This affirms what we sing or recite in the Credo, Et unam
sanctam catholicam. But when seen through the background that the church is made of
humans capable of faltering, she is not fully spotless. There are some wrinkles because
of the deeds of her sons and daughters. Through the sacraments therefore, the bride
and mother church as Schlier, Baril and Paul the Apostle pointed out, achieve the
cleansing effect of human beings. Intrinsically, the church is holy. Hence, the bride and
mother church takes from her nature that which is hers to achieve the cleaning of her
sons and daughters in the world.
1.1.2.3 Second Letter of John 1
While writing to the Christian community in his second letter, John presents us with vivid
idea of the maternity of the church. He says, My greetings to the Lady, the chosen one,
and to her children (cf. 2Jn.1). The first question is, who, is this lady. What does this
woman figure signifies? The information is clumsy. It is going to give verity of
conclusions in an attempt to disclose the Lady in reference. In another place however,
he writes, it has given me great joy to find that children of yours have been living the
life of truth... And now I am asking you-dear lady... (vv 4-5). John concludes the
chapter thus, greetings to you from the children of your sister, the chosen one (v 13).
The same question raised above with regard to the Lady is applicable to the sister and
her children. Who are they and what do they stand for? Commenting on this Baur
interprets the Lady, als ohne Wendung zur keine einzelne Frau, sondern eine
besonders hervorzuhebende Gemeinschaft. Herrin konnte eine Land gemeint sein, eine
Stadt oder auch die Brgerversammlung (ekklesia) einer Stadt.21 Again, he says that in
den christlichen Bereich Herrin Bedeutet die ganze Kirche, eine einzelne Gemeinde
oder sogar ein Kirchraum bezeichnet werden.22
The study of the word Lady by Wolfgang Baur was carried out in two different contexts:
social and Christian. In the second citation Herrin as Lady speaks of the church as
mother in three levels: as the entire church, individual parish church and as what we call
in Nigeria stations or zones. The church is a mother irrespective of size and population.
Reflecting on the same text, Baril argues, the Lady is therefore the Church, possibly
the universal Church, but residing tangibly in a specific locality. 23 The universal mother
20

Preston, Geoffrey O.P, op. cit., p. 81.

21

Baur, Wolfgang, 1.2. Und 3. Johannesbrief, Stuttgarter Kleiner Kommentar, Neues Testament N.F, 17, Stuttgart:
Verlag Katholishes Biblewerk GmbH, Stuttgart, 1991, p 112.
22

Ibid.

23

Brail, Giberte, op. cit., p.97.

14

church of Baril is located in a specific place unknown. Probably by this she means the
Church in Rome. If so, then, does it mean that the church outside Rome is not mother?
Her position is akin to the notion of Francis of Assisi of the Medieval period. But for
Baur, the church is a mother at various levels, size and location. It is only in this
understanding can one speaks also of the universality of the mother church. On a
similar note, Delahaye maintaines that, by using this metaphor, the author most
certainly refers to the community of Christians concretely living in the world. 24 Also,
Chavasse notes, each Church (local) is the Church. Each Church is the bride. Yet,
there is but one Church, one bride. 25 For Henri De Lubac, the chosen Lady addressed
by John is no other person than the Church. 26 Therefore, wherever the church exists,
she is the bride of Christ and the mother of Christians. On the part of the Christians and
for the people in whose culture she exists and works the church is a mother. In this
situation, her motherhood extends beyond her immediate members and include those
outside in the wider society in their joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of
our time... a feeling of deep soidarity with human race and its history. 27 We argue then
that the Lady of John in the above illustrations is the visible mother church on earth.
She is not the abstract mother Jerusalem above of Paul. Rather, the church here on
earth that deals with the concrete life situations of the people irrespective of who they
are or what they have.
1.1.2.4 The Book of Revelation 12
Revelation 12 introduces three figures on the scene. These figures are, a woman, a
male child and a fearful dangerous animal, the dragon interpretated also as the sarpent
and the satan or devil. The woman was decorated with many interesting heavenly
symbols and the dragon about to attack her and the child she is about to bear. Who is
this Lady. What does she signifies? Does she symbolizes the church we are discussing
in this work? In other to arrive at who this Lady is, it becomes necessary to disclose the
identity of her child. The child is identified by scholars as Jesus Christ. Catholic
theologians interpret the woman to be Mary mother of Jesus, who is also the new Eve.
Others suggest that she is the heavenly Jerusalem, personified wisdom, or the church,
also personified as Israel.28 There are cultural influence on this revelation and material
closeness with pagan myths. 29 One of such pagan material influence was the Greek
mythological war combat between a goddess called Leto and a dragon known as
python. In this myth the goddess Leto was pregnant and was pursued by the dragon
Python. The goddess escaped to an Island and gave birth to Apollo who later killed the
24

Delahaye, op. cit., p. 62.

25

Chavasse, Claudel, Lionel, The Bride of Christ: An Inquiry into the Nuptial Element in Early Christianity,
Religious Club, London, 1940, p.88.
26

Henri, De Lubac, op. cit., p. 46.

27

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium es Spes, no , 1.

28

Adela, Yarbo Collins, The Apocalypse (Revelation), in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edit, by,
Raymond, E. Brown, S. S, et al, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1990, p. 1008.
29

Raymond, E. Brown, op. cit., p. 790-791.

15

dragon. So was this type of myth prevalent in nearly every Mediterranean culture. 30
Whatever happened in the Revelation of John according to scholars there was influence
of ideas. Hence, not only ancient Semitic creation myths but the Greco-Roman myths
about the gods have left their mark on apocalyptic imagery of presentation in which the
goddess Roma, queen of heaven, may have been combined with OT female Zion figure
in shaping the imagery of the mother of the Messiah in Rev.12. 31 On another note
scholars have argued that there is element of material alteration of Josephs dream in
Revelation 12. Perhaps the vision of Revelation 12 is a new way of representing the
event (cf. Gen. 37:9). Hence, the woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under
her feet and on her head the crown of twelve stars, represents Israel, echoing the
dream of Joseph in Gen. 37:9 where these symbols represent his father (Jacob/Israel),
his mother, and his brothers 32
Methodius acknowledges the woman as our mother, whom the prophets described with
many names as Jerusalem, Bride, Mount Zion, Temple and Tabernacle. It is the Church
whose children by baptism will swiftly come running to her from all sides after the
resurrection.33 Here is a reoccurring words and ideas of the prophets of the Old
Testament and that of New Testament. Methodius identified the woman as the mother
church already prefigured in the Old Testament either as Jerusalem, Mount Zion and so
on. On a similar note, Geiger Albert argues that in der biblischen Bildersprache
versinnbildet eine Frau oft eine Gemeinschaft, ein Volk (vgl. Tochter Zion). So ist auch
diese Himmelsfrau eine symbolische Gestalt, ein Zeichen. 34 The idea of Geiger
corresponds with the Old Testament prophets ideas, as well as the position hold by the
fathers of the church like Methodius and scholars like Baur.
Another interesting argument holds that, the woman is not Mary, or Israel, nor the
church but less and more than all of these. 35 If the image is none of these, then, who or
what is represented here? In an effort to disclose and understand the woman as
presented in Revelation 12 gave rise to many different and similar interpretations.
Christians and Catholics especially tend towards the position that the woman is the
mother church.The woman with all the heavenly materials signified the triumphed
mother church in heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem of Paul and some fathers of the
church. That is, a church in her full glory. In this state she is united with her divine
30

Jesus and the Church in Revelation 12 www.gci.org/bible/rev/jesuschurch. Visited on 12. 05. 2013. Cf. also,
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 1008.
31

Raymond E. Brown, op. cit., p 779.

Raymond, E. Brown, ibid, p. 790. Also, cf. Jesus and the Church in Revelation 12.
www.gci.org/bible/rev/jesuschurch. Visited on 12. 05. 2013.
32

33

Methodius, The Symposium a Treatise on Chastity, Ancient Christian Writings, transl, by Herbert Musurillo, S.J.,
London, 1958, no 27, p. 110-111.
34

Geiger, Albert, Apokalypse Heute: Zeichen der Zeit, Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk GmbH, Stuttgart, 1984, p 69

35

Boring, M. Eugene, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Revelation, Louisville,
Westminster, John Knox, press, 1989, p, 152. Also, cf. www.gci.org/bible/rev/jesuschurch Jesus and the Church in
Revelation 12. Visited on 12. 06. 2013.

16

bridegroom. The symbol of the woman was used by the author John to communicate
concrete and abstract realities of the mystery about the mother church. For Raymond
Brown, the woman may symbolize Israel giving birth to the Messiah as well as the
church and her children in the wilderness under Satanic attack after the Messiah has
been taken up to heaven.36 A clear fact about this woman image is that, it is a metaphor
or symbol with wide range of context, content and meanings. This accentuates the
notion Raymond Brown puts forward, that symbols are polyvalent and this is clear with
the woman image of John. In spite of the different positions of scholars above, we
deductively argue that, in the woman symbol of John's Revelation we find outstanding
qualities of mother: conception (pregnant) and giving of birth. These are the same with
the mother church. She conceives and bears christians the children of God.
Considering the elements around the woman, we see a mixture of heavenly galaxies of
lights: sun, moon and stars as crown and earthly living creature the dragon the enemy.
Each symbolizes one thing or the other that adds more meaning to the understanding of
the text. By implication, all these elements around the woman apply to the mother
church. What we see here as light is quite different from ordinary light. The light signifies
the glory of God. This presupposes that the mother church is the bearer of Christs light
that dispels darkness in the world. It is a fundamental function of the mother church to
lead humanity on the way to the Father by her radiation of the light, Christ in the world.
Again, the light entails that the mother church is ever at the presence of her divine
bridegroom. Therefore, the church shares in the glory of Christ. The crown with twelve
stars symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel of the Old. In the New Testament these
twelve stars were seen as the twelve disciples of the new community of God through
Christ. The stars mean the numerable members of the church though represented with
the figure twelve. Also, some scholars see the crown as a symbol of success and
victory37 over trials and tribulations. About the symbol of the moon, Geiger said,
.uber dem mond, dem Sinnbild der Unbestndigkeit und dem alten Symbol der
mtterlichen Frau, da sie als berweltliche Frau erhaben und unvernderlich ber der
irdischen Wandelbarkeit steht.38 Methodius, refers to the moon as the faith of the
purified by baptism, hence the Church stands on our faith and our adoption labouring
and bringing natural men as spiritual men and under this aspect is she indeed their
mother.39
1.1.2.5 The book of Revelation 19
Effort to understand the image of the woman in John's Revelation compels us to visit
chapter 19:7f. The striking question here becomes, is it the same woman in Revelation
12 that is been referred here as the bride of the Lamb. On this Baril argues that:
36

Raymond E Brown, op. cit., p 779.

37

Giesen, Heinz, Johannes Apokalypse, Stuttgarter Kleiner Kommentar, Neues Testament, (N.F), 18, Verlag,
Katholisches Bibelwerk Stuttgart, 1986, p 97.
38

Geiger, Albert, op. cit., p 68.

39

Methodius, The Symposium A Treatise on Chastity, Ancient Christian Writings, transl, by Herbert Musurillo, S.J.,
London, 1958, no 27, p, 111.

17

the idea of the believers being faithful to the point of giving the supreme
testimony, a fidelity by which the victory of God is expressed in their lives,
is added. The effective transfiguration of the members, an effect of the gift
of God but also, at another level, of the active fidelity of the believers,
constitutes the great historical preparation of the bride for the eschatological
nuptials.40
There is a paradigm shift in words and scene of event. The image of a bride and
bridegroom in a nuptial union in heaven takes the stage of Johns Revelation.
Therefore, the theme of marriage stems from the OT (cf. Hos. 2:1-25[23]; Isa. 54:4-8;
Ezek. 16- sometimes in the contexts of unfaithfulness). Now it has been shifted to Christ
and the believers (Jn.3:29; II Cor.11:2; Eph.5:23-32). 41
The occurrence of the nuptial motif in both Testaments shows how ready the early
Christians appropriated it to express a hidden mystery of the church. There is continuity
and contrast between the bride in this chapter and the woman in chapter 12 already
discussed. Its continuity lies in the fact that it is still the same woman that is being
represented and referred to. In contrast, chapter 12 presents before us a woman with a
child that indicates that the woman is a mother. While in chapter 19 we encounter a
bride, a young woman about to be given into marriage. In chapter 12 it is a woman with
a child been challenged and attacked by the devil. But in 19 it is a festive situation of
wedding. The picture of the vision of chapter 19:7 is thus, the final union of the church to
her divine bridegroom Christ. Christus ist der Brutigam und die Gemeinde seiner
Getreuen die Braut, ein Bild der innigsten, unauflslichen Gemeinschaft.42 It is not the
question of an individual Christian, but the community of the Christian people. In this
case both the bride and the woman with a male child are to be understood as signifying
das Volk Gottes das durch das Christusereignis zum wahren Volk Gottes wurde. Die
Kirche als das endzeitliche Volk Gottes hat sich bereit gemacht, um mit christus
Hochzeit zu feiern.43
Interestingly enough, in the New Testament Bible, the bride image of the church is much
clear. What does this means. It implies that both virgin and bride motifs are interwoven
in speaking of the church as mother. The mother, bride and virgin symbols resolve
jointly the tension in the description of the church. This inherent tension lies within the
level of visible (human) and invisible (divine) nature of the church. That is, the church in
the presence. The church that lives and exists in the world. In other word, the church
that is time-space bound in human cultures and society. The church that suffers,
40

Baril, Gilberte, op. cit., p. 98-99.

41

Raymond E Brown, op. cit., p 794.

42

Geiger, Albert, op. cit., p 95

43

Giesen, Heinz, op. cit., p 146. As a means of further explanation of what the author meant by taken recourse to
chapter 12:13-17, he said, dort wird nmlich die Kirche nicht einfach mit den Christen identifiziert. Nur die Kirche
ist vor den Anschlge des Satans geschtz, nicht aber die einzelnen, die sich bewhren mssen. In vers 7 ist
demnach die Frau die Kirche, p. 147

18

persecuted, hate and loved. It is in this situation and context that the mother image of
the church with all her characteristics and nature comes to limelight. The bride image
reflects and portrays the other nature of the same church. The church as bride awaits
for the eschatology in which the final union with her bridegroom will be consummated.
She lives in the era of total completion and perfection with her bridegroom. It is
important to point out that, there was no discussion of real husband and wife sexual
activity between Jesus Christ the bridegroom and the church his bride. Thus, both never
in any form or attempt discharged this crucial husband and wife responsibility. The
symbol therefore, flaws the natural process of sexual bond of man and woman in marital
union. The appropriation of this motif hence transcends the natural sex genders with its
inherent sexual actions between two opposite sex. Thus, Yahweh-Spouse or JesusBridegroom image does not stress sexual differences but intimate, joyful and fruitful
union of all persons; it rests in the psychological complexity of masculine and feminine
genders in everyone, ...44
In reality however, is it possible for divinity and humanity to enter into marriage
relationship the way humans understood it? What Bisschops Ralph said is plausible
here as Israel is not a wife and God is not a husband. 45 This is a very complex
situation based on the circumstances of differences that surround the issue, because,
there is no compatibility here. The cause of the seemingly incompatibility is: the
corporate nature of Israel, and the incorporeality of Yahweh. 46 God is not man who
engages in sexual relationship in marital union. There are observable complexities and
modulations that accompanies the image for instance, God/Jesus Christ as mother and
bridegroom and Israel/church as wife, bride, mother, and so on. The church assumes
the image of mother, virgin and bride. This metaphor appears in pairs of father/mother,
husband/wife, bride/bridegroom and children as sons/daughters. It is clear that speaking
of the church as mother cannot be complete without the bridal aspect. Discussing of the
church as mother accentuates the bridal and virginal images. Both ecclesial images
belong together in the discussion of the church. Literally, there is seemingly paradoxical
mode of progress and development in this regard. Hence, the Church as woman,
whether as girl or bride or wife or mother or widow, is an image rooted in the Old
Testament and finding new life in the new. 47 With these New Testament biblical insights,
we can say that the church as mater is evident in the scriptural archives of the Bible,
which accentuates the notion that, the motherhood of the Church derives from the
whole of New Testament teaching.48
44

Carroll Stuhlmueller, Bridegroom: A Biblical Symbol of Union, not Separation, From Women Priest, Arlene
Swidler and Leonard Swidler, (eds.), Paulist Press 1977, pp. 278-283, cf.
http://www.catherinecollegelibrary.net/classic/stuhlm4.asp. Visited on 31.08.2013.
45

Bisschops, Ralph, Are Religious Metaphors Rooted in Experience? On Ezekiels Wedding Metaphors. In The
Bible Through Metaphor and Translation: A Cognitive Semantic Perspective, Vol. 15, edit, by, Kurt feyaerts.
Religions and Discourse, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2003, pp. 113-1152.
46

Rosalind S. Clarke, Old Testament Theology and Metaphor, A Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the
Requirements for OT 731, Fall Semester, Westminister Theological Seminary, 2007, p.16.
47

Geoffrey, Preston, O. P. op. cit., p. 78.

19

1.2 The Church as Mother in the writings of the Fathers of the Church
Historically, the reference of the church as mother does not appear in the early stage life
of the church. The church as mother made its first appearance in history late second
century. In the apologetic works of the second century there was no mention of such
appellation of the church as mother.49 Delahaye made the same observations and
maintains that in the works of Tertullian: Ad Nationes and Apologeticum and those of
Origen: Contra Celsum and De Principiis 50 the maternal image never appeared in the
discussion about the church. Another source holds that mater ecclesia as title for the
church never appears in the patristic writings until early third century.51 Whatever
happened however, is at certain period in history, the appellation of the maternal image
became frequently used in the discussion of the origin, mission and membership of the
church.
According to Plumpe, the term M (Mother Church) was already in use in
Asia Minor, independent of Scripture citation; at least the full popular personification was
in the air well before the middle of the second century. 52 Even before this image finds
its place within the Christian context it was already in use. Within these era, the image
gained populace among the members of the early Christian communities. The biblical
foundation and relation of the maternity of the church began with the fathers of the
church. Speaking of the place of origin or development of this image of the church,
Plumpe says, while the origin of this figurative usage may owe to the Orient, yet, it
cannot be called typically Oriental or African: it occurs as a commonplace with the
patristic writers everywhere.53 This position could be viewed as a denial of fact. The
symbolic image of the church as mother must have been first originated and developed
within a particular place. Then, from this place spreads out to the point of being a
common concept accepted and generally used. The image was a common metaphorical
vocabulary used by the majority of the patristic fathers in speaking and explaining of the
mystery of the church. Another scholar observes that the mother image used in referring
to the church appears frequently and spontaneity, (indicating) that the practice had
entered the mainstream of tradition well before the close of the second century. 54 We
begin our investigation first by looking at the situation of the church in the early periods.
48

Henri, De Lubac, The Motherhood of The Church, transl, by, Sr. Sergia Englund, O. C. D. San Francisco, 1982, p.
40.
49

Plumpe, C. Joseph, Mater Ecclesia: An Inquiry into the Concept of the Church as Mother in Early Christianity,
edit, by Johannes Quasten, Washington D. C, The University of America Press, 1943, p. 35.
50

Delahaye, K. op. cit., pp. 74 and 116.

51

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 9.6.2014.
52

Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 9.

53

Plumpe, C. Joseph, ibid, p. 47.

54

Miller, Monica Migliorino, Sexuality and Authority in the Catholic Church, University of Scranton Press, New
York, 1995, p. 142.

20

After that, we investigate the development and usage of the maternal image of the
church in history from the patristic fathers through the medieval period to the modern
era.
1.2.1 Christianity in early Century
It is necessary to look briefly on the situation and environment of Christians during the
early century that contributed immensely in the development, usage and understanding
of the church as mother. Beginning with the period of Jesus Christ and his first set of
Apostles, the community experienced persecutions. Born a Jew, Jesus lived when the
Roman empire was the ruling authority of the world. Throughout his life time he worked
many miracles and summed up his teaching to one single doctrine of, the universal
love. This principal value is to guide human beings in two ways of dealing with one
another and in relation to God. His teachings contradicted what the political and
religious leaders of his time hold. This led to his persecution and execution that
culminates to his death on the cross. 55 After his death, fear gripped the Apostles. But his
Resurrection ushered in a new dawn of hope. A beginning that signifies new start in
continuity with the preaching and planting of the Christian faith. A change of attitude on
the part of the Apostles who from the moment of the Pentecost onward became
different. From hiding and fear to becoming courageous, bold and radical evangelizers
in the mission of Christ. However, things were not easy for them. These early followers
experienced like their Master Jesus Christ persecution. For instance, the deacon St.
Stephen's (cf. Acts 6:8) death serves as a signal for the impending persecutions of the
church at Jerusalem. The powerful preacher of the Gentiles Paul as Saul championed
the persecution of the infant church of Christ before his conversion. Emperor Nero in 64
further prepared the atmosphere that led to the persecution of the Roman Christians he
accused of burning the city. By this, he turned the public against the Christians. The
other accusations against Christians include, that they are atheists, because, they
refused to worship the Roman gods and goddesses. They were seen as traitors by
refusing to obey the emperor as a god.56
The ancient era of the church was characterized with persecutions of Christians in
different parts of the then world including the then Africa. But the first question should
be, how did Christianity entered North Africa? In writing about some of the cities of
North Africa then, some Christian historians provide answers to the question. One of the
prominent cities discussed was Carthage. 57 These Scholars hold that after Rome the
city of Carthage is next in areas of population, size and wealth. Yet, there is always
competition for second place between Carthage and Alexandria in Egypt. 58 To discuss
the beginning of Christianity in this region is a difficult one. This is as a result of
obscurity or lack of information. Because of this uncertainty, Christian historians' ideas
55

Donald, F. Logan, A History of the Church in the Middle Ages, London, Routledge, 2002, p. 3.

56

Donald, F. Longan, ibid, p. 8.

57

Warmington, B. Herbert, Carthage, London, Robert Hale, 1960.

58

Herodian, History of the Empire from the time of Marcus Aurelius, transl, by, Whittaker, C. R., LCL, 1970, p.
V11.

21

differ on how and when Christianity appeared in North Africa. According to W. H. C.


Frend, the North Africa Church's origins derive from the Jewish life. 59 This has not in
actual sense provided the answer to the question of how Christianity came into North
Africa. However, his notion might have informed the position of Maureen on this. She
points out that some scholars have suggested Jewish Christians resident in north
Africa or missionaries from Asia minor as progenitors of the tradition. 60
Another theory holds that the first ever Christians in North Africa were probably not
Eastern immigrants (because of the Punic names of the Scillitan martyers) still tells us
nothing about those whom they learnt their faith. Passing Christian traders or soldier
stationed in the province probably played some part. The original impetus probably also
came from Rome.61 Susan Raven asserts that Christianity reached North Africa either
by the eastern or Roman traders who first converted the Jewish seaport, 62 while for
Geoffrey D. Dunn, North Africa Christianity owes its origin to Rome. 63 The possibility that
the church finds its way into North Africa through immigrants is plausible as people
move from one place to another. Again, at different periods, the various parts of North
Africa such as Numidia in 46.B. C. E. and Mauretania by 35 B. C. E. respectively were
under Roman control. And at the close of the Punic war in 146 B. C. E. North Africa
came under the authority of the Roman empire even before the dawn of Christianity. 64
At its early stage, the Christian Church in North Africa became object of both external
and internal hostilities. Externally, her members are imprisoned and executed to death
by the command of the authority of the Emperors through the proconsuls. The early
hostility against the church was sporadic in nature. As the persecution of Christians
gain momentum, 7 March 203 witnessed the execution of Perptua, Felicitas and
companions in the court of the Proconsul Hilarianus. Shortly after the execution of
Perpetua and her friends, another persecution of Christians occurred in Carthage.
However, there were moment of relative peace that lasted at lest a decade during the
period of Proconsul Scapula. After this, a new attack was launched against the
members of the church. From the reigns of Commodus, Septimius Severus and
Caracalla which is the period of thirty years, Christians of the North African Church
witnessed three to four persecutions. In these persecutions, the laity were mainly the
victims as the leadership was largely left untouched. 65 Because of the series of
persecution characteristics which the North African Church experienced, scholars
59

W. H. C. Frend, Jews and Christians in Third Century Carthage, in Town and Country in the Early Christian
Centuries, London, Variorum, reprints in, 1980, XV11. Cf. Bryan, M. Litfin, Getting to know the Church Fathers:
An Evangelical introduction, United States of America, Brazos Press, 2007, p. 279.
60

Tilley, A. Maureen, The Bible in Christian North Africa: The Donatist World, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1997,
p. 19.
61

David, Rankin, Tertullian and the Church, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p.16.

62

Susan, Raven, Rome in Africa, 3ed, edit, New York, Routledge, 1993, p. 151.

63

Geoffrey, D. Dunn, Peter and Paul in Rome: The Perspective of the Church in North Africa, in: Studia
Ephemeridis Augustinianum, no, 72, Rome, Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 2001.
64

Tilley, A. Maureen, ibid.

22

defined this church as the Church of martyrs, 66 while its history is viewed as the history
of martyrdom.67 Thus, this era produced so many martyrs of the church in history.
It is very important to point out that, persecution of the church was not only in North
Africa. Other parts of the world at the early centuries of the church were not exempted
from Christians been persecuted.68 The glance into the history of the church, shows
that persecution has been part of the church. Christians were pesecuted for what they
believe on, and their refusal not to do that which the then Roman authority wanted them
do.69 Though, at this period, the persecution was sporadic as it occured in Rome, next in
Alexandria or Carthage in North Africa and at other time in Smyrna Asia minor. For
instance in Gaul Christians were persecuted. Scholars suggest that in this place, the
leadership of the church were perhaps executed alongside with the members. This
according to some of them differentiates what happened in North African church and
that of the church in Gaul.70
We have seen how the church in general was persecuted by the then ruling authorities.
Notwithstanding, there were internal crisis as a result of different ideas and claims
groups have about the church. This gave birth to the development of tension between
the various groups that make claim over the church. They engaged in issues like: what
is the church, who is with the church, what constitutes the church, what is the true sign
or mark of the church, the unity, which group possessed the Holy Spirit and how to live
christian life. All these issues revolve around the question of identity, origin,
membership, nature and mission that makes the christian church outstanding from other
religions, cultural and social institutions or groups at the early centuries in history. The
early stage of the church in history is thus characterized with tension and crisis. Despite
the seemingly acclaimed relative peace, the church of the late second century through
the third century suffered great heat of pressures emanating either from the hostile
secular Roman authority holders, or from the schismatic and heretical groups from
within. These created a condition for a continual investigation, discussion, definition and
redefinition of the church. It is in these tensed situations and environment that, the
reflections about the maternal image was used in the discussion of the church by the
fathers from the late second century and early third century onward.
1.2.1.1 TERTULLIAN 160-220 AD
Tertullian was born in Carthage, the modern nation Tunisia located at the Mediterranean
coast of North Africa. He was born into a traditional family and became later a convert to
65

David, Rankin, op. cit., pp. 12-14.

66

W. H. C. Frend, op. cit., p. 153

67

David, Rankin, op. cit., p. 10.

68

Cf, Tilley, A. Maureen, op. cit., p. 20.

69

Phinto, Wilson, A brief History of Catholic Church in: www.slideshare.net/phinto/a-brief-history-of-catholicchurch. Visited on 29.05.2013.
70

Cf, David, Rankin, op. cit., p. 14.

23

Christianity at his adult age.71 He was one of the Latin Church Fathers. Tertullian studied
rhetoric and law. During his period, Christianity was seriously affected by false
teachings in the then North Africa. Despite the fact that Christianity flourished in the
ancient period in North Africa, it is unfortunate that at present this part of Africa is
dominated by Islamic Religion. Christians are the minority population. The North African
church of the late second and early third centuries was pervaded by internal tensions as
result of various and different understanding of Christianity originating from different
sects. Externally, the church and its members suffered persecutions from the local
authorities. Tertullian defended the church from the followings: Gnostic, Marcionites,
Monarchians, Jews, Pagans, Greek philosophers and carnal formalistic Christians. 72
His theological works recorded huge success in defending the faith.
The church he worked in and for could be best described as a church besieged with
crisis from controversy in North Africa. Tertullian saw the need for continual efforts to
discuss the nature of the church and its membership. Historically, scholars attest to the
fact that before the end of the second century both in the West and East that there is
no evidence of a clearly defined ecclesiology. That is, there was no coherent and
comprehensive doctrine of the church. This suggests that, before the end of second
century period, the existence and nature of the church were taken for granted. No
Christian writer before Tertullian paid attention to issue like the essential signs of the
church.73 Despite his contributions, Tertullian was seen as a schismatic and an
unreliable contributor to theological debate in any forum. Others even denied him
significant patristic statues and so on. 74 It is because of this denial, that led scholars into
recent investigations in the works of Tertullian.
1.2.1.2 Tertullian's understanding of the Church as Mother
Tertullian used many ecclesiological images in his discussion about the doctrine of the
church.75 One of such images is the maternal image. For Tertullian, the true signs of the
church are apostolicity, holiness and unity.76 The image of the church as mother played
significant role in his demonstration of the nature of the church and explanation on how
human beings become members of the church. In order to understand the usage of this
image by Tertullian, therefore, we resort to some of his works. Plumpe C. Joseph 77 and
David Rankin78 identified that before Tertullian, the understanding of the church as
71

Encyclopedia Britannica, Tertullian, Christian Theologian.


www.britannica.com/6Bchecked/topic/588511/Tertullian. Visited on 3. O6. 2013.
72

www.nolittlepeople.com/2011/12/the-life-of-Tertullian.html. Visited on 1. O6.2013.

73

David, Rankin, op. cit., p. 1

74

David, Rankin, ibid, p. 5.

75

David, Rankin, ibid, p. 65ff.

76

Osborn, Eric, Tertullian, the First theologian of the west, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press p. 177ff.

77

Plumpe, C. Josephe, op. cit., p.

78

David, Rankin, op. cit., p. 80.

24

mother was already in circulation. All the same, the usage by Tertullian varies from one
contextual situation to another. It was in one of these situations for example in his
catechetical writings that the Mater Ecclesia is introduced..., during which years he was
occupied as a catechist of catechumens at Carthage. 79 The first converts to Catholic
faith during the early periods were mainly adults. These were catechized on the faith
and doctrine of the church. After some periods of time, they receive the sacrament of
initiations: baptism and the Eucharist. 80 In him therefore, the mother church
demonstrate her maternal quality through catechetical instructions. Being there for the
catechumens to guide, to educate and to instruct them on the Christian way of life they
are about to embrase.
In De Baptismo81 (the baptism ca. 200) reveals interesting information on what
Tertullian means when he refers to the church as mother. The phrase when you rise
from that most holy birth signifies immersion always done in a river or stream. It is a
process one undergoes in the act of new birth in the early centuries of the church.
Presently, this is replaced by pouring the neophytes the water of baptism on the
forehead at baptismal font. Again, there is fundamental movement from outside to inside
the church. One is to understand that, the mother church accompanies the
catechumens outside and leads them back into the house. This movement from outside
to inside can be seen from two perspectives. From outside (the place of baptism) the
newly baptized moved in the church to meet with the other members. The second
movement is the most fundamental action of immersion under the water to rise or come
up cum de illo sanctissimo lavacro novi natalis entails what happens internally. It is a
movement away from what used to be to a new beginning. That is, a change from old
ways of life to a new life in Christ. This signifies the act of rebirth of every involved
person(s) into an eternal life with the Trinitarian God and the mother church. The entire
movement signifies the death, burial and resurrection of one in and with that of Christ. It
is an invitation to share and participate after the spiritual birth of one in the activities of
the church and the life of Christ.
The movement is spiritual and physical leading to a necessary change in life, new level
of relationship of the person(s) to God the Father, the church as mother. To this new
relationship towards God and the church, David Rankin observes that we are moving
closer to a point when the acknowledgment of the church as mother becomes
prerequisite for that of God as father, and acceptance of the later becomes somewhat
dependent on that by the former. 82 This is evident in Tertullians de baptismo petite de
79

Plumpe C. Joseph, op. cit., p.45.

80

This mark their acceptance as members of the church. To achieve this, they participate in a catechumenate
programms structured in such a way to instruct them about the belief, the practice, the prayer, and the Christian life
of the Catholic church they are about to embrace. In this circumstance, Tertullian was a catechist; that is, a teacher or
educator of the Christian faith, doctrine and tradition of the Church.
81

De, Bapt. 20. (CSEL 1. 5-10. 218): Igitur benedicti quos gratia dei expectat, cum de illo sanctissimo Lauacro
noui natalis ascenditis et primas manus apud matrem cum fratribus aperitis, petite de patre, petite de domino peculia
gratiae distributiones charismatum subiacere.
82

Rankin, David, op. cit., p. 81.

25

patre. Tertullian identified the church as the apud Matrem (in the house of your mother)
and not of the father. But in the mothers house the fathers presence is felt. He is
prayed to, honored and respected with other members in the mother's house. There are
series of arguments concerning the word, apud. Apud is a Latin preposition with many
meanings such as at the house of, by, near, in the presence and among. 83 There are
many translations to this term. Besnard translates apud in relation to Mater to mean
(bey) bei der Mutter84 meaning with Mother. As a result of this, scholars argue that the
catechumens relationship to the mother is more of associative. For one of these
scholars, apud is not to be seen as in domo matris but interpreted relationally as
nearness in respect of persons. They based their argument on the fact that Tertullian
never in any way connects the baptismal front to the motherhood of the church. 85 David
J.G based his argument on the ground of lack of literary or architectural evidence that
suggests baptisteries.86
The people that receive the new birth are often led to the place and after escorted to
apud Matrem. Thus, when used alongside with personal pronouns or names of persons
it means in the home of a person. This is the sense plumpe sees it to mean in the house
of the mother87 which is in line with its Latin definition. This means more of belonging. It
signifies that in this house the person is born. If considered with the translation of
Besnard of with mother it suggests more of association. This is paramount to argue
that baptism is an association rather than a rebirth. The Latin definition of in your
mothers house indicates more of birth by the mother church. However, it is possible
also that one can become a child of this mother by association. Deductively, the
motherhood of the church can be possibly expressed by birth and by association. We
have then, memberships by birth and association to the mother church. Tertullian with
the introduction of the conept, apud Matrem demonstrates the nature of human relation
to the mother church. A mother-child type relationship through birth on one hand. While
on the other hand, it depicts a mother-child relation through association. Implicitly, the
mother church is open to all. As a mother, the church does not close her house against
any body. Some of her major maternal characteristics clearly portrayed so far are those
of giving birth and education.
In his work on De Oratione88, mater ecclesia occurred once again in his bid to explain to
the catechumens the Lords Prayer. But one thing that is not clear was his omission of
the Third Person of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit). Normally, in the context of our Lords
Prayer, the mentioning of the mother is much unheard off. Is Tertullian placing the Holy
83

www.Latin.dictionary.net/definition/4302/apud. Visited on 13.06.2014. cf. Short, Lewis, Dictionary, s.v. apud.

84

Q, Sept. Flor. Tertullians smtliche Schriften bersetzt und beareitet 2, Augusburg, 1839, p.19.

85

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendit-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 09.06.2014.
86

David J.G, The Architectural setting of baptism, London, Barrie and Rockliff, 1962, p.1ff.

87

Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 52ff.

88

Orat. 20. (CSEL 1, 2-9. 182), Item in Patre Filius invocatur. Ego enim, inquit, et Pater unum sumus. Ne
Mater quidem Ecclesia praeteritur. Siquidem in Filio et patre mater recognscitur, de qua constat et patris et filii
nomen.

26

Spirit and the church he identified as Mother at equal level in the Trinitarian family? Or is
the omission an oversight? It seems that what Tertullian puts across here supports the
obvious and the natural knowedge common to us. It is a well known fact that there is no
way a child can come into existence without the father and the mother. So it is from his
perspective, that for our spiritual birth to be realistic God the Father and the mother
church are involved. By baptism the mother church begets children she presents to God
whom they invoke in the Lord's prayer as Father. With her children they formed a
praying community that participates in the process of human salvation an effective
symbol of unification. This unity has its origin and meaning in the Trinitarian God and
experienced by the human beings. The mother church plays central role in the mission
of unity in the world. This we shall encounter with Cyprian through the famous dictum of
one cannot have God as Father without having the church as mother.
Therefore, to speak of the Father and the Son implies reference to the Mother. Plumpe
understands it as a remainder to the newly baptized, that in faith they have a loving
divine father so also a kindly mother who is involved and cooperates in their praying to
their father; and this, the Churchs motherhood... 89 The motherhood of the church has
its meaning in relation to God who is the Father.90 We see the church of Tertullian as a
participating mother. It delineates then, that the mother church cares and intercedes
with love for her children through spiritual activities. A very important contribution of
Tertulian's position in this modern time is clear. It teaches about the basic structure of
the family made of: father, mother and child in a constant filial child-parental
relationship. Hence, both God the Father and Church the Mother are the spiritual
parents of the people of God and the entire human persons of the world. This structure
contradicts the recent man made or politically invented marriage and family (same-sex
union) that is invoke in the world today.
Tertullian in De Anima91 based his arguments on the Genesis creation of man and
woman, and the Gospel on the death of Jesus Christ to prove the origin of the mother
church. He demonstrated the relationship between Eva and the church, Adam and
Jesus Christ, the sleep of Adam and the death of Jesus Christ. The death of Christ on
the cross gave birth to the true mother of the living, the church. The fathers of the
Second Vatican council hold the same opinion of the birth of the church through the
death of Jesus on the cross.92 Tertullian sees Eve as mother of death and the church as
mother of life. As Adam was the husband of Eve, so Jesus Christ is the bridegroom of
the church her bride and mother of the christians. The pair of Adam and Eve, Jesus and
the church signify two aspect of the church's existence: physical and divine. The
structure of marriage built on man and woman is further highlighted here. More
significantly, saying that the death of Christ on the cross gave birth to mother church
89

Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 51.

90

Cf. David Rankin in page 60 above.

91

De Anima, 20. (CSEL 1.43. 1-5. 372), Si enim Adam de Christo figuram dabat, somnus Adae mors erat Christi
dormituri in mortem, ut iniuria perinde lateris eius vera mater viuentium figuraretur ecclesia.
92

LG. No. 3.

27

signify another model image of the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. The
similarities between the mother church and Eve are clear.93
In Ad Martyras94 he addressed the church as Domina Mater Ecclesia. The phrase brings
to fore two images of the church as: Lady and Mother. The Latin word Domina in Greek
means signifies dignity of great respect for the Church. When used in the family
by children in addressing their parents; it signifies reverence to affection. 95 Dlger, F.J.
translates it to mean Elect Lady. It is a polite or respectful manner of addressing and
speaking to somebody.96 Tertullian sees the material assistance rendered by the
members of the christian community to the benedicti martyres (blessed martyes) as an
expression of the maternity of the church. The pastoral action of the members of the
church reflects the motherhood of the church. From this point of view, we argue that
Tertullian has in view the idea that individually, each is a mother as the person
participates in the pastoral mission of the mother church through caregiving towards the
others in needs. This conclusion is evident in the above text of singuli fratres. Hence,
the motherhood of the church is synonymous with the collective and individual pastoral
actions engaged by the member and members of the church.
The church therefore, is presented in her caring for the material need carnis alimenta of
the persecuted in the prison. Thus, the maternity of the church in this context expresses
is the caring nature of her children in a motherly way. That is the church on earth and
not the abstract church. But this is not a complete aspect of her maternal assistance.
Tertullian himself sees the need of the other side of the mother quality of the church, the
spiritual subsistence faciat ad spiritum quoque educandum. These two aspects
delineate one reality role of the mother church. The actions of the singuli fratres and that
of the bishop signify the motherhood of the church. Here we see in Tertullian a
highlighted unity in mission activity rendered by the Christian community in Carthage.
Despite what we have said, it seems that the services are directed only to the members
of the church in need. The scope of the maternal role of the church by Tertullian is
limited and leads one to question if it is only the members of the Christians community
in prison that are in need of both the material and spiritual attendance of the church?
However, the church expresses her maternal roles in the concrete human life situation
of the people. She is involved in the situational predicaments of the people. This attitude
93

The first mother of all human beings Eve came through the opened side of Adam and was seen as the mother of
death. The second mother was formed from the open side wound of Christ and understood as the mother of the
living. He sees the maternity of the church prefigured in the Old Testament in the metaphorical person of Eve. This
is a shift from Paulines abstract prefiguration of Jerusalem above as our mother. The second mother, the church has
the mission to fulfill and realize that, which the first mother Eve could not achieve. The church functions in the
salvific mission to restor both man and woman as their spiritual mother and spouse of Christ the new Adam who is
the origin and sustenance of her existence.
94

Ad, Martyras 76.(CSEL IV.1-5.1), Inter carnis alimenta, benedicti martyres designati, quae vobis et Domina
Mater Ecclesia de uberibus suis et singuli fratres de opibus suis in carcerem subminitrant, capite aliquid et a nobis
quod faciat ad spiritum quoque educandum.
95

Plumpe, C. Josephe, op. cit., p.46.

96

Dlger F.C Domina Mater Ecclesia und die Herrin im Zweiten Johannesbrief, AChr 5, 1936, p. 211ff.

28

of actions strengthens the community innwardly. With the title Domina, suggests that the
mother church is not only a church in her children, but also a strong Lady with them.97
Reacting to the heresy98 of his period Tertullian once more resorted to the image of the
church as mother to argue that heretics have no mother, which implies living without
church. Since they are not with the one mother church, they have lost the membership
of birth and association as such not in proper stand and unity with the mother church.
The mater ecclesia development of Tertullian left us with the understanding that the
mother church gives birth. This birth could be understood in two forms of: maternal birth
and association. As a mater of conforming what scholars said, he was, the first of the
Fathers of the church to make a necessary connection between the motherhood of
church and the Fatherhood of God. This is one of the major contributions of Tertullian in
the development of the doctrine of mater ecclesia of his time. Most scholars attested to
this and maintain that his doctrine of the mother church is a high ecclesiology. 99 This
influenced Cyprian in the formulation of the famous dictum attributed to him. However,
there was scriptural influence on his notion of the church as mother seen in his
typological reference of the biblical persons. The church Tertullian describes as mother
is the earthly church. This mother church he locates in the individuals and collective
pastoral assistance rendered by the community of the believers. In his demonstrations
of who is a true member of the church and who belong to God, Tertullian resorted to the
maternal image.
Observably, Tertullian never formulated Mary-Church ecclesiology. That is, he did not
see the motherhood of the church through the motherhood of Mary. Perhaps, he never
intended such formulation or conclusion. On his argument against Marcion 100, he
highlighted the issue of mans loneliness, the sex gender of both Mary and the church
and what these mean for man. The creation idea is recounted to highlight the place of
Mary and the mother church in Gods mission of bringing blessings to human beings.
The much he offered in this regard was to show that both the mother church and Mary
share the same female quality of being woman and mother. The significant of this, is
that it will form the basis of the development of Marian ecclesiology for other Fathers of
the church after him. In future this will be further developed by theologians and
ecclesiologists to show the link between Mary and the church.
1.2.2 ORIGEN 182-254 AD
Origen was born in Alexandria and educated at the famous Alexandrian catechetical
school. He was a pupil of St. Clement of Alexandria and later appointed the head leader
97

Stefan Ackmann, op. cit., p. 31.

98

Praescr. Haer. (CCSL I. 19-23. 222), Denique penitus inspectae haereses omnes in multis cum auctoribus suis
dissentiementes deprehendunter. Plerique nec ecclesias habent, sine matre, sine sede, orbi fide, extorres quasi sibilati
uagantur.
99

David, Rankin, op. cit., pp. 80/83.

100

Marc. (CCSL 1. 18-20. 479), Non est enim inquit, bonum solum esse hominem, Sciebat illi sexum Mariae et
deinceps ecclesiae profuturum.

29

of the catechetical school by his bishop, Demetrius in 204. As a brilliant teacher, he


participated in series of theological disputations. In one of his travel to Caesarea in 230,
Origen became ordained. This negatively affected his relationship with his bishop. 101 His
work on the Church is in scattered form. It is from these fragmented works that we begin
to gather together his idea of the Church as mother.
1.2.2.1 Origen's understanding of the Church as Mother
For Origen, the Church preexisted. This means that the church existed before its
historical founding on earth. He maintains that the church existed from the time man
was created and even before.102 The first encounter with such an idea raise
fundamental question of in what form did this church existed. What was it called in its
preexistence period? These questions are very important since no human being can
read the mind of God. In this position, two things are involved. Firstly, he placed the
origin of the church outside history. Secondly, he located this origin also within history.
He brought two aspects of history into play: ontological and physical. Historically, the
church was developed after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Perhaps, Origen
means that the origin of the church goes back to God and was founded by Christ. If so,
he belongs to the group of theologians and scholars that traced the origin of the church
to the historical Jesus Christ. The church was with God before its incarnation in history,
in what one may regard as pre-eminence. That is, an idea in the mind of God that was
later made manifest through Jesus Christ. By this, Origen is simply saying that, in Gods
plan and design, the church was there even before creation. 103 The mother church has
a place in the plan of God prior to her coming into existence in the world.
The timeless church became founded in space to begin her salvific mission in the world.
This church he symbolical presented as heavenly and earthly mother. In this, we
discover the influence of the Apostle Paul on his position about the heavenly Jerusalem
as mother. However the influence, Origen made advancement to maintain that the
heavenly Jerusalem is not only the mother of the faithful, but also the mother of the Lord
and the angels. Ledegang goes on to identified the Jerusalem as the beginning and
final end of human beings. For one to get there, he or she is to train himself or herself in
the practices of the churchs faith and way of life. Which Paul calls the cultivation of
Gods field (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9). 104 Just like his contemporaries, the scripture appealed to
Origen and he used it so strong in his theology of the church. The heavenly mother
church according to Origen is the church in her original state. It is a church without spot,
a church that is immaculate and without wrinkles. In his exegesis on psalms 44.10, he
101

Origen, The Classics of Western Spirituality: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, transl,
by Rowan, A Gereer et al, Paulist Press, 1988, pp3-4ff.
102

In Cant. Cant. Lib. 2: GCS Orig. 8. 157. 13-16 Baehrens.

103

Alois Mller, Ecclesia-Marias: Die Einheit Marias und Der Kirche, zweite, berarbeitete auflage, Schweiz,
Universittsverlag Freiburg, 1955, p.110: ... da die kirche in allen Gerechten seit Adam, ja sogar schon vor
Erschaffung der welt dar war....
104

Ledegang, F. Mysterium Ecclesiae: Images of the Church and its Members in Origen, Leuven, University Press,
2001, p.203.

30

calls the Queen-Church-a mother: The Queen, mother of the daughters (of kings),
stood on the right handthe Catholic Church. It would be more precise if one were to
explain that she is the Celestial one, who is the Mother of the saints on earth; as Paul
says: The Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is our mother. Certainly, she is the
perfect Spouse of Christ; and you will not be in error, if you call the Church that is on
earth, her daughter.105 We received from Origen: the heavenly church and earthly
church. The idea of his heavenly church stems from Pauline influence of the heavenly
Jerusalem he called our mother (cf. Gal 4:26).
In his commentary on the books of numbers and Psalms, Origen sees the earthly
church as mother. You sit there, slandering your own brother, you maligen your own
mothers son. (cf. Ps. 50:21). In his homily on Psalms 50: 21, Origen sees the mother
in the text as our mother the church.106 Despite the position of Origen with regard to the
earthly mother church, Plumpe was of the opinion that he made effort to represent her,
in a visual or pictorial form. That is, the Church in the world by sentiments of joy and
pains owing to our conduct. These qualities of joy, pains, and continuous labour of the
mother Church, shows how Origen moved from his formal invisible mother church to
that of the visible one. Being in constant pains of labour entails that the Churchs role
and function as mother does not end with giving birth through baptism. The church
accompanies not only the Christians, but also, the entire human beings through lives
situations. To the Christians, this is achieved through and with the sacraments to the
point of death and thereafter. The churchs maternity is a continuous one. On a similar
note, Jrgensmeier says, Wie St. Paulus leidet die Kirche, die Mutter der mystischen
Glieder Christi, Geburtswehen um ihre Kinder, um sie immer von neuem zu gebren fr
Christus.107 Christians are always in the womb of the mother church. In this womb they
gradually develop and grow towards maturity in virtue. This is a long process that leads
to the parturition of Christians and culminates in their attaining of the incorruptible state
of life in Christ.
Another important idea in the passage is the place of the Holy Spirit. It is through the
Holy Spirit that the Father takes the church as a Spouse. And through the same Holy
Spirit the Church begets children. This in a sense that every moment the sacrament of
baptism is celebrated the Holy Spirit is invoked over the baptismal water. This brings
about the fecundity that leads to the spiritual birth of Christians. The same Spirit
invigorates with pure and fertile seed of life: the virtue and sound doctrinal teachings
of the Mother. For this seed of life implanted by the Holy Spirit to yield its fruits
abundantly presupposes collaborate effort among the members of the church is geared
towards reminding and constantly teaching one another until they acquire virtue(s). The
efforts reach the expected maturity in the present and prepare Christians for a fulfilled
future. According to Proverbs 1:8; it is the fathers function to instruct his children, while
the mother teaches them. If they listen they will imbibe virtues that will be of great help
105

This translation is from Plumpe, Joseph C, Mater Ecclesia an Inquiry into the Concept of the Church as Mother in
Early Christianity, Washington, D. C. 1943, p, 73-74.
106

Ps. Cat. 49(50),21 (Cadiou 81).

107

Jrgensmeier F. Der mystische Leib Christi, Paderborn, 1936, p. 305.

31

to them in life. Origen sees it differently. For him, the words that we hearken to, is the
Scripture; the Mothers, the unwritten tradition of the Church: like fasting on Fridays and
similar things.... It is also possible to refer this to fathers in the natural order, or of the
spiritual teachers, for the church is their mother too. 108 The church first nourishes with
food that are not strong. What she does at this stage could be liken to what mothers do
when they feed their tender children.
The mother church is depicted as one who nourishes. The mother church does this by
the preaching of the Word. Another motherly function of the church obvious in the above
is her teaching role through her teachers in the persons of the magisterium. Even
though this is not called the magisterium, it is rather assumed, the spiritual teachers.
However, this motherly role of the church includes many catechetical instructors and
others who help in the spiritual and doctrinal education in the Christian community.
Through these double functions the mother church feeds the faith of her children. He
used many other personifications to describe the image of the church as mother. In
defining the Ecclesia as the assembly of all the saints, Origen adds: Haec ergo ecclesia
sit quasi omnium una persona,109 as sponsa, who identifies herself thus: Ego Ecclesia,
ego Sponsa, ego sine macula, plurimarum custos sum posita vinearum,110 as Mulier,
Ecclesia gentium.111
1.2.3 CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE 248-258 AD
Cyprian was born in Carthage the present day Tunisia in North Africa. He was converted
to Christianity as adult, baptized about 246, ordained priest and elected bishop of
Carthage in 248 or 249. He lived in the time of great persecutions of the Church in North
Africa and Rome. The society became empty of spirituality as there was excess quest
for worldliness, material gain and scandals even among the bishops. This is equivalent
to what the present world is passing through of which the church is not exempted from.
Materialism has become the order of the day in the cultures and institutions of the world.
He struggled with very difficult situations of his period. There was external persecution
by the then Emperor Decius (250-251) in 249. The promulgation of the emperor
demands that people pour libations, perform sacrifice to the gods and eat the sacrificial
victim.112 He witnessed another period of Christian persecution under the reign of
Emperor Valerian (256-258). After the death of Tertullian, Cyprian lived about a
108

Frag. In Prov. (PG 17. V. 8. 158 ), Patris quidem leges audiums, Scripturae nempe: matris vero, non scriptas
traditiones Ecclesiae; cujusmodi est jejunare sextis feriis, et alia hujusmodi. Unde dicit: Noli omnia a lilleris audire.
Licet et naturales intelligere patres, vel intelligere spirituales doctores. Horum est enim mater Ecclesia. cf. also,
Plumpe, C. Joseph, Mater Ecclesia an Inquiry into the Concept of the Church as Mother in Early Christianity,
Washington, D. C. 1943, p, 79.
109

In cant. cant. lib. 1: GCS Orig. 8. 90. 5 f. Baehrens.

110

In hom. 1. 7: 39. 5 f. Baehrens, in Plumpe, Joseph C, Mater Ecclesia an Inquiry into the Concept of the Church as
Mother in Early Christianity, Washington, D. C. 1943, p. 73.
111

In ludic.hom. 5.6: GCS Orig. 7. 497. 17 Baehrens, in Plumpe, Joseph C, Mater Ecclesia an Inquiry into the
Concept of the Church as Mother in Early Christianity, Washington, D. C. 1943, p. 73.
112

Knipfing, R. John, The Lieblli of the Decian Persecution, in: HTR 16, no. 4, 1923, p.345ff.

32

generation.113 During his era, the Roman government used force on the Christians to
achieve their aim. Despite the hard measures, some members of the Christian
community stood for their faith and resisted the sacrifice. As a repercussion to that, they
faced the consequence of going into exile, relegatio. The aftermath was dispossessing
of property, confiscatio114 thus, making life difficult for the people. It is in this situation
that most members of Christian community suffered unjust imprisonment, exile and
painful execution. Some Christian members who are not strong enough with the faith
participated in the sacrifice. However, some wealthy Christians among them secretly
bribed the government officials who bought the certificates (libelli) for them, their family
members and others.
The bishop also went into exile and from there reached his community and other
bishops in Africa and Rome through letter writings and correspondence. Plumpe 115 and
some other scholars see the bishops exile as a self-imposed one. There were internal
conflicts from the laxists group that elected Fortunatus as their bishop, the rigorists
group led by Novatian of Rome and the rebaptism controversy. The bishop was faced
with these pastoral issues and how to reconcile the lapsed ones with the church. It is in
the mist of these conditions that his notion of the mater ecclesia image plays central role
in his theology of ecclesiology in other to maintain the purity and unity of the church. He
sees both as the most essential nature of the church. But before Cyprian appeared on
the scene at about middle of third century, there was already a process of development
in ecclesiology,116 and the image of the church as mother was also in circulation.
1.2.3.1 Mater Ecclesia in Cyprians Work
Just like his predecessors, Cyprian used the image title of Mater recurrently in his
doctrine of the church. He refers to the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the
church with earnestness and directness of appeal and a frequency that is not surpassed
by any other writer among the Fathers. In one of his writings, Cyprian said that the
Church speaks to her subjects as Mater or Mater Ecclesia. 117 The terms he uses
frequently to express the same idea is either Mater, or Mater Ecclesia. He
interchangeably used the word and phrase to illustrate the meaning and role of the
church in an effort to solve internal and external polemics that threaten the church of his
era. What does it mean to speak to her subjects as Mater (mother) or Mater Ecclesia
(mother Church). He associates the maternity of the church with his local Christian
community at Carthage. In this community, there is high level of laity involvement in the
activities of the church. The lay faithful are involved in the election of bishop,
appointment of clergy, rejection of unworthy bishop and joint actions in defending the
community (the church). Despite the involvement of the laity in the church, the
113

Tilley, A. Maureen, op. Cit., p. 28.

114

Clarke, G. W, Double-Trial in the Persecution of Decius, in Historia 22, no.4, 1973, p. 663ff.

115

Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 86.

116

David, Rankin, op. Cit., p. 1.

117

Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p.81.

33

hierarchical nature of the church is evident. The bishops duties include: appointment
and regulation of the clergy. He presides over the religious life of the community, which
includes the Eucharist, lying of hand during baptism and repentance. Also, he controls
the common funds.118 The activity of the church he sees as mother belongs to all, the
laity and the bishop.
His first identification of the church as Mater Ecclesia (Mother Church) was in his work
on the virgins written around 250. 119 The virgins and martyes are recognized, respected
and celebrated as heroes in the church. They are models for the members of the
Christian community to emulate in bearing witness to their christian faith. Returning
back to the Virgins120 Cyprian demonstrates how strong the effect of the actions (good
and bad) of the virgins are on the church. He sees the immodesty of the virgins as a fall
in discipline.121 This affects not only them but also the mother church. In his Christian
exhortation to the faith during persecution of his time he says, I gladly rejoice and am
thankful, most brave and blessed brethren, at hearing of your faith and virtue, wherein
the Church, our Mother, glories.122 Actions of the members of the Christian community
speak of the glorious fruitfulness of mother church. From every indication, it seems that
Cyprian predicated the integrity of the church on the purity of the members. The church
he sees as mother belongs to all including himself the bishop. At this, his idea
synchronizes with Tertullian discussed in Ad Martyras.
In another work of his titled, De Lapsed written about 251 centered on how to achieve
reconciliation of the lapsed members of the Church. We find another expression of the
church as mother. Thus; with what joy in her breast does Mother Church receive you
back from the fray! How blessed, how happy she is to open her gates for you to enter
as, in closed ranks, you bear the trophies of the vanquished foe. 123 The mother church
describes in this passage could be understood from two different perspectives. This
could be the mother Church on earth who in happiness receives those who left her back
to the household. This may be attributed to the heavenly mother church who, with joy
118

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendit-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 09.06.2014.
119

Plumpe,C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 82.

120

Habitu. (CSEL 3.1. 15-18. 189) Gaudet per illas adque in ills largiter floret ecclesiae matrix gloriosa fecunditas,
quanto que plus copiosa virginitas numero suo addit, gaudium matris augescit.
121

Habitu. (CSEL 3.1.16-18. 201) sic flos virginum extinguitur, honor continentiae ac pudor caeditur, gloria omnis
ac dignitas profanatur.
122

Epist. (CSEL. 3. 11.1.490) Exulto laetus et gratulor, fortissimo ac beatissimi fraters, congnita fide et uirtute
uestra, in quibus Mater Ecclesia gloriatur. Cf, also, The Writings of the Fathers Down to A. D. 325: Ante-Nicene
Fathers, edit, by. Alexander Roberts, D. D and James Donaldson, LL.D. Vol. 5, United States of America, Fourth
printing 2004, p. 287.
123

De Lap. 2. (CCSL 3.2.31-34. 238): Quam uos laeto sinu excipit mater ecclesia de proelio reuertentes. Quam
beata, quam qeudens portas suas aperit, ut adunatis agminibus intretis de hoste prostrate tropaea referents. Cum
triumphantibus uiris et feminae ueniunt quae cum saeculo sexum quogue uicerunt. Cf. Also, Cyprian, The Lapsed,
The Unity of The Catholic Church, Ancient Christian Writers, transl, by, Maurice Bevenot, S.J. New York, No 25, p.
14.

34

welcomes her children that triumphed over the menace of the devil in the world, by
standing firm to their faith. Cyprian's notion of the mother church in this context is a
closed structure and thus separated from the world. Consequent to this, the lapsed lose
the protection and life-giving nourishment of the mother church. However, we argue that
the mother church is not the one who closed herself against them. Rather, they are the
ones who separated themselves from the mother by the choice they made. In other to
express the gravity of the offense further, Cyprian was of the opinion that children
sacrificed without their consents, will rise against their parents for having denied them
the opportunity for the church to be their mother and God their father.124
The virtue and vices of the separated is equated by Cyprian with joy and agony
experiences of the mother church. This he made clearer in the epistle. 125 The fathers
reason alike on the fillings of the mother church. The mother church fills grief and joy as
result of Christians ways of life. It entails then, that, the mother church described
expresses emotions of grief, joy and happiness. This contrast the notion that the church
is an erected building. The church discussed deals with human persons. In fact, the
mother church is a person (and persons). This explains the anthropological and
psychological nature of the church. The church shows concern and cares towards
human beings. Thus, the integrity, honor, respect and hatred given to the church
depends on the actions and behaviors of the members. The church remains what she is
irrespective of human actions.
As Emperor Decians persecution intensified, many members of the Carthage Christian
community apostatized. The effect of the persecution gave rise to the development of
different process or movements that threatens the unity of the church. Cyprial of
Carthage tried to reuniting those who apostatized back to the church gave birth to
different methods to do this. For examples, some presbyters took authority on their own
on this issue. While others grant full communion base on letters of recommendation
from confessors in prison. Some see the letters as guarantee of forgiveness. When the
bishop returned at the end of the persecution, he was faced with the problem of how to
readmit the lapsi to full communion in the church. 126 Because of this, we are going to
encounter his mater ecclesia from another perspective as it affects Cyprians
understanding and application of the church as mother. In one of his Epistles 127 we see
the enormous work Cyprian ascribed to himself as bishop such as attending to the
petitions and requests of the libelli martyrum instead of the confessors. The confessors
are to wait for a right time he sees as the return of peace. For him, ante est ut a domino
pacem mater prior sumat, tunc secundum uestra desideria de filiorum pace tractetur,
(the mother church is first and foremost to receive peace from God before that of her
124

Lap. 9 (CSEL 3.1. 243): parents sensimus parricidas: illi nobis ecclesiam matrem, illi patrem deum negauerunt.

125

Epist. (CSEL 3.11.494) ut lacrimas matris ecclesia quae plangit ruinas et funera plurimorum uos uestra laetitia
tergeatis et ceterorum quoque atantium firmitatem uestri exempli prouocatione solidetis.
126

Tilley, A. Maureen, op. cit., p. 28.

127

Epist. (CCSL 3B.515. 87) petitiones et desideria uestra episcopo seruent, ad pacem uobis petentibus dandam
maturum et pacatum tempus expectant. Ante est ut a domino pacem mater prior sumat, tunc secundum uestra
desideria de filiorum pace tractetur.

35

sons). Thus, the return of the bishop is viewed as return of peace to the mother church.
This is a shift from his initial position and idea that the community is the mother church.
From this moment and perspective, he identifies the episcopate as the church, and as
such the mother.
Speaking on the unity of the catholic church, ecclesiae catholicae unitate written on 251.
Cyprian resort once more to the idea of the motherhood of the church. For him, the true
unity of the Church is found in its relationship to the bishop. He maintains that the unity
of the whole Church is maintained by close union of the bishops who are glued to one
another. What peter is, is what the bishops are. The Roman Church is the womb and
root.128 One problem with his position is that, Cyprian reduced the Church to mean the
bishops. At this point his understanding of the church as mother changed from the laity
and their local bishop to the universality of bishops as mater ecclesia. This falters his
quest for unity. It rather divides the church in two parts of: laity and bishops. This
ecclesiological understanding of the church of the 3rd century by Cyprian has received
new dimension and elaboration in recent times. The church is no longer seen only as
the bishops. According to the document of the Second Vatican Council, the church is
the bishops and the laity. There is a gradual process of development by Cyprian away
from the idea that the laity and their bishop is the mother church, to a more restricted
motherhood of the church to be only the local bishop of Carthage in the person of
Cyprian, to the universal college of bishops.
In ecclesiae catholicae unitate the mother image of the church received further a new
understanding of expansion as it retains its restriction. Its expansion nature is in the
sense that the image extends to that of universal church as mother. While its restricted
feature lies in the sense that the maternity of the church reside with the bishops alone.
We can say that Cyprian here argues for the solidification of the position and authority
of the bishops over the laity with his reference to Peter. He ends up developing the
collegiality of the bishops that is effective in the church even today. He equates the roles
of the bishops with that of the mother church. Thus, despite his new position, we can
say that, in the bishops the church functions in her authority as Peter and as a mother.
So, even in her hierarchy the church is still a mother. To illustrate the unity of the church
more clearly Cyprian identified the church as mother. Within this context, we encounter
Cyprians description of the church thus:
So too our Lords church is radiant with light and pours her rays over the
whole world; but it is one and the same light which is spread everywhere,
and the unity of her body suffers no division. She spreads her branches in
generous growth over all the earth, she extends her abundant streams even
further; yet one is the head-spring, one the source, one the mother who is
prolific in her offspring, generation after generation: of her womb are we born,
of her milk are we fed, of her Spirit our souls draw their life-breath. 129
One of the implications then, is that the church is a mother who calls together all her
children into the one divine unity of the triune God. 130
128

www.newadvent.org/cathen/04583b.htm. cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Cyprian, Visited on 14. 06. 2013.

36

While treating the controversy of rebaptism of the heretics spearheaded by Stephen we


discover two types of the mother image of the church. Here Cyprian makes a clear
differentiation between what he regarded as the true mother church and the false
mother. He identifies that the true mother church is the Catholic Church. While anything
outside Catholic Church he termed false mother. This supports his earlier position in his
work on the unity of the Catholic Church, that there is only one mother, which implies
also one God and one baptism. On this controversy, Cyprian maintains that those
baptized in the mother church before becoming heretics received true spiritual birth.
What these group need is only reconciliation with the church by lying on of hand to
facilitate their return to the true and loving mother. 131 On the other hand, those of them
who are not initially baptized in the true mother church are to receive baptism from her.
She (the mother church) is the only one that can administer valid baptism required for
salvation. In his later expression, Cyprian goes on to say that .Habere non potest
Deum patrem qui Ecclessiam non habet matrem.132
129

Cyprian, De. Eccl. Unit, (CSEL. 3. 1. 13-16. 214) unum tamen caput est et origo una et mater fecunditatis
successibus copiosa: illus fetu nascimur, illus lacte nutrimur, spiritu eius animamur. Cf. Also, St. Cyprian, The
Lapsed, The Unity of The Catholic Church, Ancient Christian Writers, trasnsl, by Maurice Bevenot, S.J. New York,
No 25, p. 48. We draw the following insights: unity is a nature of the church. Thus, the church is a single
universal Mother. She is the one who gives spiritual life to us. We are fed from her milk. Through her spirit
our souls draw life breath. He compares the spread of the sun, tree and stream with the mother church.
However, the mother church is the bearer of the light that leads to salvation. She feeds us with food that
nourishes our souls through the sacraments and the preaching of the word, and material assistance as a
mother. In other to achieve this unity, Cyprian speaks of the one head, one source, and one Mother
all in God. Hence, the image of the church presented by Cyprian is a Mother who presides over
(authority) and at the center of her household to maintain unity in all ramifications. That is, unity in
authority and power and unity in doctrine and tradition handled and discharged through the bishops.
This is another way of speaking of the hierarchy of the church. Therefore, in the hierarchical functions the
church is a mother.
130

Cyprian, De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate 14: PL 4, 518.

131

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 9.06.2014. cf. also, Epist. 71.2 (CCSL 3.2.772-773): si postmodum peccato suo cognito et errore digest
ad ueritatem et matricem redeant, satis sit in paenitentiam manum inponere
132

Cyprian, De. Eccl. Unita. (CSEL 3.1.20-25. 214). Cf. also, Plumpe, C. Joseph, Mater Ecclesia an Inquiry into the
Concept of the Church as Mother in Early Christianity, Washington, D. C. 1943, p, 90. This is one of the many
misunderstandings attached to this dictum. It seems that the expression was directed to schismatic and
heretical Christians of his era. As a mother, the Church cannot close her doors and windows against
anyone. Thus, as she gives birth to us, the church plays the role of a maternal mediator for Christians and
all people before Christ. Through this act, Christians are reunited into the Trinitarian family of God and the
house of the mother church. In both cases the children feel the presence of God the Father, Jesus Christ
the Son and the Holy Spirit, the perfect expression of the Trinitarian family of God based on love and
participation in the mission of salvation. This accentuates Cyprian notion when he said, though many, the
faithful are united as a people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The unity in
this context belongs to the nature of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It abhors individuality and
encourages communal and collaboration in mission. However, his claim above can be seen as another
way of affirming the position of Tertullian on how the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the church
are related. This reflects however the connection and relationship of the church to the Trinitarian God.
This gives the church an ontological nature of origin.

37

However, Cyprians dictum: Habere non potest Deum patrem qui Ecclessiam non habet
matrem has lacuna. Are we not in any form running the old risk of the Churchs position
that outside the Church there is no salvation? It is obvious to argue here then, that,
through Jesus Christ one has access to God the Father. What the mother church does
in relation to this is simply, a share in the mediation mission of Christ towards human
salvation (that leads to the spiritual birth of the children of God the Father and the
mother church. In other words, Cyprian through this dictum emphasises that there is no
means a child could be born without the two parents of father and mother been
involved. Even if we consider it from the point of view of recent breakthrough in
medicine, the man's sperm and the woma's ovary are involved. Hence, the two
contribute in birth process of the child. Tertullian and Cyprian anchored the motherhood
of the church to the Fatherhood of God. Both rise and fall together in the human
salvation mission. In one of his letters Cyprian identified the mother church as the
Catholic Church.133 Certainlly, when Cyprian speaks of the Church as mother ((or
Mater Ecclesia or E. M.)), he means-without exception, the universal Church, the
Ecclesia Catholica, not the Church at Carthage, Rome, or elsewhere. 134 So, the
Catholic Church found in the remote places and those in the urban cities all over the
world is a mother.
Does it mean then, that the mother church is the only access to the Father? In other
words, is the access to the Father only possible because there is a Mother? 135 This is
one of the many misunderstandings attached to this dictum. It seems that the
expression was directed to schismatic and heretical Christians of his era. As a mother,
the Church cannot close her doors and windows against anyone. Thus, as she gives
birth to us, the church plays a maternal mediation for Christians and all people before
Christ. Through this act, Christians are reunited into the Trinitarian family of God and the
house of the mother church. In both cases the children feel the presence of God the
Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, the perfect expression of the Trinitarian
family of God based on love and participation in the mission of salvation. This
accentuates Cyprian notion when he said, though many, the faithful are united as a
people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. 136 The unity in
this context belongs to the nature of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It
abhors individualism, encourages communal and collaboration in mission. However, his
claim above can be seen as another way of affirming the position of Tertullian on how
the fatherhood of God and the motherhood of the church are related.
133

Cyprian, Epist. ( CSEL 3. 11. 15-17. 605), conueirem ut ad matrem suam id est ecclesiam catholicam
reuertantur.
134

Plumpe,C. Joseph, op. cit., p, 95.

Social and culturally, children at families always go through the mother in other to reach their fathers in
serious issues. This attitude is a mixture of fear and respect of what fathers signify in the families. In the
case of the church, she mediates and interceeds as mother between her children and their father God.
But Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and human beings.
135

136

Cyprian, De Dominica Oratione 23, PL 4, 555.

38

The mother church of Cyprian is characterized with nuances and changes. This is
evident from what we discovered at the beginning as the church was the local
community members understood as the mother church. Mater ecclesia from this
perspective reflects the collective actions carried out by the members. As the tension
increases, there were changes in Cyprians' understanding of the church that influenced
his notion of mater ecclesia. This makes his mater ecclesia look more abstract and
different from the already held position that the entire members of the community are
the mother church. The effect of this new position made him to associate the college of
the bishops with church; hence his mother image idea becomes abstract and exclusive.
Hence, his image of the church as mother is connected to the churchs magisterium.
Against the controversy of rebaptism he maintains the oneness, purity, the presence of
the Holy Spirit, and giving birth qualities obtainable only in and through the mother, the
Catholic Church. This position was to enable him dislodge the heresies of his time.
However, church as mother from Cyprian moved from local to universal application. He
gave the image a more universal character. Cyprian made no typological relationship of
the motherhood of the church to that of Mary or Eve. However, he did made some
typological connection with some barren female images of the Old Testament like
Rachel, Hannah and Sarah that later conceived and bear child. These barren women he
likened to be the mother church that was barren but now fruitful with numerous
children.137 He draws another typological conclusion with special reference to 2
Maccabees, where the mother of the seven sons stands as the image of the mother
church.138 From every indication we argue that Cyprian was mainly concerned with the
Terra Mater Ecclesia.
1.2.4 AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO 345-430 AD
Augustine was born in the city of Thagaste present Algeria in North Africa. His mother
Monica provided him with Christian education. Augustine lived in the time of the growing
ascendancy of the Christian church and the decline of the Roman Empire. 139 Despite
the positive spread and progress of Christianity during this period, the church witnessed
serious internal problems of schisms and heresies. Having worked for some years at
Carthage, he traveled to Rome where he was appointed to teach rhetoric. After some
periods of his teaching, he moved to Milan and came in contact with the then bishop of
Milan. It was bishop Ambrose who influenced his life and brought about his conversion
to Catholic faith. Augustine, with his son, was baptized, on Easter 24 April 387, ordained
a priest in 391, became bishop of Hippo in 396 and died in 430. 140
The church in the city of Hippo Augustine inherited was a mixture of pagans, Jews,
several schismatic sects and a large group of Donatists. 141 His years as bishop
137

Cf. Test. 1. 19-20. (CSEL. 3.1. 53).

138

Cf. Ad. Fort. (CCSL 3.183-88.209).

139

Hal, M. Helms, The Confessions of St. Augustine modern English version, Brewester, 1986, p. V.

140

141

Brown, P., Augustine of Hippo, California, 1967.


Hal, M. Helms, The Confessions of St. Augustine modern English version, Brewester, 1986, p. Vii.

39

according to Hal, was that of struggles. These errors threaten the church. Among these
errors are: Manicheans, Donatist, Arians, and Pelagians. 142 Augustine developed the
following aspects of theology: Trinitarian, Grace, Justification, Incarnation, and
Sacraments. These have been pillars of Catholic theology till present. As the winds of
schisms and heresies continue to blow across the entire Christian world, it nurtured the
seed of disunity that eventually led to separation. Just as his predecessors Tertullian
and Cyprian, Augustine inherited a church that was besieged with schism and heresy.
He devoted his effort to defend the church against the schismatic and heretic beliefs. It
is in this situation of defending the apostolic deposit of Faith and in the instruction of the
Catechumens that Augustine frequently refers to the church as mother.
1.2.4.1 Church as Mother according to Augustine
Before Augustine appeared on the stage, the understanding of the church as mother
was already a common theme used for the description of ecclesia. He took up the
material at his disposal in developing his concept of ecclesiology. Just as his
predecessors, Augustine used this metaphor in series of polemical arguments to defend
the church from heretical teachings of his era. After Cyprian, Augustine was the next
who frequently used the maternal metaphor in over eighty polemical and pastoral
works.143 The maternal image plays central role in his discussion of origin, mission and
how human beings relate to God, among themseves and work in the church. In these
one comes across his passionate usage of the church as mother. As a mater of origin,
he sees the church as the new Eve originated from the pierced side of Jesus Christ and
quickly compared the death of Jesus Christ with the sleep of Adam that leads to the
creation of Eve.144 As Adam prifigured Christ on one hand, it suggests that on the other
hand, Eva prifigured the church. In a parallel reading of Gensis 3:20 and 1 Timothy 5:6
he interpretes Eve's title to meaning the mother of all humans born into moral and sinful
state as result of the fall. Originally, Eve was created to be the mother of the living her
name signities. The mother church is to make good the failure of the first mother of all
humans, Eve. The church is called to participate in the mission of restoring what the first
mother failed to achieved. With this necessary link in the origin of the church from the
side of Jesus Christ, he consolidates the theology of the church as a mystical body of
Christ.
In his catechetical instruction, Augustine sees the catechumens; as competentes
(askers) and auditors (hearers). These, according to him agitate the mothers womb,
asking to be born.145 Interpretating the Lords prayer146, he says, we had a father and a
142

Hal, M. Helms, ibid, pp vii-viii.

143

Corpus Augustinianum Gissense (CAG 2), edit, by, Mayer, P. Cornelius, Basel, Schwabe, 2004.

144

Jo. ev. tr. 9.10 (CSEL 36.96.33-36): dormit Adam ut fiat Eua; moritur Christus ut fiat ecclesia. dormienti Adae
fit Eua de latere; mortuo Christo lancea percutitur latus ut profluant sacramenta, quibus formetur ecclesia.
145

S. 228.1 (PL 38.1101): quniam materna viscera, ut nascerentur, petendo pulsabant.

146

S. 22.10 (CSEL 41.300.265-269): quia duo parentes nos genuerunt ad mortem, duo parentes nos genuerunt ad
uitam. Parentes qui nos genuertunt ad mortem, Adam est et Eua. Parentes qui nos genuerunt ad uitam, Christus est et
ecclesia.

40

mother on earth, that we might be born to labor and death; but we have found other
parents, God our Father, and the Church our mother, by whom we are born into life
eternal.147 The life we receive through our earthly parents (fathers and mothers) has
beginning and end. Through this, we inherit finite life characterized with struggles,
sufferings, sin and death. The mother church and God the Father on the other hand are
our spiritual parents. It presupposes then, that our first mother in creation Eve is the
mother of those living in sin considered also as death. Her prototype the church is the
mother of the spiritually living ones. The patriarch made it clear that it is through this
Mother (the church) that we become definitely born into the eternal life. Through her,
human beings gain new beginning and inheritance in new life. Thus, we have parents
both earthly and heavenly, through whom we are nurtured on earth to gain access to
eternal life.
In his explanation to the Catechumens, Augustine tells the neophytes, for have you
now merely heard that God is Almighty? But you begin to have him for your Father
when you have been born by the Church as your Mother. 148 It is interesting to note in
this case that the knowledge of God as Father is not complete in this context without the
church as mother and vice-versa. Hence, through the wisdom of the church as mother
we understand more about God as Father. Here we see the idea of Tertullian and
Cyprian been re-echoed by Augustine, a continuity of the high ecclesiology. Augustine
speaking how one is born by the church explains that, to be born of the Church is to
receive and begin this new life in baptism, which has been confided to the Church as
the sacrament of regeneration.149 With secunda naivitats (second birth) Christians are
incorporated as members of the mystical body and children of both God and the mother
church. The sacrament of baptism opens the door for becoming first and foremost child
of God, then, a member of his Mystical Body also known as the mother church. As
Augustine teaches about the Mystical Body, he expatiates on the church as mother.
He says, in order that a human being come to life it must be born of man and woman;
so also, for one to become a member of the body of Christ, one must be reborn of God
and the Church.150 This explains more the famous dictum attributed to Cyprian.
However, Jensen M. Robin identifies that Augustine speaks of the font for the womb of
the church illustrates more clearly in his catechetical instructions. 151 Though the word
church was used and the term mother not, but implies. The mother quality that
accompanies church's baptism is that of childbearing. The church is a mother through
this sacrament of giving birth.
147

Porter, B. Lawrence, op. cit., p.100.

148

Porter, B. Lawrence, ibid

149

Stanislaus J. Grabowsik, The Church an Introduction to the Theology of St. Augustine, Herder, 1957, p.26.

150

Augustine, Sermo, CXXI, 4 (PL 38-39, 679-680). prima nativitas ex masculo et femina: secunda nativitas ex
Deo et Ecclesia. cf also Stanislaus, J. Grabowsik, ibid,
151

Robin, M. Jensen, Mater Ecclesia and Fons Aeterna: The Church and her womb in ancient christian tradition
in: A Feminist Companion to Patristic Literature, edit, by Amy-Jill Levine with Maria Mayo Robbins, London, T&T,
Clark international, 2008, p. 144.

41

With reference to the Gospel on who is the mother of Jesus Christ, Augustine says,
that Christs mother is the whole Church because it bears his members, that is, his
faithful by the grace of God.152 Here, the question becomes, which church is the
mother? Has this position any merit given the nature of Christianity in our time. That is,
given the plurality of churches in human history, which of this churches is the mother?
One important fact is that Augustine's maternal notion of the church from this
perspective suggests inclusiveness nature of the church. This accentuates Tertullian's
position in Ad Martyras and early position of Cyprian as discussed above. At the same
time his position here differs from the last position of Cyprial on his exclusive notion of
the church. Does this negate the fact that Mary is the mother of Christ? There is no
doubt that she is the mother of Christ. At the same time she shares in this new
motherhood since she is part of the church. If the whole church is understood to be
Christs mother, it entails that the entire faithful (the laity and the clegy) is to live the life
of grace in Christ. In this, Christians form a single living oneness to teach each other on
how to appropriate and cultivate the new life. Therefore, it is plausible to argue that
when one becomes Christian, he or she is baptized and re-grafted to the supernatural
life lost out of sin. The person begins to live a life of grace. Thus, the whole mother
Church bears all, the whole Church bears each. 153 The idea of Augustine Christians'
motherhood synchronizes with the position of Methodius. The latter based his notion on
Pauls letter to the Corinthians (cf. 2Cor. 26) and says:
so that receiving the pure and genuine seed of his doctrine, they may
co-operate with Him, helping in preaching for the salvation of others.
And those who are still imperfect and beginning their lessons, are born
to salvation, and shaped, as by mothers, by those who are more perfect,
until they are brought forth and regenerated unto the greatness and beauty
of virtue; and these, in their turn making progress, having become a church,
assist in labouring for the birth and nurture of other children, accomplishing
in the receptacle of the soul, as in a womb, the blameless will of the Word. 154
Augustine as Jesus in one of the gospels expands further the motherhood of the church
by making every member mothers within the one motherhood of the church. 155 He sees
Christians who are children of the church as mothers, fuisttis filii, estote et matres. And
this becoming of mothers by christians only possible through baptism that makes them
also members of Christ filii matris, quando baptizati estis, tunc membra Christi nata
estis. Every baptized member of the church paticipates in the motherhod of the church.
152

Augustini, de, sanct. .virg. 6 (PL 40,399), : mater ejus est tota Ecclesia, quia membra ejus, id est, fideles ejus per
Dei gratiam ipsa utique parit.
153

Ep. CSEL 34, 526). tota hoc ergo mater ecclesia , quae in sanctis est, facit, quia tota omnes, tota singulos parit
nam si Christiani....
154

The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325: Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol, 6, edit by Alexander Roberts, D.D and
James Donaldson, LL.D. United States of America, Fourth printing 2004, p. 320.
155

S. D. 25 (s 72A).8 (MA 1.164.11-15): fuistis filii, estote et matres, filii matris, quando baptizati estis, tunc
membra Christi nata estis: adducite ad lauacrum baptismatis quos potestis; ut, sicut filii fuistis quando nati estis, sic
etiam ducendo ad nascendum matres Christi esse possitis.

42

Very important to note here is that, the inclusiveness of his ecclesiology takes into
consideration of both male and female genders. Hence, Christians are spiritual mothers
and effective means in the conversion of others. Nonetheless, Augustines motherhood
of the members is exclusively reserved only for the baptized. For him however, one who
acts as a spiritual mother can equally act otherwise under temptation to pull others
away from the church. The person becomes anti-type of the mother church he or she is
called to be.
He made a necessary link between the motherhood of Mary and that of the church. By
this Augustine developed further the image of the church as mother and maintains that
the former is a prototype of the latter. Before him however, it was the bishop of Milan
Ambrose of Milan who first saw the link between the motherhood of Mary and the
church.156 However, among his predecessors Augustine went beyond Eve-church
relationship and linked up the motherhood of the church and that of Mary. The first
association he made with regard to this was in a polemic argument in defense of
virginity.157 In this citation, Augustine clearly pointed it out that Mary was the physical
mother of Christ, who is the head of the body, the church, who in turn gives spiritual
birth to the head.
Here we are faced with the issue of physical and spiritual types of virginity that never in
any case hindered Mary and the church to attaining the motherhood statue. It is obvious
that virginity is not a hindrance to procreation as the latter does not stop the former
either. Mary and the church shares in the spiritual virginity. With regard to the physical
virginity, we can say that in the church are married ones as well as consecrated virgins.
This implies that, the mother church is not fully a virgin as Mary was not by the birth of
her Son. Thus, Mary was both physically and spiritually mother and virgin. The church is
partially virgin and fully mother spiritually. Four issues come in view with what we have
seen: Mary, church, marriage and consecrated virgins. He demonstrates the superiority
of virginity and at the same time highlighted the goodness of marriage. 158 Saying that
motherhood of Mary is a prototype of the motherhood of the church implies therefore,
that whatever that is said of Mary applies to the church. In one of his Christmas
sermons he clarifies the position thus, the Church therefore imitating the mother of her
Master, though she could not be such in body, yet spiritually she is both a mother and a
virgin.159 If we apply the normal understanding of motherhood in this context we are
bound making serious theological mistake and miss the point. This is because, there is
no way one can say that a woman who is a mother is at the same time a virgin in
natural understanding of what both mean. Hence, the ecclesia et mater est et virgo is
spiritually and physically interwoven.
156

Hilda, Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion, New York, Sheed and Ward, 1963, p.83ff.

157

De, sanct, uirg. 2.2 (CSEL 41.236.19-25): Maria corporaliter caput huius corporis peperit, ecclesia spiritaliter
membra illius capitis parit. In utraque uirginitas fecunditatem non inpedit, in fecunditas uirginitatem non adimit
proinde cum ecclesia uniuersa sit sancta et corpore et spiritu, nec tamen uniuersa sit corpore uirgo, sed spiritu.
158

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 9.06.2014.
159

St. Augustine, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, Ancient Christian Writers, no 15, trns, by Thomas
Comerford Lawler, New York, 1952, p. 109.

43

Further explanation on the mother and virgin images of the church Augustine says: for
the Church is also both mother and virgin: a mother through loving charity, a virgin
through the soundness of her faith and sanctity. She gives birth to peoples, but her
members belong to the One only of whom she herself is the body and the spouse. 160
Sequel to what we have seen, Ambrose argues that the mother Church like Mary has
perpetual virginity and fecundity, for what Mary merited in the flesh, the Church has
preserved in the soul. The former gave birth to the Only One, the latter gives birth to
many who through the One are to be gathered into one. 161 Despite his high theological
development of the mater ecclesia, one is left to ask a very important question of
wheather Augustine places Mary above the church? To this seemingly problem some
scholars maintain that he created tension between Mary and the church. Other scholars
are of the opinion that he combined two different sources of: a maternal/associative
ecclesiology and a virginal/ascetical ecclesiology 162 in his work. Here is a gradual
paradigm shift from his North African predecessors on the maternal/associative
ecclesiology that is more empirically, to a virginal/ascetical ecclesiology that is more
abstract and speculative. However, we maintain, that Mary begets the church. This
stems from the fact that, if Mary did not consent, the great fiat, the incarnation would
have not taken place. Probably, God may have a second option if the first failed. At the
same time she is part of the church as one of her members. Consequently, she is the
mother of the church, Theo-ecclesia.
In combating the Donatist schismatic onslaught Augustine alludes to this image to
showcase the universal and holiness of the church. Donatism is a schismatic movement
in North Africa dated (308-311). It was during this era that Diocletian persecution
occured. The schism came to an end as the Arabs invaded North Africa during 7th and
8th centuries.163 The Donatists hold that many of the Catholic orders were traditores.
This put the holiness of such ministers into question. This attitude leads to the
questioning of the holiness or purity of the church. The concern here is on the holiness,
purity and worthiness of the clerics who failed during the period of persecution. These
and other members of the church payed allegiance to the then imperial authority of the
time and handed over the bible for distruction. The Donatists however believe that their
church is the only holy, spiritual, ideal and pure one. That is, an uncontaminated one
and as such the church of the saints. We argue therefore, that the church they speak of
here is more of Paul's heavenly church and the preexistent church of Origen. However,
160

St. Augustine, Ibid, p. 114.

161

St. Augustine, ibid, pp. 127-128. This implies that we are carriers and ambassadors of the word of God. Hence we
are agents for the propagation of the Word as Jesus Christ and as the preached word of God in the world. By this
singular act, the human being is called to bear witness to the Word. It is a Church in which the leaders pope, bishops,
priests and ordain men and the laity are called to jointly participate actively in the pastoral mission of the mother
Church. In its unity and totality, the church basically is the spiritual mother of Christians, who in their individual
capacities are mothers to others inside and outside the Christian community.
162

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 9.06.2014.
163

Christopher, ODonnell, Ecclesia: A Theolgical Encylopadia of the Church, Minnesota, 1996, p. 138.

44

if the church that is been referred by them is the visible church, then, the attainment of
salvation through this church becomes difficult, as it renders the entire work and
intention of God for human salvation through the church unattainable.This claim makes
their church an exclusive one indeed. Interestingly, the Donatists used the maternal
symbol in discussing about their own church, 164 and hold that they are the only true
children of the mater ecclesia and not the Catholics.165 As a result of these claims about
themselves, they avoided any intimate contact with the polluted Catholics who had
cut their deal with the satanic state.... 166
According to Augustine, the Donatists are rebellious sons and daughters who revolt
against their spiritual mother the church. This directly affects not only them, but also, the
other children of the church.167 Because of the enormous effect the attitude of the
Donatists on the others, Augustine sees the need of corrective measure to bring the
children back to the spiritual mother church and thus avoid further lost. We argue
therefore, that the church seen as mother in this context is the concrete one in the
human society. In reaction to this, Augustine gave us rather two aspect of the church:
visible and invisible that speaks of one reality. Following Augustine therefore, we
maintain that just like Origen and Paul, he places the church in different locations of
eternal and temporal. In human society the mother church is contemporaneously a
mixed one. Augustine bequeathed us two ideas of the church as did by some of his
predecessors: the universal mother church of the saints known only by God and the
visible mixed mother church of saints and sinners here on earth. Thus, for Augustine,
there is only but one mother church. this position was to make rebaptism by the
Donatist group unrealizable. With this development of the visible church as that of the
mixture of sinners and saints Augustine presents us a church with heart of love,
tolerance and ready to reconcile with those who separated from her.168
The church from this perspective is the mother of all christians. Nevertheless, scholars
identified scriptural background influence of the story of Esau and Jacob on his
demonstration of the mixed nature of the mother church. He adopted the story and
typologically represents the three figures thus: Rebeccas womb for the church. in this
womb both sons lived and developed together. Esau represents the sinners and Jacob
the saints.169 His image of the church as mother from the above perspective, shows an
164

Tilley, A. Maureen, op. cit., p.

165

Aug. bapt. 1.10.13.

166

Tilley, A. Maureen, op. Cit., p. 1.

167

En. Ps. (CCSL 38:74.6-8): ... ab unius ecclesiae uerae matris uberibus nos auertere atque abripere moliuntur,
adfirmantes quod apud ipsos sit Christus.....
168

From this perspective, it is clear that the church never closes her doors and windows against any person(s) even
the heretics from coming back.
169

S. 4. 14 (CCSL 41:31.334-339, 349-351): genuit enim mater ambos filios, intendite fratres, genuit unum
pilosum, alterum lenem, pili pecata significant, lenitas autem mansuertudinem, id est, munditiam a paccatis, duo filii
benedicuntur, quia duo genera benedicit ecclesia. quomodo duos peperit Rebecca, generantur in utero ecclesiae duo,
unus pilosus, alter lenis.

45

inclusive and all-embracing nature of the church. The church is a mother for the saints
and sinners alike. Consequently, the nature of the mixture in the church is not to be
seen as accidental. It is a necessary good that suggests the central maternal function of
the church ad intra and ad extra toward human beings. This has enormous maternal
pastoral implication for Nigerians living in an environment that is religiously pluralistic.
As a mother, the church is called to bless and be there for both the sinners and the
saints. This is indeed a necessary and central maternal function of the church in her
salvific mission. With regard to the eternal mother church he admonished in one of his
Sermons that we love, honor and speak of her as our mother, the Jerusalem above. 170
Not only that the above Jerusalem is our mother. She is also, the Civitas Dei. In another
homily, he sees the Jerusalem above as the mother of all in heaven, and Jerusalem on
earth a reflection of the former. Through this, Augustine sees the role and function of the
church either in heaven or on earth as that of a mother.
Moreover, he composed a poem entitled Psalmus contra partem Donati to counter the
position of his opponent. In recent time, scholars have come up with new insights
inherent in this poem. Wilhelm Geerlings observes that Psalmus is the product of
Augustines first pastoral activity, enables us to see Augustines emerging pastoral
thought.171 Carl, E. P. Springer wrote two articles on this poem and discovers how he
presents the mother church as speaking and appealing to her children on the need to
keep to the unity of the family.172 We can say that with Augustine, the maternal image of
the church is more developed and more complex. He appropriates what was already in
circulation as regards the idea of the mater ecclesia metaphor develops its
understanding, contents and contexts. From him we inherited an ecclesiological model
of Eve-Mary-Church connection.
1.2.5 The Church in Medieval Ages
The conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity is a major turning point in the
history of Christianity. The religious atmosphere of the period brought transformative
effect, new way of looking at and understanding of the church. This particular act of the
Emperor Constantine thus ushers in a new defining era in the history of the church. In
392, the persecuted church became a free and an official religion of the Roman nation.
A church once hated became a tolerated one, the ecclesia tolerabilis. The Medieval
Ages is best described as the period of the spread of Christianity in Western Europe.
Again, whenever the medieval history of the church is raised, ideas that immediately
come to mind are institution, papacy, church and state relationship, etc. We encounter
the image of the church as institution: organized, managed and ruled under the
170

S. 214.11 (RB 72.20.239-240) : sanctam quoque ecclesiam, matrem uestram, tamquam supernam Hierusalem
sanctam ciuitatem dei, honorate, diligit, praedicate. cf. also, Jo. ev, 11.8 (CSEL 36. 115.21-22): ideo illa Ierusalem
in terra, umbra erat caelesti Ierusalem matris omnium nostrum, quae est in caelo.
171

Willhelm Geerlings, Augustini Psalmus contra Partem Donati, 39, 4o, in Daniel, J. Nodes, The Organization of
Augustines Psalmus, http//www-scribd.com//Daniel-J-Nodes-The-organization-of-Augustine-s-Psalmus-contraPartem-Donati. Visited on 12.07.2014.
172

Carl, P. E, Springer, The Prosopoeia of the Church as Mother in Augustines Psalmus Contra Partem Donati
Augustinian Studies 18 (1987).

46

leadership of the humans. The pope is at the apex of its hierarchy. He discharges his
responsibility in relations to the society and to the members of the church's hierarchy.
The papacy without doubt played vital role during the medieval period. 173 With this new
image of the church, a shift from the predominant image of the church as mystery is
made, to that of institution run by the hierarchy. This definition and understanding of the
church is limited. The new image suggests a shift of emphasis in the church's
understanding. Thus, it is clear that the church in medieval age is more than the papacy.
In other words, the church is more than its institutional structure. In view of this, it will be
unfair to reduce the history and meaning of the church to the history and meaning of the
papacy.
This image therefore, introduces us to the problem of difference and distance in the one
church. And this is one of the major issues scholars hold against the understanding of
the medieval church as the church of the hierarchy. Notwithstanding, the reality that the
church is a mystery exists and evident during the Middle Ages. By twelfth and thirteenth
centuries the church bequeathed humanity great universities and cathedrals. Thus,
what modern humanity have today as university education and cathedral churches
owes its origin to medieval period. Therefore, to argue that Catholic Church is the cradle
of education, science and human development is not an overstatement. The church in
medieval period continued in the aspect of belief on the existence of the triune God who
participates in the affairs of humans. Christ is both divine and human, who came to save
humanity. Also, that the human existence on earth is a pilgrimage. 174 Hence, human life
has purpose to be fully realized in the eschatology. There were new developments in
the church as medieval men and women enthusiastically embrace religious life as a
practical form of bearing witness to the christian faith. This led to the founding and
establishment of monasteries in Western Europe.
Just like the preceded era (ancient), Middle Ages was charged with religious
enthusiasm as Medieval Christians seek for contemplative and spiritual life the material
world cannot offer. Thus, the development, spread of popular devotion and practical
piety in this era such as the feast of the Corpus Christ. As devotion to the Eucharist
gained attention and attraction of the Christians, there arose strong devotion to Mary the
mother of Jesus Christ. She was known with many names and titles throughout Western
Europe. For instances, in France she is called Notre Dame which means our Lady. In
Italy she is known as Madonna meaning, my Lady. Monasteries and cathedrals bear her
name.175 These devotions (Eucharistic and Marian) reaffirms the relationship between
the church and Christ on one hand. On the other hand, that of Mary prepares the stage
for the development of the theological relationship that exists between Mary and the
Church. Both devotions still exist in the church in this twenty first century.
173

Cf, Schimmelpfennig, Bernhard, Das Pappsttum von der Antike bis zur Renaissance, second edition, Darmstadt,
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1988. The English version is, The Papacy, trans, by James Sievert, New York,
Columbia University Press, 1992.
174

Donald, F. Longan, op. cit., p. 1

175

Donald, F. Logan, ibid, p. 145ff.

47

The image of the church as institution, rich and powerful was much clear and at focal
point in the discussions about the church during the Medieval Ages. But this does not
negate in any way that the church was regarded as mother. Hence, the ideas of the
church as mother, as body of Christ and as believers united in Christ as a person are
repeated in the early Middle Ages. 176 There is never a time therefore, the church is
known and expressed with one image. What happens is that, in the mist of the many
images she expresses herself, one is more dominant than the others. Even in her
institution, the ecclesia in medieval period was seen as mistress and master. Just like
the fathers of the ancient era, the church in the medieval period is understood as a bride
of Christ and the mother of the faithful through baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
The church relates first to Christ as bride on one hand. On the other hand as mother to
the Christian men and women by giving birth to them through the sacrament of baptism,
by strengthen and commissioning them in defending the faith through confirmation and
finally nourishing them through the Eucharist. In the medieval era the maternal symbol
serve as means of the church's criticism.177
1.2.5.1 HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179)
Hildegard was born in Bermersheim bordering the southern bank of Rhein not far from
Mainz178, in a noble family of ten children. She was the last. At her 8 years she become
a member of anchorite attached to the church of the Benedictine monastery at
Disibodenbery. When the Abbess of their Order Jutta in 1136 died, Hildegard became
the leader of the convent at the age of 38. Among her literary works are: Scivias (Know
the way), Liber Vitae Meritorum (the book of rewards of life), Liber Divinorum Operum
Simplicis Hominis (the book of the Divine works of a simple person) and others. 179 Later,
she moved out from Disibodenberg and founded a convent with some members of her
old convent at Rupertsberg.
1.2.5.2 The Church as Mother by Hildegard of Bingen
Investigation into the understanding of the church as mother by Hildegart of Bingen
takes us to one of her work entitled the Scivias (know the way). This is a compilation of
the visions she had. In this work, the figure of ecclesia as mother is one of the most
occurring images in her vision. She sees the church as living and suffering in sins. The
church appeared to her as a big, radiating woman, as mother and a bride, who comes
out from the side of the crucified and given in marriage to him. 180 In book 11:3 of
Scivias she said:
176

Stephan, Ackermann, Kirche als Person: zur ekklesiologischen Relevanz des personal-symbolischen
Verstndnisses der Kirch, Wrzburg, Echter, 2001, Dei Vorstellungen von der Kirche als Mutter, als Leib Christi
und als die in Christus zu einer Person geeinten Glubigen werden ins Frhmittelalter weitergetragen, P. 46.
177

Stephen, Ackermann, ibid, p. 61.

178

Flannagan, Sabina, transl and ed., Hildegard of Bingen, Secret of God: Writings of Hildegard of Bingen, Boston,
Shambhala Publications, 1996, p. 3. cf, also, www.stumpuous.com/hildegard-html. Visited on 17.3.2015.
179

Noyce, John, Hildegard of Bingen and her visions of the Divine Feminie, Melbourne, 2013, pp. 2, 5 and 6, cf,
www.academia.edu/5406213/Hildegard_of_Bingen_and_her_visions_of_the_Divine_Feminie. Visited on 17.3.2015.

48

I saw the image of a woman as large as a great church, with a wonderful crown
on her head and arms from which a splendour hung like sleeves, shining from
Heaven to earth. Her womb was pierced like a net with many openings, with a
huge multitude of people running in and out balanced on her womb in front
of the altar that stands before the eyes of God... And that image spreads out its
splendour like a garment saying, I must conceive and give birth!... there
hastened to her a multitude of angels making steps and seats within her for
people... I saw black children moving in the air...entered the womb of the image
through the openings that pierced it. But she groaned, drawing them upward to
her head, and they went out by her mouth, while she remained untouched...that
serene light with the figure of a man in it, blazing with a glowing fire, and
stripped the black skin off each of them and threw it away; and it clothed each of
them in a pure white garment and opened to them the serene light, saying to
them one by one: Cast off the old injustice, and put on the new sanctity. For the
gate of your inheritance is unloced for you... (11:3). 181
The above citation presents us with a vision centred on two images of the church as
bride and as mother. The figure she saw in her vision is a combination of two
inseparable aspects of the church as heavenly and earthly. As a bride the church
lovingly embraces the altar of her bridegroom from whom she owns her existence and
essence. The two ancient images of the womb of the mother church and the net of
Peter were neathly interwoven to lead us to the meaning of her vision about mater
ecclesia. The mother church uses the net to fish for human souls and not the fish in the
water. With the net therefore, the church catches people to God and herself. The
openings through which people go in and out from the womb of the mother suggests
steady conception and giving birth qualities of mater ecclesia. Who are those to be
born? They are those Hildegard represented as the black children who entred the womd
through the openings. These are to be reborn through the waters of baptism by the
church. She gave another mean the church gives birth. This according to her is through
her mouth. This implies catechetical instruction and the preaching of the word. By this
the church realizes one of her maternal roles of childbearing.
Consequentlly, the sacrament of baptism and the preaching of the word in her vision
signify the church's maternal roles. The expression I must conceive and give birth
shows how crucial this maternal role is for the church. This announces the church's
spiritual birth of her members through baptism and the words which indicates why she
exists. However, the birth transform the persons as they receive white garment,
instructed to do away with old ways of life and put on the new life. Thus, in a striking
manner, Hildegard presents us with the image of womb, baptism, confarmation and the
word through which the church bears children of God. Very importantly, the birth is an
180

Stephan, Ackermann, op. Cit., sieht die Kirche als unter den Snden Leidende. Zwar stellt sich ihr die Ecclesia
in Scivias als groe, strahlende Frau dar, als Mutter und Braut, die aus dem Gekreuzigten hervorgeht und in der
Vermhlung mit ihm von seinem sie berstrmenden Blut beschenkt wird. p. 62.
181

Noyce, John, Hildegard of Bingen and her visions of the Divine Feminine,
www.academia.edu/5406213/Hildegard_of_Bingen_and_her_visions_of_the_Divine_Feminine. Visited on
17.06.2015.

49

invitation for a necessary change from one's old ways of life of injustices signified in the
citation as the black skin or vices, and be clothed with pure white garment or virtues
that leads to life of sanctity.
Nevertheless, in her next vision after some years, the image of the mother church
appears in a very different way as before. This time she was covered with dust, wearing
teetered clothes and dirty shoes. These signify suffering as result of sins committed in
the church. According to her, the church is dirty because of the manner of life her priests
live. This brings shame to the mother church. She describes this as the entering of
Antichrist in the church consequence of fornication and murder and rapine committed
by Ecclesia's own ministers, their vile lust and shameful blasphemy () infused in them
by Antichrist's voracious and graping jaws (Scivias 111.11.12-13). 182 The feminine
image of the church she saw this time serves as a mean to criticize the happenings
within the church. According to her, these activities are found right within the center of
the church, insider her and have taking over her womb, and thus corrupting her mission.
This criticism of the clergy through the maternal image of the church in medieval period
is of great value in the present situation in the life and mission of the priests, religious
men and women of the church who have abandoned the maternal functions in quest
and lust for material things (money, honour, etc). This makes them fail in their materl
role or act of mothering. Hence, the life style of the clerics, religious men and women is
to correspond and bear witness to the maternal mission of the church. Obviouslly, in the
development and study of the church as mother from the early century to the medieval
period the fathers and the author of the medieval era used various material sources and
methods.183
It is clear that the early eras of the church was a very problematic one. The infant
church was besieged with internal attack from different sorts of teachings and external
problems of persecution from the then Roman authorities. Generally, the problems of
the church during these eras reneges from the questions of identity, the issue of who
the real members of the church are, the problem of unity and reconciliation of the
church devastated with schisms and heresies. Theirs was an effort to strengthen and
defend the young faith against false teachings of various heresies and schismatic
movement about to wreck the very foundation of the church. Simply put, the nature of
182

Nathaniel, Campbell, Monstrosity within the Church in Hildegard of Bingen's Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript
in: www.beyondborders-medievalblog.blogspot.de/2013/07/monstrosity-within-church-in-hildegard.html. Visited
on 10.12.2015.

183

The main common material sources that run through the works of the fathers on the image of the church as
mother is the Scripture. They gave scriptural foundation to their knowledge, understanding and development of the
motherhood of the church. For instance in Tertullian we encounter biblical citations like: 2 John 1, Galatians 4: 2131 and Revelation 12:1f. (cf. David, Rankin, op. cit., pp. 78ff.). Scholars such as Plumpe and Dlger attest to
Tetullians biblical influence. (cf .Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. Cit., p. 48. cf also, Dlger, F. J. Domina Mater Ecclesia und die herrin im zweiten Johannesbrief AChr 5
(1936), 214ff.).
With Cyprian we encounter again the scriptural material sources in his effort to explain the maternity of
the church. He sees the three women in Isaiah 54:1-4 as the type of the mother church. Augustine combined both
Testaments Bible in his idea of the maternal image of the church. The fathers used the scriptural quotations to
describe, judge and assess Christians situations of their time. For them, therefore, God speaks, attends and addresses
human existential and difficulty situations through the Bible.

50

the environment the early church founded herself is confronting. It is in these


confronting external and internal situations, we encounter the frequent appeal to the
maternal image of the church to explaining issues that deal on the nature, mystery and
pastoral mission of the church. This reveals the hidden relationship that exists between
the church and the Trinitarian God centers on the relatedness of the motherhood of
church to the Fatherhood of God. The maternal image of the church becomes one of
the means of expressing the paternity of God. On the other hand the mystery of the
maternal image discloses the human relation to God, the church and to one another.
On another hand, it portrays our personal and group participation in the mission of the
Another obvious source at the disposal of the fathers is ideas from preceded patristic fathers. This means that,
before those we discussed in this work, there are others who have said something about the maternal image of the
church. Hence, they followed the idea of these predecessors in the continual development of this image. However,
scholars are of the opinion that it is possible that Tertullian was influenced by his predecessor, Irenaeus (cf.

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-AppendixBibliography.pdf.Visited on 9.06.2014). Cyprian and Augustine made connection between the Motherhood of the
church to that of the Fatherhood of God in the context of our Lord's Prayer, baptism and defense against heretics.
This connection was first made by Tertullian. This signifies an evidence of material sources from one patristic father
to the other. Although, in Cyprian, the formulation is different. Augustine's notion of the Marian-Church motherhood
relationship is influenced by the scripture and another partristic figure in the person of Ambrose. Augustine later
influenced Joseph Ratzinger's notion on Mary-Church motherhood typology expressed also in the Second Vatican
Council. On the development of the maternal image of the church, therefore, we can say that the fathers steeped into
one another's works.
Another material source was that of personal experience. This new identification is made by Springer Carl in his
article published 1987 entitled the prosopopoeia of the church as mother in Augustine's Psalmus contra Partem
Donati. The author maintains that Augustine's mother Monica influenced his understanding and development of the
idea of the image of the church as mother. An example of such action is found in one of his work entitled on the
Sermon written about (ca.414). His description of the mother church points to his mother's influence on him which
he expresses towards his opponent the Donatists (cf. www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf. Visited on 9.06.2014). In Sermon 46,
he transposes Monica's care and love towards him on what the mother church dose. He speaks of the latter as a
shepherd who seeks the strays, strengthens the feeble, cares for the ill, bandages the fractured. (cf. S.46.18 (CCSL
27:10.8-9): quaerit errantes, confortat infirmos, curat languidos, alligat confractos. ). In another place Augustine
describes the mother church thus ... so it's this doting mother, conceiving and giving birth to her children when their
lives are in danger, who hasn't ignored the sickness of her offspring. Even if she makes a nuisance of herself, even if
she is unseasonably importunate, she has come up to their bedsides; she has forcibly fed those who were refusing
food. They hate her taking care of them; they should rather be afraid of experiencing her mourning them. She takes
care of the sick.... (cf. S. 360C.6(Dolb 314, 493-497): ista itaque mater pia, filios suo et conceptos pariens et
periclitantes parturiens, non spreuit aegritudinem suorum; etsi molesta, etsi importuns, accessit ad iacentes;
cibumingessit recusantibus, oderunt reficientem, plus timent experiri plangentem aegrotum reficit, mortuum plangit
sit molesta in eo.). Augustine sees the Donatists as those who are sick and refusing the food the mother church
gives them. Being a mother therefore, the church is out with motherly heart, attitude and approach towards caring of
her children. Despite that the children in this situation separated themselves from the mother, she on the other hand
sees it as one of her obligations to render maternal care to them. So, the method employed in this case expresses the
motherhood nature of the church. The in-course into the material sources at the disposal of the fathers thus reveals
the methodological approach they employed in the development of the maternal image of the church.
Since the Bible formed the major material source it would not be surprise to identify that the most outstanding
method used by the fathers is scriptural exegesis or interpretation. Exegesis is a branch of theology. This we are not
delving into. Theologically however, the term exegesis is derived from a Greek word, which means 'to lead out of'.
There are two types of exegesis: the Rational and the Revealed. The Rational type of doing exegesis allows the

51

church. Following the ideas of the maternity of the church discussed above, we can
reflectively, delineate some mother qualities of the church, which merit and confirm her
motherhood. The church conceives and gives birth to sons and daughters of God. She
nourishes the spiritual life she begets through the Eucharist and the word she preaches,
teaches and educates. Anthropologically and psychologically, she feels pains as result
of the wrong ways of her children and glories in their good deeds. As a mother, she is at
the center to bring about the unity and reconciliation of her children. Some of these
qualities will be revisited in the subsequent section of the work, as we discuss on some
of the sacraments and the preaching of the words.
human authors of the books of the bible use their own creative ability without any influence from God. The
Revealed type deals with the idea that behind the scripture is the spirit of God at work. The Scripture conveys the
will of God for human beings (cf. w ww.biblestudy.org/beginner/definition-of-chrstianterms/exegesis.html. Visited on 23.10.2014.) It denotes critical approach or system or process of interpreting
biblical passages. Hence, exegesis is a critical investigation and analysis of scriptural text. In most cases, this is done
on separate bases. That is, exegesis could be carried out on individual biblical text or collectively as a whole with
the aim to discover the original meaning, who the audience of the text are or might be and the situation it addresses.
Because of the rational aspect of exegesis, the human person enjoys freedom of creativity. Thus, the Bible is the
revealed word of God written in human words by the human authors and interpreters led and inspired by the Spirit
of God. Owing to this inherent quality, each father in his different period discovered in the Bible a sought of
guidance for the members of his christian community. They achieved this by applying verses from one part of the
Scripture to the problems of their communities. Scriptural texts help them to describe the situation, examine issues at
hand and draw helpful information to encourage the suffering Christians.
The fathers use of exegetical interpretation of the Scripture to illustrate the idea of the maternal image of the church
is obvious. The two outstanding exegetical method used by the fathers are literal and typological interpretation used
separately and jointly (cf. Tilley, A. Maureen, op. cit., p. 25ff.) Augustine defined interpretation as secundum
historiam, secundum aetiologicam, secundum analogicam and secundum allegoriam (cf. De utilitate credendi 3.5-6
(CSEL 25:1.7-9), edit, by Joseph Zycha, Prague and Vienna: Tempsky; Leipzig: Freytag, 1891.) The fathers first
look into the literary meaning of the scriptural texts and discover that the biblical injunction that fit the situation of
that period, serve also those of the christian conditions of their eras. By reading the biblical texts, the fathers
appropriate the scriptural words without uttering or change, to examine and address the confronting situations of
theirs. We can say therefore, that the fathers read the passage of the bible personally and interpreted it to solve the
problems of the early centuries that affect the church. However, the literally exegesis does not produce the entire
meanings of the biblical text. As a result of this limitation the fathers resort to another type of exegetical
interpretation of the bible known as typology. This method runs through the works of the fathers discussed above in
this work. Typology is a system of dividing things into different types'' (cf.Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
of Current English, sixth edition, edit, by Sally Wehmeier, New York, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 1403.). In
biblical interpretation it has another meaning. In its scriptural context, person (s) or event (s) of the Old Covenant
are called type in the NT. The types necessarily have their counterparts and fulfillment in the New Covenant (cf.
Karl, Rahner Herbert, Concise Theological Dictionary, edit, by, Cornelius Ernst, O. P., transl, by, Richard Strachan,
New York, Burns and Oates Limited, 1968, p.474). Typological interpretation used in biblical exegesis, help the
fathers read new meanings into the Testaments that provide solutions to the nature of the problem the young
Christian community members faced. With typological exegetical lens the fathers discover that the biblical human
persons, figures and events as type for: the family, mother church, Christ, paradise and so on.
Typology makes Old Testament persons, figures, stories and events types for the New Testament. In the New
Testament therefore, the types find fulfillment and new meanings that suit the existential situations of the
adherents. This means of biblical interpretation is evident with the fathers. For instance they draw typological
relationship and interpretation from the genesis account of creation of Eve from the side of Adam to that of Jesus on
the cross through which the mother church was born. This solidified the typological representation of Eva as mother
of death (sin) and the mother church as the mother of the living. Adam the first man is the typology of Christ the

52

Despite what they achieved through the usage of the maternal symbolic expression of
the church, they fathers over looked the significance of the fact of the human
differences in matters of genders as they used this image in reflecting on the mystery of
human salvation expressed through the church. Therefore, the application or usage of
the mother image tells us about attitude, disposition of men and women towards the
function and mission of the church. We can say, then, that the mother qualities are
intrinsic in every members of the church. Some are real mothers, while others share in
this in the form of act of mothering. The image emphasizes the theological,
sacramental and pastoral aspect of the church. The pastoral perspective becomes more
effective through her members active participation in her maternal missionary activities.
This accentuates Augustine's idea of the motherhood of the members of the mother
church. However, the theological reflection on unity shows the mother church as one of
the most important agents of unity, reconciliation and dialogue process. Our
investigation in this section of the work reveals an important information that manifests
itself in two different but related levels that: the mother church is a person(s). She is a
person in this or that individual man and woman. As a community, the church becomes
persons. This indicates that the church is not an abstract entity. The mother church is a
concrete reality that exists among human beings. More so, the mother personhood of
the Christians relates to the Personhood of the Triniterian God. In and through the
church therefore, the Triniterian Persons realize their mission of human salvation. The
relation thus takes us to the abstract, ontological nature and portrays the mystery of the
motherhood of the church.
As a mother the church carries us in her womb like the earthly mothers do. Her womb is
a home for her children irrespective of age and population. With observation to this,
Yves Congar said, she, the Church is no longer simply the body of Christ but also the
means for that Body to grow and thrive; she is the mother, and so to say, the womb of
Christians.184 It becomes implicit that the mother church is the womb in which
Christians are formed and encounter the gospel she preaches. The formation and
encounter brings about the spiritual birth and numerical growth of the Body through
conversion. These feminine attributes of womb, childbearing, nurturing, and protection
are anthropological and so the natural consequences proper to women, found exhibited
by the church through different means. This is the basic reason why the church is rightly
considered a mother. Hence, the mother image of the church shows how the church
shares in some of the feminine qualities and attributes of the mothers in the human
cultures and societies. However the similarities, her motherhood is different from the
motherhood of the natural mothers.
second man (cf. Tertullian and Augustine above in this work). Another typological interpretation employed by the
fathers especially Augustine and Ambrose is between the person of Mary and the Church. Through typological lens
the motherhood of Mary is viewed as the type of the motherhood of the Church. Again, in the maternal image of the
church, God is the Father as Christians are children is traditional and an ideal typology of human's family structure
(cf. Tertullian, Augustine and Cyprian above). What is common among the fathers was that the female figures are
types for institutions: the Church and the Synagogue. The male children of the favored elements in the pair become
types of Christ cf.Tilley, A. Maureen, op. cit., p. 36.) Also, in the Old Testament we encounter the nation Israel,
Zion and Jerusalem depicted either as daughter or mother or wife to Yahweh. These cities and nations are typology
of the mother church from above and below.
184

Congar, Yves, The Mystery of the Church, Helico press, Baltimore, 1965,p.70

53

The view of the church as mother brings to limelight the spiritual birth and continuous
nurturing of the sons and daughters of God. The church does this through the
celebration of the sacraments, the preaching of the gospel and other pastoral activities
within her reach. Thus, the image of the church as mother is one that expresses the
importance of her participation in the mission of God towards humanity. As a mother, the
church shares that which she has with her children and in service gives out herself; and
cares for humanity. The image of the church used by the early fathers of the church
appears more in baptismal or better sacramental context. Through this Christians are
born in her womb. The symbol also, shows the loving compassionate care of the church
towards every individual members. Again, the church's maternity is evident in the office
bishop as caput and mater who see to resolving both external and internal conflicts in
the church. They see to the maternal authentic proclamation of the doctrine and the
legitimate administration of the sacraments. During the medieval era, the image serves
as one of the means to criticize the life style of the clerics. From the early and medieval
periods, Christians and the ancient prophets in the Bible rightly observed this role and
depicted the church with the maternal imagery. This was to enable them describe her
origin, mission, nurture and love towards Christians and the entire human beings.
However, the usage of the mother image in describing the church, goes beyond
doctrinal discussion. From what we have seen so far, it is more of pastoral.
Nevertheless, some scholars discovered that the maternal image of the church was
used in Christian poetry and architectural designs as in the baptismal font which
symbolizes the womb of the mother church185, in mosaic and inscription.186
1.3 The Church as Mother in the works of ModernTheologians
The modern era is a period of further theological inquiry or quest into the understanding
of the church from different Christian denominations. As a result of this, one encounters
so many diverse theological explanations and understandings of the church.
Theologians from these churches thus saw the need to look once more into the nature,
function and relation of these different churches to the society. Just like the previous
periods, the modern era is a challenging one. The modern societies challenged the
church's doctrines and customary practices, its self-understanding-even its very
existence.187 Mid-twentieth century witnessed a kind of rekindled interest of the Modern
theological scholars to investigate and study once again the ancient fathers of the
church on the development and usage of the maternal image in the discussions of the
church. In 1937, Tromp Sebastian wrote an article entitled, Ecclesia Sponsa Virgo
Mater and identified important principal images associated with maternal metaphor:
185

Jensen, M. Robin, Mater Ecclesia and Fons Aeterna: The Church and Her Womb in Ancient Christian Tradition:
in A Feminist Companion to Patristic Literature, edit, by, Amy-Jill Levine, London, T&T Clark, 2008, p. 148ff.
186

Plumpe, C. Joseph, Mater Ecclesia An Inquiry into the concept of the Church as Mother in early Christianity, edit,
by Johannes Quasten, Washington, D. C, the catholic university of America press, 1943, p.54.
187

Healy, M. Nicholas , The Church in Modern Theology in: The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church,
edit, by, Mannion, Gerard and Mudge, S. Lewis, New York, 2008, p. 106.

54

conception, birth, nourishment and abortion. 188 Plumpe in 1949 produced a work that has
been of great help in further study of the church as mother by the patristic fathers: Irenaeus,
Tertullian, Clement of Alexandra, Origen, Cyprian of Carthage and Methodius of Philippi during
the fourth and fifth centuries.189 This section will concern itself on the issue of the church
as mother from the perspectives of the modern catholic theologians : men and women.
1.3.1 HENRI DE LUBAC, 1896-1991
Henri De Lubac is a French by origin, one of the Catholic theologians of the twentieth
century and a member of the Society of Jesus. As a renowned theologian, he wrote
many theological works that include: the Motherhood of the Church, the Splendor of the
Church, the Christian Faith, Catholicism and many more. He taught history of theology
and was a member of Catholic faculties in Lyons. He participated in the Second Vatican
Council. His idea about the Church helped in giving further understanding of the
Church. Because of his input during the Second Vatican Synod, he was described as
one of the thinkers who created the intellectual climate that opened up the vast spiritual
resources of the catholic tradition cramped by post-Tridentine baroque theology.190
1.3.1.2 The Motherhood of the Church according to Henri De Lubac
In a bid to x-ray the idea of the church as mother Henri De Lubac asked very pertinent
questions of: what is this Church? Is it necessary to consider her only in her shepherds,
in those who, following the first apostles, perpetuate with authority the Word and
sacraments among us? In other words, is it solely a question of that Church which we
call today the hierarchical Church? 191 The whole questions centres around and against
the medieval period definition of the church as hierarchy. His questions call for new
understanding of the church in relation to every members. Henri De Lubac's questions
differ from Cyprian's later notion of the church and its maternity he sees only with the
college of bishops. For his questions, De Lubac says that, the Church is those who are
saved without any distinction by Christ from misery of sin and death. 192 It is not a
question of this particular Christian denomination or the other. The church he advocates
for is an inclusive one. This church could be seen also as the totality of humanity Jesus
Christ died on the cross to save from sin. When we narrow his notion down to a
particular church, it suggests a church where the laity as well as the clergy forms a
single part. This means that everyone the clergy and the laity are important and useful
in the understanding of the church. His definition of the church is a critique of the
hierachical image of the church and does not negate in any way the value of the
hierarchy in the church. Hence, inasmuch as the church exists and goes about her
mission in the world, she needs the hierarchy. Henri De Lubac advocates for a more
188

www.etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03242011-105708/unrestricted/text-Appendix-Bibliography.pdf.
Visited on 9.06.2014
189

Cf. Plumpe, C. Joseph, op. cit., p.

190

www.ignatiusinsight.com/authors/henridelubac.asp. Visited on 21.06.2013.

191

Henri De Lubac, op. cit., p.

192

Henri De Lubac, ibid, pp.76-77.

55

humanly church oriented in allaying human fears and worries of the present world. In
other words, his argument is against exclusion within the church. It is important to
accentuate that the inclusive type of Church De Lubac seeks is one that is more open,
to embrace all, to inform and to remind us of our fundamental nature that we are one
irrespective of the undeniable differences.
Furthermore, he says, the Church is a mother, but quite unlike other mothers, she
draws to her those who are to be her children and keeps them united together in her
womb.193 He gives us two type of mothers: the church and the others. These other
mothers are not known as he did not identify them either by names or with any
descriptions. We are left to ask if these other mothers in reference here are biological
mothers or the other Christian denominations outside Catholic Church. As a mother the
church calls human beings to herself. Just as the embryo is constantly fused to its
mother in the womb and children attached to their mothers after birth with bond of love.
So, are Christians to the church and to each other in the community and in the society.
The gathering together of the children of God is one of the essential missions of the
church as mother. The association of the maternity of the church with the womb by
Henri De Lubac is in keeping to the patristic tradition. In another place he maintained
that the church is our mother, and we would not be Christians if we did not acknowledge
in her this essential characteristic. 194 It is our obligation to know and appreciate the
church so. Therefore, motherhood is an inherent quality of the church. In attempt to
elucidate more his view on the church as mother he says, . now Christ, the model of
what all may be, has taken the Church, our mother, for his bride, unlocked the prison of
her misery-His love is she.195 The scriptural and patristic ideas are once more reechoed here by Henry De Lubac. In relation to Christ the church is a bride. While to us
the same church is a mother.
In further explanations of the maternal nature of the church he shows how this is
realized. According to him, the birth of the Christian by the mother Church is
considered in the sacrament (above all of baptism, followed by the Eucharist), or in the
proclamation of the Word. But it is not necessary to see any opposition in that, or even a
duality, properly speaking. In fact-as anyone with any religious instruction knows - the
sacrament is never without the gift of the Word, and the Word itself is sacramental. 196 In
the citation, the maternal functions of the church are highlighted. These are: the act of
giving birth through baptism, nourishment through Eucharist and through
evangelization/preaching of the word. Strictly speaking, both the sacraments and the
Word form one entity and should not be separated. He progresses by bringing the two
together to express the unity that exists between the Word and sacrament. We can
argue that the mother church gives birth to children and adults alike. With regard to the
193

Henri De Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the common Destiny of man, transl, by, Lancelot C. Sheppard, et al,
San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1988, p, 53.
194

Henri, De Lubac, op. cit., p. 75.

195

Henri De Lubac, ibid, p. 76.

196

Henri, De Lubac, ibid, p. 60.

56

proclamation of the Word, he says, the transmission of this Word by those who are its
servants is not simple teaching, mere catechesis. 197 What takes place here is more
than normal teaching and catechesis. In another place, Henri De Lubac maintains that it
is necessary, ... to consider this maternity as that of the entire Church, which all the
faithful living the life of Christ participate in spreading. 198 This opens up the need for
effective participation of the Christians in the evangelization mission of God through the
church in the world. The first citation deals with the teaching organ of the mother
church. He therefore made a necessary connection between the motherhood of the
church with the magisterium. The second citation is wider in scope and more inclusiveIt involves both the clergy and the laity in the maternal mission of the church. This takes
us back to his definition of the church above. That is, a church for all. A church in which
everybody participate in her various functions and missions activities that brings us
together than keeping us apart from one another in the service of God in and through
the church.
The praching of the word in the context that Henri De Lubac used it is the proclamation
of the deeds, words and actions of Jesus Christ to humanity. That is, evangelization.
This was central in the ministry of the Apostles. It continues to play vital role in present
day participation by the Christians in the mission of Christ in this present era. Hence,
the preaching of the word is central in the mission of the mother church. The church
draws her essence from the Word (Jesus Christ). The church derives her being from
that which she gives and communicates to humanity. So, the Word and Sacrament are
unique means through which Gods grace, spiritual life, blessing and love is transmitted
into the human hearts. This leads to the spiritual birth of the person(s) involved and
encouraged to take on the new life in Christ. The word is to develop and grow to
maturity in the lives of the individual Christian souls and in the community. To this De
Lubac says, the soul which has received the seed of the Word.., forms this received
Word within her until she herself gives birth to the spirit of the fear of God. 199 On a
similar note he argues that the Christian soul truly becomes mother of the Word of
God.200 De Lubac goes individual to prove the nature of the motherhood of the
Christians whose souls serve as wombs for the Word. The individual souls in which the
seed, the word is sown becomes the mother of the word. What does this mean.
Being the mother of the word implies that the individual person is to give birth in double
folds. He or she gives birth through the conversion of others. Hence, each individual
actively join in the maternal function of the mother church in conceiving and giving birth
to the word and in spreading that which they received. The second aspect of the giving
birth is direct on the individuals involved. These individuals are to give birth to virtues
which make the souls real mothers of the word. We argue that Henri De Lubac in his
197

Henri, De Lubac, loc. cit.

198

Henri, De Lubac, ibid, p. 83.

199

See, Origen, In Levit., hom. 12, c. 7 Baehrens, 466. Cf. also, Henri De Lubac, ibid p, 81.

200

Rupert, In Isaiam, I. 2, c. 91 (PL, 167:1362 AB).cf, Henri De Lubac, loc. cit.

57

ecclesiological image of mother, demonstrates the maternity of the church as an


indispensable nature that reinforces the interpersonal community of the church. Again,
in his idea of the maternity of the church, he is out to protect the division of the church
between the clergy with authority and the laity with the aim to avoid the tendency of
exclusivity. Despite what he said about the church as mother, he made a very important
observation. In his observation, De Lubac identified that the motherhood of the church
no longer means anything to our systems... but we, in order to free ourselves from their
abstraction, to return to our mother. 201 He calls for the revitalization and usage of the
image once more in the churchs discourses.
1.3.2 HANS URS VON BALTHASAR 1905-1988
Hans Urs Von Balthasar was born in Switzerland and a member of the Jesuit Order. He
was one of the greatest catholic theologians of the twentieth century. He studied in
many places such as Vienna, Zurich and Berlin. Hans Urs Von Balthasar worked as an
editor of a magazine called, Stimmen der Zeit. As a prolific writer, he wrote many
theological books. Among his numerous works are: Exploration in theology, to the heart
of the mystery of Redemption, Engagement with God, The theology of history, Martin
Buber and Christianity and others. He was chosen by Pope John Paul II to become
Cardinal in 1988 but died two days before the consecration. 202
1.3.2.1 Hans Urs von Balthasar's understanding of the Church as Mother
He began his inquiry from the ancient fathers of the church and through the Scripture.
He maintains that, ...both in the Old and New Testaments, and also in the symbolic
pattern of thought in antiquity... the Church is perceived as the sphere of the feminine in
all her essential characteristics: Virgin, Bride, Mother. 203 As the mother image of the
church became less used, Hans Urs asked some important questions as:
do we still experience the Church as the ideal of all that is feminine?
Do we see her as the second Eve, created from (the wound in) the
side of the new Adam to compliment him; as the paradisal Virgin, who
in her union with Christ and in her fruitfulness by him does not cease
to be a Virgin; and who, as Origen says (quoting Revelation 14:4),
makes all those who belong to her spiritually virginal? Finally, do we
see this Virgin as the archetype of the Mother who carries, bears, and
rears her children? The Church Fathers pondered thoroughly each and
all of these traits and interwove them into a rich symbolism. 204
201

Henri, De Lubac, op. cit., p. 164.

202

Origin, The Classic of Western Spirituality: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works, transl, by,
Rowan. A. gereer et al, Paulist Press, 1988. Cf. www.logos.com/product/9622/hans-urs-von-balthasar-collection.
Visited on 6. 6. 2013.
203

Hans Urs Von Baltasar, The Office of Peter and The Structure of the Church, tran, by, Andree Emery, San
Francisco, 2007, p.195.

58

He typologically associates persons of both Old and New Testaments in speaking of the
church as mother. The church he sees as the new Eve created from the wounded side
of the new Adam Jesus Christ.205 The new Eve compliments the new Adam and this
signifies union between the two. This lends credence to the theological formulation of
the image of the church as the mystical body of Christ. Again, the nuptial symbolic
tendency of both Scriptural Testaments reoccurs here once more. The height of his
theology of ecclesiology was that the new Eve is fruitful an another way of speaking of
the motherhood of the church, who is at the same time a Virgin. She is the archetype of
mother who carries, bears and rears children. This implies a sense of natural and
cultural link of his notion and development of the maternity of the church.
Naturally speaking, all the traits presented in the questions are feminine. But, if these
characteristics are found lacking, the church ceases to be the mother and becomes
probably something else. A very pertinent question comes to mind here. In the real
sense of it, has the Church been stripped of all these qualities? This is because, traits
cannot be stripped from things that have them. Traits are indelible qualities one or thing
carries along and cannot be washed away. It is a trade mark. What does the church as
mother mean from the perspective of Hans Urs von Bathasar. The questions asked by
Hans Urs von Balthasar is a grave one for us because a Church stripped of this allembracing qualities is in danger of being reduced to a purely sociological entity or, at
best, is far more vulnerable to sociological criticism than a Church conceived in terms of
the ancient mysterium vision. 206 When we fail to recognize the qualities he mentioned,
the church becomes like every other organizations in the society and an object of
criticism because of the failure to stand for what it really is.
In order to clarify the seemingly tension of the feminine and masculine natures of the
Church, in which none infringes on the other, Hans Urs von Baithasar says.
if the Church as a whole is characterized as feminine, and if the masculine
ministry is fundamentally anchored in this sphere, a twofold danger is
avoided at a single stroke. First, the Church might become a self-sufficient
entity, interposing herself as an intermediary between the believers and
Christ, whereas she is primarily an open womb and teaches mankind, in her
and with her, to be simply open. Secondly, the clergy might equate their
paternal role with the divine, paternal authority of God instead of recognizing
that their exercise of authority is pure service, the pure communication of the
authority that belongs solely to God.207
The implication of the whole idea is that despite the fact that the church is seen as a
mother, the masculine attribute in the form of office is unavoidably important. The same
204

Hans Urs, Von Balthasar. op. cit., p.196

205

Cf. Tertullian on his work called De Anima. 43.10 (CCSL 2:847.62-65, LG. no. 3.

206

Hans, Urs, Von Baltasar, op. cit., p.

207

Hans, Urs Von Baltasar, ibid, p.197.

59

notion is expressed thus:


it is always owing to the immediate mediation of pastors that this
maternal function of all and each one can be exercised, whether
in relation to the Word of God in the individual soul or with regard
to the community as a whole ... that the divine life continues to be
transmitted, and it is they who have the responsibility of seeing to
it that the Virginity of the faith is preserved both intact and faithfully.208
Here the feminist theologians will contend and see it as one of the skillful ways to edge
them out from the ministerial priesthood of the church and reserve it solely for their male
counterparts. Through biblical expressions, we find some similar ideas of the need of
the office in the Christian community. Paul the Apostle argues that: they are the
dispensers of the mysteries of God for us (cf. 1Cor. 4:1). They pronounce the word of
reconciliation over us (cf. 2Cor.5:18-20). The clergy participate in these works as
representatives and co-workers of God on earth. They are to see to the effective
administration of the sacraments. Through the preaching of the word and the
administration of the sacraments, the mother church bears and nurtures her children.
This leads to the growth of the mystical body of Christ: in faith and number. In other
words, she is no longer simply the Body of Christ but also the means for that Body to
grow and thrive; she is the Mother and, so to say, the womb of Christians. She contains
the means of begetting them, of educating them and helping them grow up in Christ, as
members of his Body, the Body that is her own true inward self. 209
It is evident to point out that the office is not to be taken as the church. And we are not
in any way trying to place the office of the clergy at equal rank with the church. This is
because; the priestly ministry is subsumed in the maternity of the church. In the church
priesthood has its origin, its functions and finally finds its meaning. However, with the
paternal office in the church we maintain that the entire activities of the mother church
are performed within sacramental and pastoral missionary activities. Therefore:
the rich content of the image is reduced to the Churchs pastoral activity,
which always presupposes a prior reception of the salvation offered by
God (in words and sacrament), which is then transmitted partly as an
object, instrumentally (corresponding to the ancient view of woman),
and partly by active personal participation (in the modern understanding). 210
It highlights the obvious fact of our participation in the work of God. Therefore, being
spiritually born is not the end of the birth. Rather it entails a new beginning with
responsibilities attached to it. It becomes a given function of the children in a maternal
pastoral manner to see that the new life they have received do not fade away. The onus
is dual on the individual christian man and woman and on the Christian community as a
208

Henri De Lumbac, op. cit., p.85.

209

Yves, Congar, O.P, The Mystery of the Church, second, revised edition, London, 1965, p. 70.

210

Yves, Congar, O.P, ibid, p.202.

60

group. Both are to be actively involved in the evangelization process. That is,
participation in the continuous dissemination of the salvific message within and outside
the community of Christians. In so doing, each acts motherly towards the other. Thus
the motherhood of the members finds its origin, meaning and mission within the
motherhood of the church. Invariably, the mother church simultaneously becomes the
cause of all that happens in the lives of the Christians, with regard to faith, its
development and growth, and how to work towards perfection. What the faithful in turn
do among themselves is to achieve the same goal of purification, sanctification and
sustenance of the faith they received. Afterward, they apply what they have learn to
translate their daily life activities in the societies.
By implication, Christians' responsibilities as mothers are only a share in the maternal
role of the church. They are the mother church called to care, teach, nurture and inspire
each other. It is a call and invitation for active participation. The above idea of Hans Urs
Von Baltasar synchronizes with that of Augustine and Henri De Lubac. For Henri De
Lubac, it is, ...a maternity of all, indivisibly, with respect to each one, and of each one
with respect to all. The more each one, on his part, is an adult in Christ-which means,
as we have seen, the more intimately he is bound to his Church-the more he exercises
his maternity.211 Thus, each person has his or her own part to play. By doing so, we
respond individually and at the same time as a group to our human and Christian call to
become true persons. However, just like his contemporary Henri De Lubac, Hans Urs
von Balthasar asked an important question of if the image of:
our Mother the Church (that has become alien to us, and that we
prefer to replace with the more popular expression People of God)
anything more than an analog that was once appropriate, on the basis
of prevailing cultural conditions, and that is no longer appropriate since
it no longer corresponds to our changed way of thinking and feeling? 212
Both theologians draw attention to sudden backdrop of this image in the understanding
of the church in the modern era. There is an inherent tension that accompanies the
church as mother. This is obvious in the Bible, in the thinking of theologians of past and
present. This center on choice and pairing of words as heavenly, earthly, virginal, fruitful,
inclusiveness and exclusiveness aspects of one reality. As a virgin, the mother church is
faithful in maintaining the purity of the doctrine and tradition she received from her
spouse Christ to whom she is united (cf. 2Cor. 11.2; Eph. 5. 25f). The church transmits
the doctrine to her children through the magisterium and other teaching organs. In spite
of the so many challenges she endured under different schismatic onslaughts and
heretical teachings she never stops giving birth to Gods children. Instead, she is seen
as the barren woman of the Old Testament who bears many children in the New
Testament (cf. Gal. 4.26f). The mother Church is found still bearing sons and daughters
in our own present generation. She is a fruitful mother, the fulfillment of the old
prophecy. But the most outstanding element of contradiction which Hans Urs identifies
211

Henri, De Lumbac, op. cit., pp. 61-63.

212

Hans, Urs Von Balthasar, op. Cit., p. 199.

61

is what the early Church Fathers refer to as a matter of course to Mother Church: bride
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish
(cf. Eph. 5:27).
Here, the attention is on the invisible aspect of the mother church which is outside
human thinking, but becomes possible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He
goes on to say, this, however, throws a critical light on the certitude (never doubted,
though never reflectively explored) that was based on the data of Scripture and the
contrast between the (never altogether spotless) synagogue and the Church wholly
cleansed by Christs blood: who is or who are this pure Church or Church of the pure,
rightly called the real, the true Church, suffering the falsehood and hypocrisy of the
Church of sinners, whom she makes righteous, elevates and reconciles with herself. 213
In the text the church that is pure is the eschatological mother. She is in
contemporaneous harmony to elevate, to reconcile and to make righteous the church of
sinners in the world. It presupposes then, that the eschatological Mother Church, the
pre-existent Church of Origen, Methodius, and Apostle Paul is spotless, blemish and
pure. On this, they share the same idea with the Gnostics and Donatists groups. It is a
condition that is in contrast to the earthly mother church. For Paul the Apostle, the
heavenly church is our Mother (cf. Gal. 4.26), identified as the city of the living God, the
saints are her citizens and it is also the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Heb. 12.22; Rev. 21).
Notwithstanding, the earthly mother church has the same qualities since she shares the
same origin with the eschatological mother church. The fact that she exists in the world,
and with children both saints and sinners, she has wrinkles on her face. The wrinkles
are based on the ways of life of her children who are not yet mature in virtues, faith, but
are struggling on the part to perfection. Hence and according to Balthasar, the earthly
Church is merely her imperfect image, bound to her while she humbly wanders through
a world that is far from God. 214 We reiterate once more that the earthly church can be
rightly considered spotless by reason of the Pascal mystery and the sacraments rooted
in this mystery. The mother church is thus once and always full of life and beautiful
before the presence of her bridegroom. Despite the reality that the sins of the human
beings who are members of the earthly mother church detract from her integrity, we
cannot conclude then that the church is sinful. This is paramount to calling into question
the efficacy of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord through Jesus Christ on
which the foundation of the mother church is laid. In other words, the journey of
salvation is a purifying process. This journey of salvation climaxes in heaven. There in
heaven the individual shares in fullness of the common quality of spotlessness of the
mother church above. In the world therefore, the mother church is spotless and helps
Christians as individual and group to achieve that. Following the perspectives of Lubac
and Balthasar we discover a call to watch the growing tendency that focuses more on
the hierarchy of the church. (Thus, the image of the church as mother by them serve as
criticism of the image of the church as institution.) An approach that makes the church
look more like any other social institutions; that is more concerned with the outward
213

Hans Urs Von Baltasar, ibid, p.204.

214

Hans Urs, Von Baltasar, ibid, , p. 206.

62

aspect of the church than its inner nature.) However, they never dismiss the fact that the
authority is essential in and for the church. For both theologians, the mother church
possessed masculinity and femininity represented in the biblical persons of Peter and
Mary.215
1.3.3 JOSEPH RATZINGER (Pope emeritus) 1927
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger the present pope emeritus is German by origin. He had a
long standing teaching experience in many universities in Germany. In 1977 he was
raised to the post of Archbishop for Mnich and Freising and Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
As a Pope, he is known as Benedict XVI. He is one of the erudite theologians of both
twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the history of the Church. His theological ideas
like that of Henri De Lubac have been of great help in the understanding of the Church
as found in the Second Vatican Council on Lumen Gentium. He is a prolific and
towering figure in writing theological books. These include: behold the pierced, seek that
which is above, God is near us, introduction to Christianity, truth and tolerance,
Christianity and the crisis of cultures, full of grace, communion, God and the world and
many others.
1.3.3.1 The Church as Mother according to Joseph Ratzinger
Joseph Ratzinger the present pope emeritus began his quest on the church as mother
like his contemporaries. In one of his definitions of the church he maintains that the:
Church is not a contrivance or an apparatus, not merely an institution or one of
the usual sociological entities-she is a person. She is a woman. She is alive.
The Marian understanding of the Church is the most categorical antithesis to a
merely organizational or bureaucratic concept of Church. We cannot make
Church; we must be Church. And we are Church, and Church is in us only
insofar as faith shapes our being, above and beyond anything we do.Only by
becoming like Mary do we become Church. At the origins, too, Church was not
made but born. She was born when the fiat was awakened in Marys soul. 216
He takes further the Mary-Church ideas of Augustine and Ambrose to a higher
ecclesiological development. Ratzinger interprets the Marian development of
ecclesiology as a good arrangement, in which it becomes obvious that the Church
cannot be reduced to what is institutional or sociological since by her very nature she is
feminine (Ecclesia), namely, Woman and Mother.217 In another place he holds that, the
Church as Virgin and Mother has a feminine nature. 218 The mystery and nature of the
church is enveloped in feminine qualities (of which motherhood is one of such aspects.)
The citation encompasses the bulk information of Ratzingers notion of the church and
215

Hans Urs Von Baltasar, ibid, p. 195.

216

Joseph, Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, and Politics: New Endeavors in Ecclesiology, transl, by Michael J. Miller
et al, San Fransico, 2008, p. 28.

63

its materna image: 1) the use of the feminine pronoun she in three instances to stress
the meaning of the church as, 2) a person; 3) a woman; 4) active; 5) and not solely a
structure. He locates the birth of the church to the awakening of the fiat in Marys soul.
This means that the church historically was born the moment Mary accepted to be the
mother of the only begotten Son of God Jesus Christ. He differs from Tertullian and
Augustine who traced the birth of the church to the open side of the New Adam, Jesus
Christ on the cross.
The church according to Ratzinger, is personalizing, the Church is viewed not as a
structure, but as a person and in person, secondly, it is incarnational the unity of bios,
person, and relation to God; the ontological freedom of the creature vis-a-vis the
Creator and of the body of Christ relative to the head, and thirdly, it involves the heart,
affectivity and thus fixes faith solidly in the deepest roots of mans being. 219 This
reveals the relational mystery that lies beneath human economy of salvation. He goes
on to argue that Christ and the Church-Church here meaning the creatures fusion with
its Lord in spousal love, in which its hope for divinization is fulfilled by way of faith. If
therefore Christ and ecclesia are the hermeneutical Centre of the scriptural narration of
the history of Gods saving dealings with man, then and only then is the place fixed
where Marys motherhood becomes theologically significant as the ultimate personal
concretization of Church. Through her fiat Mary is Israel in person; she is the Church in
person and as a person. Her fiat makes her the bodily mother of the Lord. 220 With regard
to the church this means that the affirmation of Marys motherhood and the affirmation
of her representation of the church relates as factum and mysterium facti, as the fact
and the sense that gives the fact its meaning. The two are inseparable; because, the
fact without its sense would be blind; the sense without the fact would be empty.
In a nutshell, the reality of the motherhood of the church implies, Christus and Ecclesia,
sponsus and sponsa form the hermeneutic centre of Scripture. 221 The entire events
radiate within the ambient of marriage relationship between Christ and the church. But
217

Maximilian Heinrich Heim, Joseph Ratzinger, Life In The Church and Living Theology, Fundamentals of
Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium, transl, by Michael J. Miller, M. A. Theol. San Francisco,
2007,p.405. In another place, he is of the opinion that the Church possesses in Mary her typological form and
everything that is said about Mary is also true analogous of the Church. Thus, the motherhood of the Church is
placed side by side with the motherhood of Mary. Whatever that could be said of the latter is applicable to the
former. If taken to be so, it implies that Mary who in the first instance was the earthly mother of Christ; is on another
instance a spiritual mother of Christians. By this implication Mary shares in the motherhood of the Church. Can we
really say that Mary share in the motherhood of the Church or vice versa? This may be difficult because theology
describes Mary as the fullness of motherhood (theotokos, mediatrix) and on the other hand describes the Church as
the fullness of motherhood. In this situation, we can say that there is a strong connection between Mary and the
Church under the motherhood principle. Both share in the mission of human salvation as active participants in
collaboration with God through Christ.
218

Ratzinger et al, Thoughts on the place of Marian Doctrine and Piety in Faith and Theology as a Whole, in
Mary: The Church at the Source, trans. Adrian Walker, San Francisco, 2005, p.29.
219

Ratzinger, Joseph, et al, op. cit., p. 34.

220

Ratzinger, Joseph, et al, ibid, p.30.

221

Ratzinger, Josephe, ibid, p. 31.

64

with regard to Mary, Jesus Christ is a Son, and not a bridegroom. It becomes
theologically abnormal to begin to see Mary as a bride to Christ her Son. But from
spiritual point of view, Mary becomes the spiritual mother of Christ. We base our
argument on Jesus position of those who are his brothers, sisters and mother. The
church learns concretely what she is and is meant to be by looking at Mary. Mary is her
mirror, the pure measure of her being, because Mary is wholly within the measure of
Christ and of God, is through and through his habitation. And what other reason could
the ecclesia have for existing than to become a dwelling place for God in the world?
God does not deal with abstractions. He is a Person and the church is a person. The
more that each one of us becomes person, person in the sense of a fit habitation for
God, daughter of Zion, the more we become one, the more we are the Church, and the
more the Church is herself.222 The text deliminiates the idea that the mother church as a
person or persons.
1.3.4 The Female Theologians on the Church as Mother
The women theologians set out to address important questions that affects them.
Among the questions they often raise include, what is the church for the women. In a
bid to provide answer(s) to this, they raise other issues like the position of women in the
church. The church that champions the course of justice for all the marginalized
persons: women, men and children in the societies and the cultures. They seek for a
church that discovers its identity with the poor of the world. 223 For them, women have
been misunderstood and treated as second class group of people based on gender.
This negative attitude toward women exist in the society, in most cultures and
unfortunately in the church. This means that, in the society and in the church women
occupy lower position. For the feminist theologians, the human society in general is
guilty of this negative treatment against women. What the women theologians are out to
achieve in the society, cultures and the church is the liberation of the female folk. It is a
call to reread and reconstruct the former traditional understanding and positions that
have subjugated them. This is to be done with the aim of new understanding of women,
their plights and to encourage them realize their potentials better in life. This will accord
everybody equal chance and opportunity; and restore respect to every human being
created in the image and likeness of God. Every individual is of course endowed with
gifts from God. These gifts are meant to be utilized for the wellbeing of the entire
humanity. Therefore, there is urgent need to correct this negative and dehumanizing
treatment meted on the female folk both in the societies, cultures and in the church.
The magnitude of this imbalance in the societies has been a serious topic of debate at
various sectors in the world. Evident of this is in the United Nations visions 2015. This
vision is expressed in words as the millennium goals. Out of the eight goals, three
where directly on women liberation.224 Whether and how these visions will be actualized
is a different issue. Now, the year 2015 has come and gone still the effect of the change
is at minimal level. The available results in this regard are not evenly distributed. Yet,
222

Ratzinger, Joseph, ibid, p.66.

223

Russell, M Letty, Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church, Westminster, John Knox Press,
Louisville, Kentucky, 1993, p.43.

65

through the mass media, we hear and read about negative treatments against women in
the families, places of works and so on. Despite the slow progress in this direction, we
may not say actually, that nothing is happening. It is a process. Elizabeth A. Johnson
identified such words of change in the church with regard to baptism and the Bible. The
sacrament of baptism makes us one family of God on earth. In this family (church) all
are equal since we are made from one source, God irrespective of our biological or
gender differences. The same idea is found scattered in the scriptures. In the same
Scriptures there are passages that somehow gave rise to this ugly phenomenon (cf.
1Tim. 2:11-15). The picture of women in some scriptural texts influenced the notion
some ancient fathers of the church had about them. This ideology has been transmitted
from one generation to another in history. For instance, Tertullian sees woman as the
gateway of the evil. Augustine sees them from double perspectives: in her spiritual
capacity she is equal to man, but in body and social role, she is not the image of God.
Thomas Aquinas sees them as a defective male, while Martin Luther maintains that,
woman is to stay at home like a nail driven into the wall, minding the house. 225 Women
from all these, are valued only in relation to men. Does it mean that they cannot achieve
anything without the support of the male counterpart? The climax of it all is that, they
are seen as the channel through which evil entered the world in one hand. On the other
hand, they are means through which males are tempted and deceived. Thus, Eve
became for men the cause of death, because through her death entered the world. 226
However, we easily forget that salvation came also through a woman, Mary seen as the
mother of the living by her simple acceptance, the great fiat. The same hold for church
seen as the new Eve and the mother of the living.
Historical evidents show that, women have contributed enormously both in the society
and in the church at local, national to international levels. They contribute in the
founding and spread of the church, but are marginalized once the community became
somewhat established, barred from governing, articulation of churchs doctrine, moral
teaching, and law. Banned from pulpit and altar 227 In the past years, many women
were educated to the level of being theologians. Previously, this used to be an affair left
for men. At present age, there is a great change in this regard. We can now speak
boldly of many women theologians who are spread all over the world. These women
theologians lecture in theological and seminary schools. They are even found at the
secular universities and colleges as lecturers. They are found also in the area of
scriptural exegesis in both Old and New Testaments. Therefore, this aspect is no long
an area mapped out only for the priests, pastors, and men. It is open for all genders.
They link this to the change that occurred in the history of the church after the second
and during the third century respectively. Toward the end of the second century, and at
the threshold of the middle age century, the church departed from the understanding of
224

Johnson A Elizabeth, Quest for the Living God, Continuum International Publishing Group, New York, 2007, pp
90-91.
225

Johnson, A. Elizabeth, ibid, p 92.

226

Miller Patricia Cox, edit, Women in Early Christianity, the Catholic University of America press, Washington,
D.C , 2005, p 13.
227

Johnson A Elizabeth, op. cit., pp 91-92.

66

itself as community of believers, to an institutionalized church. The women theologians


are out to effect a deconstruction of the male-hegemony in the society, cultures and
churchs structures. They also insist that the Bible-the word of God-should be read from
the point of view of justice, equality, and love. This will enable them to challenge those
systems that relegate them to background. One of the consequences or results of their
plight is the understanding of God as Mother. Majority of the women theologians base
their arguments on the activities of God found in both testaments of the Bible. Yahweh
the God of Israel by his activities in creation was presented in some cases and
situations as a woman who is pregnant, crying out in labor, giving birth, breast-feeding,
carrying her young, and nurturing them to growth. 228 From this context, God is to be
referred as She as against the old theological reference of He.
This brings some kind of or an apparent confusion in the theological language and
understanding of God. But to this new insight, if God is she as well as he, a new
possibility can be envisioned of a community that honors difference but allows women
and men to share life in equal measure. 229 Through his creative actions, like a mother,
God gives life to the world, nurtures this precious and vulnerable life, and desires the
growth and flourishing of all. 230 In affirmation to this reality, God is an all involving God
as Creator, Provider, Protector, Defender, Educator, and so on. This is identifiable in the
Scripture. In some situations God is refereed as He, while in other the same God is
identified as She. All these stem from Gods actions within a given context.
Another area in which the women theologians seek for liberation is the male-dominated
clericalism. The word clericalism connotes the notion that the ordained priests has
controlling power over the laity. It is the separation of ministry from mutual interaction
with community and its transformation into hierarchically ordered castes of clergy and
laity. The clergy monopolize teaching, sacramental action, and administration. 231 This
aspect of the church is for the women, dominated by the male counterpart. The clergy
are seen as the representatives of Christ in the church. The seemingly question is: are
women not among the representatives of Christ with regard to this in the church. Their
male counterparts are allowed and authorized to exercise power and authority on behalf
of Christ in the church. But women have not gotten such chances. In other Christian
churches in some parts of the world, women are ordained as ministers (pastors) for
example in the Protestant or Pentecostal churches in Nigeria. This raise question of
what if women are ordained priests in the Catholic church, wouldnt this give birth in a
church in which there is no gender discrimination. That is, a church in which every
member male or female; black or white, Greek or Jew can participate fully in her
mission and vocation (of the Church). They seek a church in which female members are
allowed to be part of the Hierarchy to exercise the ministries of the church. With this,
228

Johnson, A. Elizabeth, ibid, p 101.

229

Johnson, A. Elizabeth, ibid, p 100.

230

Johnson, A. Elizabeth, ibid, p 103.

231

Ruether Rosemary Radford, Women-Church: Theology and Practice, Harper and Row, Publishers, San Francisco,
1986, p 75.

67

they become part and parcel of the clerical domineering group that monopolizes
authority in the church. It is clear that the clerical structures continue to reinforce
structures of hierarchy and domination, whether or not the particular clergyperson is
male or female.232
The Nigerian and African women theologians joined their counterparts in this clarion call
for liberation of women. For them, this wind of change is to be witnessed in the
mainstream Christian churches, as well as in the societies, families, institutions and
cultures in African continent. In some of the African Independent Churches, women are
pastors, founders, evangelists, bishops and prophets. They are accorded the privilege
to preach from the pulpit in these churches. A strong idea that may inform the African
women theologians arguments is that, in some of the African Traditional Religion,
women function as priestess. They participate in the sacred duties of the communities,
towns and villages as such. But with regard to the mainstream Christian churches in
Nigeria and Africa in general the reverse is the case. They want a break away from
male-chauvinism, a major characteristic of the African society and the mainline Christian
churches. In such a male dominated society as in Nigerian cultures and society, women
are seen only as work-force and not as one of the decision-makers. 233 Thus, women
theologians seek for functional equal opportunity in the church, society, culture and so
on. An important question here becomes, is it only by becoming priest in the church can
women actualize their life dreams. If they see it so, it is a denial of truth. There are many
activities in the society, cultures including those of the church that enable women to
realize their potentials in life. So, becoming priest in the church is not the only mean
through which women can realize the given potentials God blessed them with. It is true
that Cathlic church has not allowed the ordaination of women (the sacramental
ordination), but the sacrament of baptism allows them participation in the priestly
function of Christ known as the common priesthood of all the baptised.
Another group of the female theologians hold the idea that the church is a mother. For
this group, the image of the church as mother attracts mixed reactions especially in the
minds of the people of this generation. The understanding of the church as mother
shows that women, feminine values and feminine virtues have always been essential to
the church, even if they are not visible in its institutional leadership. 234 The church as
mother appeared around the first three centuries. In this epoch the church was
understood not much as a powerful authority, rather as a community. The church is the
great we of the faithful in Christ and in his Spirit. 235 It is an image of the church that
challenges us to avoid anything capable of generating division among the children of
232

Russell M Letty, Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church, John Knox Press, Louisville,
Kentucky, 1993, p 51.
233

Oduyoye Amba Mercy, Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Women on Christianity in Africa, Orbis
books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004, p 71
234

Sally Cunneen, Mother Church: What the Experience of Women is Teaching her, Paulist Press, New
York/Mahwah, 1991, p 31
235

Sally, Cunneen, ibid, p. 42. Also, Gilberte Baril used the same we term to describe the community nature of the
Church in her work, Feminine Face of the People of God: Biblical symbols of the Church as bride and Mother.

68

God. In other words, seeing the church from the point of view of the we of the faithful in
Christ and in his Spirit fosters and promotes a strong sense and attitude of solidarity,
justice, equality, peace and love among Christians. From the female theologians, we
see an ecclesial model of the mother church called to liberate humanity from social,
cultural and religious practices that hinders human beings especially the women.
1.3.5 Church as Mother in the official Encyclical: MATER ET MAGISTRA 1961
The Encyclical Mater Et Magistra was written by pope John XXIII in 1961. As its name
suggests, the pope through this Encyclical describes the Church as mother and teacher.
According to him, it has been the wish of the founder, Jesus Christ, that the Church,
Catholic is the Mother and Teacher of all nations: to hold the world in an embrace of
love, that men, in every age, should find in her their own completeness in higher order
of living, and their ultimate salvation. She is the pillar and ground of the truth. To her
was entrusted by her holy founder the twofold task of giving life to her children and
teaching them and guiding them- both as individuals and as nations-with maternal
care.236 He clearly states that the church regarded as mother and teacher is Catholic
church. Christ willed that the church is to be understood as Mother and Teacher. This
stems from her twofold mission of giving birth, teaching and guiding them with maternal
care. Moreover, the mother church spoken about here is the visible church on earth. It is
the church in the human society and not the (abstract mother) Jerusalem from above of
some of the fathers of the church and the Apostle Paul. The Encyclical concerns itself
with the church in the concrete (social) situations of human beings. In these situations
she is a mother to the individual(s) as well as to all nations.
Therefore, wherever the church exists in the human society and cultures, she is a
mother and teacher. And in these cultures and society, she performs her maternal
functions. Implicitly, the churchs role as mother is universal. Even in particular situation,
the church discharges her maternal roles. How does this come through? This is evident
in the citation above. The church is a mother by giving birth to life. Although, the means
through which she gives birth to life was not given. This notion of her giving birth
synchronizes with what we discussed earlier with the fathers of the church. The mother
qualities of the church the Encyclical highlighted was that of teaching and guidance. Not
only that the church gives birth to the Christians, as a teacher she educates that life.
Through this teaching quality, the church contributes in character formation of the
individual and groups alike. This leads to the third maternal role of the church as one
who guides. In the stages of life of her children, the church accompanies, nurtures and
directs them. Since she is the pillar and ground of the truth, she teaches humanity
therefore the truth of life found in God. The mother church is a moral educator in
human society. With these, she is always with her children in the journey of life both as
individual person and as community of believers with all her maternal qualities of care
love, compassion, patience and so on. We can say that her task of giving birth, teaching
and guidance put together is a holistic maternal function of the church. Deductively, we
infer that the motherhood of the church is sacramental and pastoral.
236

Pope, John XXIII, Encyclical Mater Et Magistra, 1961, no 1.

69

In her maternal roles, it is obvious that her mission is not directed only to one aspect of
human existence. The church never loses sight of the material needs of the people. The
churchs maternal care towards human beings is thus holistic as Pope John XXIII
observes that: It lays claim to the whole man, body and soul, intellect and will. 237 This
delineates care for both the spiritual and material needs of the human beings in the
world. The human person in his or her nature, is a product of material and spiritual that
cannot be fragmented or separated into unconnected parts. Hence, the necessity of the
holistic maternal care of the church towards the human persons. In her order of
preference however, the care for human souls ranks first. She does this by following the
footsteps of her founder and bridegroom Jesus Christ. He gave the people the Word of
God as the food of the soul and provided them also with material food with deep
symbolic meaning.238 As a mother and teacher, the church is called to match her words
with actions to salvage the society. Her title as mother is an invitation to rise up and
challenge the miss-happenings in the society. She is called to rise and extend her
maternal hands of fellowship through the process of teaching and guiding the families,
communities, states and nations of the world.
Through the Encyclical Mater Et Magistra, we see the urgent need of the role of the
Church in the society as a Mother concerned with the welfare of humanity. It opens the
church more to the social realities and happenings in the world she exists. The
Encyclical Mater Et Magistra speaks of an image of the catholic church as a loving,
bearing, and educating mother whose roles serve as locus for truth, justice and charity.
However, the Enyclical, receives critic challenging the authority of the pope to involve in
economic and social issues. By implication, the church has no right to discuss social
issues, rather be concerned only with the Gospel. According to the European Catholics:
Let the Church confine her exhortations to the Gospels and to the law of love. These
are things of the spirit, and it is only things of the spirit that are or should be properly the
concern of the Church. The task of civilization is purely temporal, wholly secular, and
the Church has nothing at all to say about it. 239 July 29, 1961 William Buckley in
Journal National Review editorial section critized the Encyclical. For him, the work deals
with unimportant issues. Later he said, Mater Si, Magistra No-Mother yes, Teacher
No.240 He accepts that the church is a mother, but disagreed that the church is a
teacher. The Church being the mother and teacher of all nations, pillar and ground of
the truth places her above every other human institution on earth. This church
therefore, could be seen as supper mother and teacher, whose only voice is always to
be heard and listened to in the world. With regard to the present situation there are
many Christian churches and other religions in the world does the above definition of
the church still hold? It may be said of the Catholic church to be mother and teacher of
all nations, pillar and ground of the truth, nonetheless there could be found some
element of all these qualities among other Christian communities.
237

Ibid, no. 2.

238

Ibid, nos. 3 and 4.

239

Marvin, L. Krier, Mich, op. cit., p. 97.

240

Marvin, L. Krier, Mich, ibid, p. 96.

70

1.3.6 Church as Mother in the Document: Lumen Gentium 1964


The Fathers of Second Vatican Council set out to re-define and reaffirm the role of the
church in relation to the society. In the discussions about the church, the Council
appreciates the fact that the mystery of Gods kingdom is known to us through symbols.
Consequently, they hold that in our own present era that the inner nature of the Church
is made known to us in various images 241 originated from the culture of the people.
During the opening declaration of the Vatican 11 Council the church as mother came to
light thus, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: Mother Church rejoices that by a singular gift of
divine providence, the long expected day has finally dawned on which under the
protection of the Virgin Mother of God, of whose maternal dignity is celebrated today the
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is solemnly opened here beside the tomb of St.
Peter.242 The appellation mother was used to signify only a name for the church such
as: for the Holy Mother relying on 243 In another place it reads, Holy Mother Church
has firmly244 and the Church as mother is under an obligation. 245 The same is of
its use in Inter Mirifica246 and Sacrosantum Concilium.247 Despite the fact that the
name of the church in the above citations appeared as mother, it is important to
understand that name also speaks on the role of the thing that bears it. So, calling the
church mother suggests and speaks of her essence, roles and functions. Re-echoing
some of the New Testament books (Gal 4:26, Apoc. 12:17, 19:7; 21:2 and 9; 22:17,
Eph. 5:26), the Second Vatican Council Fathers reaffirm the motherhood of the Church
as the Jerusalem above; but exists on earth. For the Fathers this church while on earth
journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord (cf. 2Cor. 5:6). That is the Church in exile.
She seeks and is concerned about those things which are above... where the life of the
Church is hidden with Christ in God until she appears in glory with her Spouse (cf. Col.
3:1-4).248 The church on earth is the pilgrim and mission one; with its origin and vision
in God. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council's position differs from Origen, who
holds that the church on earth is only a daughter of the heavenly mother church.
However, the emphasis on the spouse motif which indicates link between ecclesiology
and Christology. Consequently, it is difficult to speak of the church without reference to
Jesus Christ the bridegroom of the bride the church.
241

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, no 6.

242

Pope, John XX111, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia: Opening speech to the Second Vatican Council 11 October1962,
https://jakomonachak.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/john-xxiii-opening-speech-pdf. Visited on 24.09.2014.
243

DV. no. 11.

244

DV. no. 19.

245

GE, no.3.

246

IM. nos, 1, 2

247

SC. nos, 4, 60, 122.

248

LG, no 6.

71

The Second Vatican Council Fathers just as Augustine of Hippo and Ratzinger (Pope
emritus) understand the motherhood of the Church through that of of Mary.249 The
density of the feminine image of the church as mother, virgin and spouse by the Second
Vatican Council comes more to limelight thus:
contemplating her hidden sanctity, imitating her charity and
faithfully fulfilling the Fathers will, by receiving the word of God
in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and baptism she
brings forth sons, who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of
God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin. Imitating
the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps
intact faith, firm hope and sincere charity.250
The church is to become a mother through the reception of the word in faith. This
maternal quality to becomes actuality in and through the church. As a mother she
begets children through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the
sacraments. In this process the offspring share in the nature and characteristics of the
mother. This is the reality of the church's motherhood. Mary is the confluence center of
both the birth of Jesus Christ and the birth of the Church. Therefor, the person who
links the two moments of the Incarnation of the Word and the birth of the Church is
Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the upper Room at Jerusalem...and in the Church
too she continues to be a maternal presence.... 251 The words of Saint Paul contain an
interesting sign of the early Churchs awareness of her own motherhood, linked to her
apostolic service to humankind. This awareness enabled and still enables the Church to
see the mystery of her life and mission modeled upon the example of the Mother of the
Son.....252 The church participates in the continued apostolic mission of Christ in a
maternal way.
In so doing, the church awakens the desire for unity among Christians in the world
under the single shepherd, Jesus Christ. This is of great importance in our time
fractured with divisions and fear of one another. The mother church is the sacrament of
God in the world to bring about and affect unity between humanity and the Triune God
and that among humanity themselves at various levels. Similarly, pope John Paul II
argues that if the church is the sign and instrument of intimate union with God, she is so
by reason of her motherhood, because, receiving life from the Spirit, she generates
sons and daughters of the human race to a new life in Christ. For, just as Mary is at the
service of the mystery of the Incarnation, so the Church is always at the service of the
mystery of adoption to sonship through grace. 253 The church takes us in her maternal
womb to bear, to care and to nurture us spiritually as individual and community. Through
249

Cf, LG, no. 63.

250

LG. no. 64.

251

RM ibid.

252

RM, no 43.

253

R M ibid.

72

Mary, therefore, the church learns her own motherhood: she recognizes the maternal
dimension of her vocation which is essentially bound to her sacramental nature. 254
According to Tertullian and Augustine, the activities of the Christians express the
maternity of the church. The Fathers of Second Vatican Council holds similar idea and
say, the ecclesial community exercises a truly motherly function in leading souls to
Christ by its charity, its prayer, its example and its penitential works. 255 Whatever
activities spiritual and material engaged by the church corresponds to her nature as a
mother. This role is for all the members of the church: clergy bishops and priests,
religious men and women and the laity are united in this singular maternity of the
church. Each responds differently according to the charism he or she is endowned with
by God. We see a clear difference between St. Cyprian and the Fathers of the Second
Vatican Council. The former entrusted the motherhood of the church only to the
hierarchies (the episcopates). As a matter of division of works the Council charges that
bishops in carrying out their functions are to proclaim the maternal solicitude of the
Church for all men, whether they be Catholics or not 256 In another place the council
explains what is required of the laity, to support one another in grace through life with
faithful love, train their children in Christian doctrine and evangelical virtues. they build
up the brotherhood of charity, and they stand as witnesses and cooperators of the
fruitfulness of mother Church, as a sign of and share in that love 257 To the religious
men and women, the Council says that, mother church rejoices that she has within
herself many men and women who pursue more closely the Saviour's self-emptying and
show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty and renouncing their own will: 258
The motherhood of the church from this perspective speaks and encourages
collaboration ministry.
Historically, it is obvious that as the church develops, that different images of the church
developed. The church as mother is historical, theological and scholarly. It takes into
cognizance the mystery and reality of human salvation as it represents and exposes the
inner and external interwoven natures of the church. The modern theologians, the
Encyclicals and Documents discussed never resorted to the issue of whether the church
is a mother or not. They were not engaged or preoccupied with the problem of origin of
the motherhood of the church. This is because, by twentieth century it is a well known
and generally accepted fact that the church is a mother. However, they never lose sight
of the patristic and biblical materials as they engaged in their reflections on the church
as mother. They highlighted those motherly qualities the church portrays such as: giving
birth, feeding, teaching and so on.
On a more different note, Henr De Lubac and Hans Urs Von Balthasar with their
254

Pope, John Paul, Reddemptoris Missio, ibid.

255

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, PO. no. 6.

256

CD. no. 13.

257

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. no. 41.

258

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. no. 42.

73

questions, draw attention to sudden drop with regard to the church as mother. Theirs is
a call to a return to the usage of the maternal image in the ecclesiological discussions in
magisterial writings. This return however, will go a long way to help modern men and
women understand the church. Another important contribution of these great
theologians is on trying to resolve the issue of the institutional image of the church, that
have kept her members: the hierarchies and laity apart from one another. They used the
maternal image to bridge the gap and advocate for an inclusive church. The maternal
image becomes a symbolic medium to confront the existing tendency of over emphasis
of the institutional nature of the church. By this, they highlight that the church is more
than its institutional nature. The wisdom and knowledge draws attention to the inward
nature and activities in the church. It is obvious that they combined Cyprian, Tertullian
and Augustine ideas as possible way to resolving the exclusive tendency. This
according to Balthasar and Ratzinger reduces the church more like one of the
sociological bodies in the world. However, we argue that, this does not in any way
implies doing away with the hierarchy in the church. In them, the church operates as a
mother, Mater and Caput. It is a clarion call to step little away from the overemphasis on
the office of the church that leads to one sided idea of the church that distorts what
Ecclesia stands for. Hence, the church is beyond the office. The church as motherr
speaks in relation to human beings in the persons of the magisterium and the laity.
However, every Christian shares in the one motherhood of the church. That is to say, we
are called to bring to practice that aspect of our life that is more human in our daily life
experience among ourselves. In doing so, we contribute towards the dissemination of
the Good News both for our personal salvation and that of the others. These put
together lead to ecclesiological model of the church that speaks of the theology of
participation and involvement by all the members towards achieving the objective of
human existence, salus animorum. The church as mother makes all Christians
irrespective of difference in gender and age agents of evangelization. Human beings
are to be seen as effective carriers of the gospel message of salvation. It becomes
therefore, a challenge for the mother church, that is, the individual Christians, the
various groups in the church and her hierarchy to see that all are involved in helping
ourselves to live an authentic human life.

1.4 THE MOTHERHOOD OF THE CHURCH EXPRESSED THROUGH


THE SACRAMENTS
1.4. Introduction

It is now obvious, that the church is a mother. This is expressed through the sacraments
as discovered from the preceded chapter. The motherhood of the church is deeply
rooted in the celebration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Word within the
liturgical action of the church. This section sets out to examine these maternal roles
through which her motherhood is expressed. However, it is important to explain that,
we are not going into details with all the seven sacraments of the church. Although each
of the sacraments reflects the maternal role of the church. The section begins with
taking a look at the meaning of major key words: liturgy and sacrament. As a follow up,
74

this chapter will take into cognizance some of the sacraments like giving birth,
nourishment, caring and preaching of the word highlighted in the above chapter to
establish the fact of the motherhood of the church.
1.4.1 Liturgy
The origin of the term liturgy goes back to the Greek word. It is derived from ,
meaning action of the people. In the Septuagint it means worship. 259 This definition
misleads and confusing. This is because; the action of the people might be political,
social, and cultural without any religious direction. Another foreseen difficulty lies in the
fact that not every action of the people could be appended with the appellation
worship. Perhaps, the word in the Greek context has both secular and religious
meanings. Moreover, is the worship spoken about an individual or action perform by
group of people? Again, what is being worshiped? This is crucial for anything can be
worshiped God, Baal, deities, and spiritual forces, wealth, as is evident in the life
experiences of the people of Israel of Old Testament and in our present time.
Again, the word Leitourgia is a derivation from two Greek words, laos (people) and
ergon (work) it refers to whatever public works judged necessary to promote the
public well-being not only prayer but also road-building might have been termed
leitourgia in pagan society. Christians narrowed the meaning to public worship of the
church.260 Liturgy from this perspective has social and religious dimensions. In each
situation one thing is very significant, liturgy is a public action or worship. In its social
dimension, it deals with any actions that lead to the good of the people. Things capable
to bringing about the common well-being of any given group or society. It concerns with
the common good of the people. Hence, in its social sphere, liturgy abhors individualism
and extols communalism. From the religious point of view, liturgy means sacred public
worship offered by the people to God. The liturgical actions are carried out within a
context, known as the liturgical context. It is within this context of the sacred public
worship of the Christians that the mother quality of the Church finds its concrete
expression. Hence, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ by means
of the sacred liturgy. The Church does this in various forms: sacrifice of the altar, by
means of the sacraments understood as the special channels through which men are
made partakers in the supernatural life. And the mother Church offers to God the daily
tribute of her prayer of praise.261

259

Karl Rahner Herbert, op cit., p. 264. In a further explanation Karl Rahner maintained with recourse to the
Encyclical of Pious X11 Mediator Dei on Sacred Liturgy 1947. Liturgy is the official service of God offered by the
Mystical body of Jesus Christ, Head and members.
260

Collins Mary, OSB, Liturgy in: The New Dictionary of Theology, edits, Joseph A. Komonchak et al,
Theological publications in India Bangalore, 1999, p. 592.
261

Pope Pious X11, Mediator Dei, Encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, 1947, no. 3.

75

1.4.1.1 Mother Church and her Liturgy


Life in the church is never a dull one. It is full of liturgical celebrations as the church is a
person, persons and a lively community. What makes up the liturgy of the church is not
only the celebration of the sacred Eucharist at the altar. It involves every other
sacraments of the church. It includes the prayer of praises offered by the mother church
through her sons and daughters. The contents of the liturgical expressions of the
mother church therefore, are drawn from the activities of Jesus Christ made manifest
through his redemptive work. Jesus Christ is the origin, author, essence and initiator of
liturgy since everything about liturgy revolves around him. The sacred liturgy of the
mother church from this point of view by its nature, origin and essence is Christocentric.
Consequently, the sacred liturgy is, the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of
the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the
faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father. It is, in short, the
worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and
members.262 This shed light to the meaning and understanding of the term liturgy.
Liturgy in other word, is not an individual act of devotion to God. It is a public act of
worship by the faithful to God of which some are more festive. While few are less festive
for instance the Lenten season. Whenever the mother church gathers for liturgical
celebration, she comes also to pray as a co-operate body. Consequently, the liturgical
activity is not only public act of the priestly people expressing the virtue of religion, but
also the situation and means par excellence in which the church exercises her maternal
co-operation in the birth-nutrition-education of the sons and daughters of God. 263 It
follows then, that, it is in and through the liturgical celebration that the church exercises
and simultaneously expresses her maternity corporatively.
As a mother, the church through her liturgical activities begets, sanctifies, purifies, and
guides her children here on earth. At the same time she makes her bridegroom Christ
ever present at every given liturgical celebration. Within the same context, Christ makes
himself present in the church at any moment of liturgical event in the persons of his
ministers, and in a special way in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Continually, the
effect of human salvation by Christ is more and more revealed through the maternal
liturgical activities of the church. For the realization and expression of the mother
qualities of the church, the celebration of the sacred liturgy is hence a one inevitable
means to actualize this. The inevitable nature of the liturgy falls on the background that
the sacraments are there to be celebrated. Both the liturgy and sacraments are two
inseparable context and content in which the mother church exists, operates and
actualizes her motherhood. Remove the sacraments therefore; the liturgical context
becomes void and meaningless.
1.4.2 Mother Church and the Sacraments
Just as the whole life of the mother church is full of sacred public whorship and
celebrations understood as liturgy so are these actions enveloped in signs and symbols.
262
263

Pope Pious X 11, ibid, no. 20.


Baril, Gilberte, op. cit., p. 196.

76

The liturgical actions of the mother church are expressed in symbols. For instance,
green color symbolizes life; while red signifies love, blood and martyrdom. However, we
are not doubting that the above given signs, symbols, objects could have total different
meanings in different cultures. In the life of the mother church signs and symbols play
crucial roles in putting across the message of God she carries and communicates to
humanity. The term sacrament has a Greek equivalent word, mystrion which means
mystery. This stems from the source and origin. The mother church's sacraments are
instituted by God through Christ for purpose. Naturally, sacraments are visible signs and
symbols that point to some spiritual state. They extend beyond the physical appearance
to signify spiritual or inward reality. The life and activity of the mother church is
sacramental. The whole life of the mother church comes within sacramental horizon. 264
The church herself according to scholars is the sacrament of Christ in the world. Thus,
sacraments are efficacious signs of grace instituted by Christ and entrusted to the
Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the
sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each
sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. 265
In other words, sacraments as signs and symbols function as the necessary channels,
means, or vehicles through which grace of God is communicated by the mother church.
The three features of the sacrament are: outward sign, instituted by Christ and it gives
grace. In the sacramental context for example, water signifies cleansing, while oil
soothes and strengthens, as bread and wine stand for spiritual nourishment. Therefore,
God reveals himself through material elements common to us. We can argue that
through the sacraments God speaks to human beings with the language and elements
they can understand. That is, He reaches us through the things that are in our cultures.
Things we are capable to comprehend. Interestingly therefore, sacrament is an
invitation from God through which he calls men and women to himself and for
themselves.
Significantly, it is important to note that, the effectiveness of the grace depends on the
inner disposition of the people. On a similar note Ottmar Fuchs argues In der Lehre der
Sakramente gilt das Sakrament demnach als ein von Christus eingestztes wirksames
Gnadenzeichen. Die Sakramente enthalten die Gnade, die sie bezeichnen, und
verleihen sie denen, die kein Hindernis entgegen setzen. 266 In the words of Ottmar
Fuchs sacraments signify what they represent. This implies that God is ever present in
the sacraments; if not, the sacraments become meaningless. He is present in the
sacraments, infusing into them the power which makes them ready instruments of
sanctification.267 Sacraments thus serve as instruments for communicating the love of
the Triune God. This facilitates the spiritual birth, growth and the development of men
and women towards the Creator. Thus, the celebration of the sacraments develops
264
265

Geoffery, Preston, O.P., op. cit., p. 110.


CCC no.1131.

266

Fuchs Ottmar, Eucharistie als Zentrum Katholischen Glaubens- und Kirchenverstadnisses:Anspruch und
Wirklichkeit, in SDING T., ED., Eucharistie: Positionen Katholisher Theologie, Regensburg, 2002, p. 241.
267

Pope Pious X11, op. cit, no. 20.

77

more profound, deep and closer contact with God and among the members of Christian
communities. The grace received through the sacraments is a sacred energy that
invigorates. Then, sacraments are powers that come forth from the Body of Christ (cf.
Lk. 5:17; 6:19; 8:46) which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy
Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are the masterwork of God in the new and
everlasting covenant.268
The effectiveness of the sacraments is independent of the minister and the recipient.
The effectiveness of the sacraments depends solely on God. Hence, sacraments work
ex opera operato. In other words, the effect of the sacraments do not in any way rely
on the personal righteousness or ability of the administering minister and the receiver,
but on God alone. Reflecting on this point, Ottmar Fuchs writes, die Wirksamkeit der
Sakramente ex opera operato bewahrt die im Sakrament zu vermittelnde unbedingtheit
der Gnade Gottes davor, von der subjektiven Ttigkeit des Empfngers oder Spenders
urschlich abhngig zu sein.269 The position of the mother church that the sacraments
function ex opere operato is based on the fact that the sacraments are Christocentric.
This means that the sacraments have their origin and effect in and through Christ. This
presupposes that the efficacy of the sacraments is from God and not on the holiness or
vitreous state of his representative in the person of the priests or other legitimate
ministers. God is the cause and efficacy of the sacraments.
Nevertheless, it is expected that the individual recipients and ministers have some work
on their part. There is need for a right or appropriate interior disposition so that the
grace of God received, can bear proper and abundant fruits. The right disposition
intended is an interior disposition of those receiving the sacraments. It is grace that
introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life, a participation in the life of God 270,
referred to as favour.271 It is an enabling favour from God. Furthermore, grace is first
and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes
the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to
collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the
Church.272 For us to share in the new life, God equipped us with this special and
spiritual gift. This helps us again to contribute in the work of our salvation as individual
and as group. We participate in the divine life and become agents of love, wisdom,
justice, and charity for the transformation of the human society. Fundamentally, the
sacraments are sacraments of the mother church, thus, sacramenta faciunt ecclesiam.
Just as the sacraments are Christological, so they are ecclesiological. We shall expose
and reflect on some of the sacraments to show how they express the maternity of the
church.
268

CCC no.1116.

269

Fuchs Ottmar, op. cit., p. 244.

270

CCC no. 1997.

271

CCC no. 1996.

272

CCC no. 2003.

78

1.4.2 The Sacrament of Baptism vis-a-vis The Childbearing Role of the Mother
Church
The sacrament of baptism is one of the sacraments of initiation. It plays an important
role in the life of every Catholic Christians. Through this sacrament, Catholics receive
spiritual birth and begin new life in Christ. Baptism opens the gateway that leads to a
continued wonderful relationship with the Trinitarian family of God. In this family of love,
God is our Father; Jesus Christ his Son is our Saviour and brother. The church through
whom we receive the gift of adoption is our mother. The sacrament of baptism, thus,
performs two important functions that are inseparable in the life of Catholics. It links us
to the Trinitarian family and makes us members of the community of believers the
church. This sacrament has dynamic and incorporative natures of spiritual and visible.
In celebrating the sacrament of baptism, the mother church gives birth to Gods sons
and daughters. This is what Augustine called the second birth. As the mother church
begets her children through the sacrament of baptism, she introduces them to the new
beginning in the new life. From every indication, baptism has communal dimension of
two levels. Thus, one is not baptized to be on his or her own. Rather, one is baptized to
be with others in the house of the mother, the apud Matrem and in the family of the
Triune God. The sacrament of baptism incorporates us into the Body of Christ the
Church, ecclesiae incorporari. Therefore, the sacrament of baptism, is the basis of the
whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door
which gives access to the other sacraments.273 It is the foundation on which the
beginning of one's Christian life is laid. This leads the recipient to the reception of the
other sacraments at due time. In Catholic tradition, baptism is necessary in the life of
her members.
Following the history of human salvation scriptural, are traces and moments of the
sacrament of baptism displayed and symbolized. For instance, the flood destruction in
the time of Noah. From the remnants, new life and new creation began. Another
example is the crossing of the Red Sea understood as the liberating action of God for
his chosen people Israel. Thus, the journey across the Red Sea symbolizes baptism
that liberate. All these events and moments point to the fact that, whenever God
encounters or reveals himself to a human person or to a group of persons, something
new happens. There is always an act of transformation that accompanied in most cases
with a new beginning. Before Jesus started his public ministry, he went to John the
Baptist and received baptism. With this, He teaches that baptism is the basic foundation
for the kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:5). After his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ
commissioned his followers to baptize and teach all people. The first followers of Christ
went on with the act of making disciples and teaching them until historically the mother
church developed and continued to give birth to her members through the sacrament of
baptism. The birth we receive through the sacrament from the mother church is not a
carnal/natural type of birth. It is a rebirth and hence a spiritual birth. This accentuates
that her motherhood is not a biological type, but a spiritual motherhood.
The birth that the mother church gives through the sacrament of baptism has
273

CCC, no. 1213.

79

responsibility attached to it. This spiritual birth enables human beings to develop and
grow in faith and are called to participate in the life of Christ (cf. Rom 6.3-4, Col 2:12).
As sons and daughters of God, the christian men and women are called to active
involvement in the ongoing mission of Christ in the world. The baptized participate in the
priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Christ who through the mother church beget
Christians as sons and daughters. However, the sacrament through which Christians
are giving birth in Christ through the mother Church has been called various names as:
the washing, regeneration and enlightenment. 274 By washing implies that the
sacrament cleanses us from inherited sin of our fore parents Adam and Eve.
Regeneration is a noun form of the verb to regenerate. This means that baptism help
the already life we have to grow stronger and to maturity in the spirit. The sacrament of
baptism described as enlightenment shows that it leads to better understanding and
knowledge of God, the mother church and ourselves. Hence, there is always a sign of
one living his or her comfort zone to embrace and encounter something new in his or
her life as an individual person and with others as a group. Thus, when a person is
being initiated into a tribe or a school or a fraternity, he discovers that he is no longer at
home in his prior situation. He must break with an old solidarity, at least in some areas
of life, and the more significant the group into which he is initiated the more areas of his
old life he must break with.275 As Christians receive the sacrament of baptism, they are
to give up something on one hand. On the other hand they are to take up the most
crucial and important thing in their lives to share in the new life as children of God and
the mother church.
The mother church encourages infant baptism. In the history of the church there has
been great debate on this issue. This is one of the legacies Augustine bequeathed the
church. In his polemic argument against Pelagius he maintains that infant baptism is a
custom of the mother church. 276 He goes further to substantiate his argument that any
denial of infant baptism is an attack on the maternity of the church. This act invariably
denies the expression and actualization of the maternal role of the church. The
argument still exists in our present world, as Pentecostal churches hold infant baptism
against Catholic Church. Since infants are incapable of understanding the significance
of the sacrament of baptism and cannot make the required consent for the reception of
the sacrament. The church maintains that they are baptized based on the faith of the
parents, sponsors and that of the mother church.277 This is akin to the argument held by
Augustine against Pelagius claim.278 On the part of the adults, the mother church
encourages and engages them in a long period of catechetical instruction. In baptismal
process, the Holy Spirit plays vital role. This is evident in the blessing of the water of
274

CCC. nos.1215 and 1216.

275

Geoffrey, Preston, O.P., op. cit., p. 115.

276

Jul. Imp. 3.137 and s. 176.

277

Cf, Catholic rite for infant baptism.

278

S. 176.2 (PL 38.950): accomodat illis mater ecclesia aliorum pedes ut ueniant, aliorum co rut credant, aliorum
linguam ut fateantur: ut quoniam quod aegri sunt alio peccante praegrauantur, sic cum hi sani sunt, alio pro eis
confitenta saluentur.

80

baptism at Easter Vigil and in other baptismal celebrations. Without the invocation of the
Holy Spirit, over the water of baptism, the fecundity of the mother church cannot be
possible. In baptism, Christ invites us to become more like him. God is the One who
invites humans in the sacrament of new birth so that his nature or image we put on is
not soiled. The appropriation of God who dwells in us, as we receive him in baptism
leads us to new life. This culminates in our participation and contribution towards our
salvation and that of the others.
1.4.3 The Sacrament of Eucharist vis-a-visthe Nourishing Role of the Mother
Church
Etymologically, the term Eucharist is coined from two Greek words: which means
good, and (charis) which means gracious disposition concretized in a gift. These
two words: and the infinitive suffix eiv combined to mean e
(eucharistein). Hence eucharistein means to give thanks or simply thanksgiving. 279
Eucharist as a thanksgiving is an attitude of one who receives good things. The first
usage and meaning of the word is to be found among the Ancient Near East people.
Within its original context, the term has strong religious undertone. Religiously, it shows
how the people appreciate the wonders of Yahweh in their history which goes back to
their notion of blessing (berakah) as the praise of Yahweh which recalls his magnalia
(great works or wonders).280 For the Jews therefore, to bless anything and to
pronounce a thanksgiving over it is not two actions but one. 281 This they did in
thankfulness for what Yahweh did for them, especially their liberation from the cruel
hands of the Egyptian slave masters. This expression of heart is not found only among
the Jewish culture and religion. It is an attitude that cuts across all the cultures and
religions in the world. In this situation two parties are involved, the receiver and the
giver. The former shows gratitude towards the benevolence of the latter. This leads to a
cordial relationship between the two parties: God and man and between the human
persons. Among the Jews, this act is obligatory. The expression is so deep in their
culture; hence, in every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came out of
Egypt. And are bound to praise, to glorify, to honour, to exalt, and to bless him who
wrought all these wonders for our fathers and for us. 282 All these are inner attitude of
heart outwardly expressed by the Jews in appreciation for what Yahweh did for them.
What we know as Eucharist today has its origin in the Jewish culture. In this cultural
milieu, Eucharist is understood on the background of meal. Hence Eucharist as
thanksgiving occupies a central place in the context of meal in the Jewish tradition. 283
279

Karl Rahner et al edit., Eucharist in An Encyclopedia of Theology, in: Sacramentum Mundi Vol. 2, London,
1967, p. 257.
280

Karl Rahner, ibid.

281

Bouyer L., Liturgical Piety, Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 120.

282

Glazer, N. N. (ed.): The Passover Haggaddah, New York, 1969, viii.

283

Okongwu Robert, Eucharist-Meal and Sacrifice: Implications and Challenges in the Context of Oriko-Meal and
Sacrifice among Igbo of Nigeria, Dissertation, Bochum, 2011, p. 89.

81

Reflecting on the value of this attitude of thanksgiving and its place as expressed in the
Jewish context of meals, Crockett says, every common meal as well as the meals held
on festivals and other special occasions reflect Israels faith. They are eaten in the
context of thanksgiving for Yahwehs gift given in creation and in Israels history. This
context of thanksgiving is expressed in the table blessing, or berakoth, that are
prescribed for every meal and that are expanded on festivals to express thanksgiving
for particular events that are being commemorated.284
In the Jewish cultural context therefore, Eucharist is understood as a meal requires that
prayer is to be said before the commencement and after the actual eating of the meal.
On this background Okongwu holds that the blessing is not spoken in a random
manner. He identifies that it is the duty of the father of the house 285 to lead in this sacred
function. In all the meals (the common and festival meals) among the Jews, blessing is
always recited at the breaking of the bread by the head of the household or the host at
the beginning of the meal. At festival meals, a special blessing is recited over the wine
cup at the conclusion of the meal. 286 The fathers sacred duty among the Jews,
accentuates what the fathers in traditional Nigerian and African families do when they
offer sacred rituals to the ancestors. As Jesus appeared on the scene, he participated in
these meals at home and communal levels. He was found eating with people at the
table. His barrierless attitude as regards meal fellowship or sharing meal with those
whom the society considered unclean attracted him the criticisms of the Pharisees of his
time. Noteworthy, is the fact that table fellowship for the Jews is a sign of peace and
community. It is for this reason that a scandal was created when Jesus ate with sinners
and outcasts. Against the background of Jesus messages, table fellowship with him
constituted the offer of a share in the blessings of the future reign of God. 287 By
implications Jesus ate meals with tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes, and outcasts. He
fed many like the multitudes in the Bible. He knows the value of meal sharing. The
climax of it was the Last Supper he had with his disciples on the eve of his death. The
Last Supper is understood as a fair well banquet he shared with his Apostles, (cf. Mtt.
26:17-19, Lk. 22:7-10, Mk.14:12-16, 1Cor.10:23-26, Acts 2:42).
According to the synoptic narratives, Jesus took the bread and said the blessing, broke
it and gave to his disciples saying, take this and eat it is my body. Taking the cup he
offered thanks to God and gave it to his disciples as his blood. 288 In this, Jesus acted as
the father and head of his little flock, the disciples. And in this sense, he performed the
meal rituals as fathers normally do in Jewish culture. Meditating on Jesus participation
in Table-fellowship, Lussier maintains, by sharing meals with his disciples and other
people, he showed first of all that he entered totally into human existence... And since
table-fellowship implies communion of life and acceptance of others, the meals of Jesus
284

Croockett, R. William, Eucharist: Symbol of Transformation, New York, 1989, P. 1.

285

Okongwu Robert, op. cit., p. 89.

286

Croockett, R. William, op. cit., p. 2.

287

Croockett, R. William, ibid., p.1.

288

Cf, all the Roman Canons used in the celebration of holy mass in Catholic Church.

82

with sinners and outcasts clearly manifested the new era of forgiveness and
reconciliation which he was inaugurating.289 Jesus table-fellowship with his disciples
during the Last Supper is more than an ordinary meal between friends. During the meal
Jesus identified the bread as his body and the wine as his blood, and commanded his
disciples to be doing this in his memory anamnesis (cf. 1Cor. 11:23-25). By giving this
command to his disciples, Jesus implicitly set up an institution that will continue to
reenact and thus carry out his command. Expressing the same idea, Ratzinger the
present pope emeritus says that, the Church came into being when the Lord had
given his body and his blood under the forms of bread and wine, whereupon he said,
Do this in memory of me. The Church is the answer to this commission The
Church is Eucharist.290 It is thus the duty of the mother Church to continue in the
celebration of the redemptive action of Christ in human society. In this way, Jesus gave
mystical meaning to the material elements of bread and wine, by using them to
represent or symbolize his body and blood. The two elements become spiritual food to
be eaten by men and women for their salvation. Implicitly, for this to come through,
Jesus is to embrace death for human sake. Hence, Eucharist is also understood as a
sacrifice.
In this sacrifice what is offered is eaten by those who participate in the ceremony. The
eaten character involved in the sacrifice entails another important character of sharing
during the Eucharistic meal. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist has its origin also in
Jewish culture. In this culture, we have: gift-sacrifice, communion-sacrifice (zebah,
zebah-shlamim or shlamim), and sin-sacrifice (hattath and asham). There are two
kinds of gift-sacrifices: holocausts (olah) and vegetable or cereal offerings (minhah). 291
The gift sacrifice deals with thanksgiving to Yahweh for his blessings and other good
things received by the Jews, equivalent to our harvest and thanksgiving ceremony in the
Church. The Communion sacrifice implies an act of sharing in the form of eating the
sacrificial offering. As its name appears, the sin sacrifice is concerned with atonement
for wrong committed against Yahweh by the Jews. The Eucharist therefore, qualified for
all the three types of sacrifices as practiced within the Jewish culture. In response to the
command of Jesus, the disciples with the community they formed continued in the
celebration of the paschal meal. This serves as a point of meeting. It also provides
avenue for them to celebrate the paschal event that projects and sustains them in the
anticipation of the Parousia. From every indication Eucharist as we know it today is
again a thanksgiving ritual that originated from the Jewish cultic milieu. It is a ritual of
thanksgiving expressed most often at Jewish meals. In other words, it is a Jewish meal
berakah that has been adopted into Christianity. The meal berakah blesses God for
nourishment received and cosmic blessings for all creation, especially the continued
creation of life, blesses God for the Promised Land, and supplicates that the action of
God in the olden days be continued and renewed today, and that it finds its ultimate
289

Lussier Ernest, The Eucharist: Bread of life, New York, Alba House, 1977, p.39.

290

Ratzinger Joseph, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, tran., by Adrian walker, san
Francisco igatius press, 1996, p. 75.
291

Ngwoke Emeka, The Eucharist and Social Responsibility Towards the Poor, Enugu SNAAP Press, 2005, p. 8889.

83

fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah and the final establishment of the kingdom of
God.292
Eucharist therefore, is a meal and a covenant. There is for example the presence of
bread and wine. The manner in which the Eucharist took place defines it as a meal. 293
That it is a meal implies sharing among those who constitute the family (cf. Acts 2:46).
In other to participate in the Lords table the person has to be baptized in the tradition of
the church. The Eucharist is therefore a meal eaten by the baptized, it restores and
confirms those who communicate and enables them to grow in baptismal resurrection, it
reveals the Church as a community.294 Eucharist from this perspective is understood as
the meal for the members of the catholic Christian community. That is those who accept
the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the tradition of the mother church and are
baptized. The Eucharist as sacramental meal is a means of establishing a relationship
of communion between the resurrected Lord and the members of the Church. 295 Thus,
by feeding her children with this sacred food the mother church nourishes her sons and
daughters just as natural mothers do to their children. She therefore draws her life from
Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. 296 Just as the
Eucharist is central in the lives of Christians so it is in that of the mother church. This is
because; Jesus who is the author of human life is also that of the mother church.
Moreover, He is the One in the Eucharist who feeds and teaches the mother church.
Having been fed and taught, the mother church learns how to nourish and teach.
The sacrament of Eucharist gives the children of the Mother an identity of unity. He is in
union with God, the mother church and the members of the church. The Eucharist is a
sacrament of love, a sign of unity and a bond of charity. 297 We accentuate therefore,
that; Eucharistic communion has three dimensions: Christological, ecclesiological and
social. Eucharistic communion is not one that can be made personal selfish event
admitting only those of ones choice. On the contrary, this communion looks outwards to
the other persons. It has the character of transforming the relationships of those
involved in the communion, expressed in the attitude of love that permeates a lived
communion.298 Eucharist therefore, creates communion and fosters communion. 299
Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual abiding of Christ and
292

Ojilere, C. Igba Oriko and Eucharist in Igbo Society, 1999, p. 73.

293

Okongwu Robert, op. cit., p. 109.

294

Jean-Jacques von Allmen, The Last Supper, (Ecumenical Studies in Worship, no. 9), Virginia, John Knox Press,
1969, p. 37.
295

Okongwu Robert, op. cit., p. 113.

296

Pope John Paul II , Ecclesia De Eucharistia, Encyclical Letter on The Eucharist in its relationship to the Church,
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2010, no. 6, p. 9.
297

SC, no, 47.

298

Okongwu Robert, op. cit., p 125.

299

John Paul 11, Ecclesia De Eucharistia,no 40.

84

each of his followers, 300 which contains the whole mystery of our salvation. 301 The
mother church by nourishing us with the Eucharist, challenges her children to join in the
mission of transforming the world to a better place. Having been fed by the mother
church through the Eucharist, the children also learn how to nourish others with
whatever goods and services at their disposals. They are encouraged to nourish one
another spiritually and material especially, the less privileged and the poor in the society.
Another significant aspect of the communal nature of the Eucharist is that it abhors
superiority. It encourages the spirit of equality and egalitarian among the members.
Hence all are equal within the Eucharistic communion context irrespective of gender,
post and position, for in one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or
Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one spirit (cf. 1Cor.
11:13).
Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist in a liturgical context, two things happen
anamnesis and anticipation. According to Gerald Collins, anamnesis as remembering
involves bringing to mind Gods saving actions in history-especially in Christs passion,
death, resurrection, and glorification-for the assembly that seeks to appropriate the
salvation that the son of God has effected once and for all. Anticipation is looking
forward to the end time of the final fulfillment and doing so with an expectation that
already receives and perceives something of that ultimate future. 302 As a worshiping
and liturgical community, we re-live (anamnesis) the paschal mystery of God, and live in
the hopeful anticipation of the final realization of the promised parousia. The mother
church thus keeps afresh before her children and in the world, the event of redemption.
In this way she presses it into the minds and consciousness of Christians thus keeping
to the charge of do this in memory of me by Jesus on the day of the institution of the
Eucharist.
1.4.4 The Sacrament of Healing vis-a-vis the Caring Role of the Mother Church
The mother church expresses her maternal care and love for her children through the
sacraments of healing.303 These are: reconciliation and the anointing of the sick. With
the institution of these sacraments, Christ bequeaths her bride the mother church
another means of giving her children holistic caring assistance of body and spirit. The
sacrament of healing has various names, such as sacrament of conversion, penance,
confession, reconciliation, and forgiveness.304 The name suggests that the sacrament
brings about the healing of human spiritual sickness caused by sins. Thus, the
sacrament speaks not of physical illness or wounds of human body. The healing receive
300

EE, no, 22.

301

Henri De Lubac, Catholicism Christ and the Common Destiny of Man, transl, by Lancelot C. Sheppard et al, San
Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1988, p 89.
302

Gerald, Collins, The Tripersonal Go: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity, New Jersey, Paulist Press,
New York, 1999, pp. 2-3.
303

CCC, p. 321.

304

CCC, nos. 1423-1424.

85

through this sacrament is a spiritual one invisible to the human eyes, but the effect is
always felt. If through the sacrament of baptism our sins are forgiven, then, why this
sacrament. The sacrament reminds that human beings are fragile and prone to sin. This
confirms what the Apostle John says; if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us (cf. Jn. 1:8). The same is echoed whenever we say the Lords
Prayer and ask for the forgiveness of our trespasses. We simply asked through this
prayer that God is to forgive us our sins. The important intention of this prayer stresses
that God is to forgive us first. We ask him to reconcile us once more to himself. The
sacrament is an invitation to, an expression of Gods love and care to humanity.
The call to conversion is for all human beings and not only meant for the baptized.
Therefore, through the sacrament of penance, the mother church attends to the spiritual
needs of her children and heals the wounds caused by sin. This damages human
relationship with God and affects human relationship with one another in the society.
Once sin sets in, every other act that is not moral follows and destroys our relationship
with God and debases our dignity as humans. Implicitly, the grace of God in us
diminishes as a result of sin. Here lies the value and necessity of the sacrament of
reconciliation in our life as Christians and as normal human beings. It is because of the
need of our reconciliation to God that Christ entered the human world. Jesus is the One
who first reconcile us with Yahweh through himself. He is the one who showed us the
way to achieve the same goal. In continuation of the same deed, he entrusted mother
church with the responsibility of reconciling human beings to God. In this way, the
mother church makes us Disciples of Christ and ambassadors of reconciliation in the
world that is weighed down with hate. Therefore, having reconciled us to God, the
mother church equips us to do the same in the society. The sacrament of reconciliation
makes us tender in heart. It places us always in the presence of our Father and remain
faithful in the mothers house, the church. The climax of it all in turn is that this brings
about a harmonious living with one another in the society. Hence, the sacrament of
reconciliation has not only the Christological dimension. In its nature it is ecclesiological
and sociological. The Christological aspect of the sacrament reconciles us to the Triune
God through the Second Person of the Trinity. On the ecclesiological level it reintegrates
the Christian person to the community of believer he or she already belonged. The
sacrament is thus, personal and also community oriented. Our reconciliation with God
demands that we reconcile with one another. As we do so, the new dawn of the
kingdom of God breaks forth its light of justice, peace, fairness, love and equity in the
world.
The second sacrament of healing, the anointing of the sick shows that the mother
church is also concerned with the painful condition of human body caused by illnesses.
Her concern is in continuation with the footsteps of her divine bridegroom. The period of
sickness and illness shows how weak and incapable is the human body. It is a moment
in which some sick ones question the existence of God in their lives. Few others see it
as a time to come closer to God. To this group of the sick, illness brings them
conversion to God. Throughout the Bible we encounter moments in both Old and New
Testaments in which God proved that He is the physician of human illness of any kind.
For instance we see God acclaiming that he is our healer in the Old Testament (cf. Ex.
86

15:26f, Is. 33:24f). The people of Israel understood illness as a breach of contract on
the part of human. People suffer sickness in this culture as a result of not being faithful
to the ways of Yahweh. For them, illness has a mysterious aspect. It has also
connection with sin and evil. In their estimation therefore, unfaithfulness to the
commands of God leads to sin. And the end of it is sickness which is capable of
alienating the sick from the community. Faithfulness to God brings about the restoration
of the sick to life, and his or her reunification to the community. A typical example is the
case of Miriam who sinned against Yahweh by being jealous of Moses. Miriam was
visited with the illness of leprosy. She was separated from the community. Moses
pleaded on her behalf to Yahweh who restored her to bodily health, and forgave her
sins. Consequently, she was readmitted to the community (cf. Nu. 12: 1-16). Illness for
the Israelites is not only the bodily sickness. It has spiritual undertone. When one is
sick, not a part of him or her is under the infirmity, the whole being of the person is
involved. This affects the communal, social and religious involvement of the person.
In the New Testament era Jesus took special concern on the sick. He had great
compassion for those under the pains of one infirmity or the other. His selfless
compassion led him into healing them. God in the person of Jesus Christ has come to
continue his healing of the human person. Jesus showed that he is the healer of the
whole human person: soul and body. Not only that he healed the sicknesses of the
people, Jesus also identifies with the sick. He saw the sick as himself and not as the
other that should be discarded, but should be cared for. Hence, his saying in Matthew
25:36, I was sick you visited me. In another place the same evangelist, affirming the
prophecy of Isaiah as revealed in Jesus attitude toward the sick, says, he himself took
our sicknesses and carried our diseases (cf. Mt. 8:17). In spite of the many instances of
healing by Jesus Christ during his missionary activities on earth, humanity is not freed
from illnesses. People still suffer one thing or the other. It is because of this, that even
as he was still with his disciples, he charged them with the mission of healing. Jesus
made his disciples co-workers in all aspect of his ministry. He trained them on the need
for compassion, healing and charged them to do so to those in such need. After his
death and resurrection, appearing to them once more, the risen Lord remind them on
the importance of carrying out the mission, in my name they will lay hands on the
sick, and they will recover.305 This is what the church does whenever she administers
the sacrament of anointing. The injunction to heal the sick given to the disciples extends
to the church. This is clear as contained in the epistle of James: is any among you
sick? Let him call for the elders (presbyters) of the church and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith will save the sick
man (cf. Ja). Through the sacramental of healing by the church, God continues to touch
and heal the sick in the world. The church through this sacrament takes care of the sick
ones; anoints and accompanies them with prayers, signifies that the entire community
of the believers is with them. The sick ones are not alone in this condition of ill health.
As an extension of this, the church is involved in hospital apostolate to bring about and
facilitate the healing of the sick ones.

305

CCC, no. 1507, cf, also, Mk. 16:17-18.

87

1.4.5 The Preaching of the Word vis-a-vis The Educative and Nourishing Role of
the Mother Church
The educational role of the mother church cannot be underestimated. It speaks volume
in her ministry of saving souls. In the church exists an organ entrusted with the
teachings responsibility known as the magisterium. The word magisterium has Latin
origin and means master. It has general understanding and application. In the medieval
era the meaning of the term became narrowed and understood as the role and authority
of the teacher. Thomas Aquinas gave two ways in which the word magisterium is
applied as the pastoral chair of the bishop and academic chair of the university
professor. The term magisterium in the above perspective is used in religious and
secular contexts. The Catholic application of the concept has a more exclusive nature.
Catholics tend towards and favoured the first meaning of the word given by Thomas
Aquinas. In Catholic tradition the word means, the teaching authority of the hierarchy.
Recently, the word applies often to the body of men who exercise this office in the
Church namely, the pope and bishops. 306 The mother church is endowed with a body
that sees to the teaching of her children. The church is aware of the value of teaching
as a possible means of impacting the doctrine, tradition and the wisdom of God to
humanity. The role of the church through the magisterium is to teach and educate
Christians about the doctrine, the faith and interpret the gospel message of Christ.
Therefore, the magisterium has been given the authority to teach and interpret the
revealed word. The first recipients of this mission of teaching were the Apostles chosen
by Jesus Christ, authorized to bear witness to him and spread his good news to all
humanity. The same call to teach was passed on to the church. This is not in any form a
denial of the fact that God is the only teacher. In view of this, the Second Vatican
Council clearly affirms this in Dei Verbum thus, yet this magisterium is not superior to
the word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the
divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it
with dedication and expounds it faithfully.307
The teachers of the doctrine in the church are representatives of God. They are at the
service of the Word for God and the church respectively. They are to listen, guard and
teach the word with dedication. They stand as mediators to help and guide others on
the path to understand and internalize what God has revealed through his word, by
interpreting its meaning in the present here and now. However, this noble ministry is no
longer the works of the pope and bishops alone. Priests and deacons form part of the
ministers of the word. Hence, all clerics, particularly priests of Christ and others who,
as deacons or catechists, are officially engaged in the ministry of the Word. 308 The
ministry of the Word, too-pastoral preaching, catechetic and all forms of Christian
instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place-is healthily
306

Francis A. Sullivan, SJ, Magisterium in The New Dictionary of Theology, edits. Joseph A. Komonchak, et al,
Theological Publications in India, Banglore, 1999, p. 617.
307

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, DV, no. 10.

308

DV, no. 25.

88

nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture. 309 By virtue of
baptism, every Christian share in one of the three functions of Jesus Christ as prophet.
Christians are encouraged to take up this prophetic ministry to teach and evangelize
others. We are all involved in the mission to making disciples of God in the world
through the preaching of the word. The avenue through which the mother church
educates her children is enumerated above. The mother church teaches through
catechesis. This aspect was strongly emphasized by some of the fathers of the church
especially with Tertullian and Augustine. 310
The mother church teaches through liturgical homily, pastoral preaching and other forms
of Christian instruction.311 In the New Testament Bible we encounter the appearance of
the Word in the Person of Jesus Christ who went about preaching the word in the
synagogue. This led to the conversion of those who heard the word, and developed
faith in him. The faith that this brings begins first from hearing. As the word is heard, the
seed of spiritual life is sown in the hearers hearts. The effect of this becomes the birth
of the person as child of God. Considering the event of the Pentecost for example, it
was after hearing the word that the people requested to be baptized. This was possible
because of received new joy in the hearts of the hearers. The aftermath was motivation,
inspiration that propels to the request and reception of the sacrament of the initiation
from the Apostles. In this case we see that Christian birth for the adults begins with the
preaching and hearing of the word. This culminates in the reception of the sacraments
of initiation and the subsequent ones. By teaching and preaching of the word, the
mother church begets, nurtures, and educates her children in the way of God.
Therefore, the pastoral ministry of the clerics is achieved through the word and the
celebration of the sacraments. Owing to this, the Church never ceases to give birth to
the Word from her heart and because she ceaselessly gives birth to Christ, God and
man, she teaches all peoples.312 Two inseparable kind of birth is achieved in this
process: the birth of Christ in human heart and life, and the birth of man and woman in
the Word. Christ is born in our hearts as we listen to him. Consequently, we are
constantly born in Christ through the word. From the citation, the mother churchs
teaching mission is not limited to a particular group of people. The mother church
teaches all men and women in the world. The educative role of the mother church
hence cuts across different regions, cultures and languages. As a teaching mother the
309

DV, no. 24.

310

Cf, chapter three above.

311

The preaching and teaching role of the church is possible not only in the liturgical context. The teaching and
preaching of the church goes beyond the sacred liturgical gathering frontier. The word in question is the inspired
Word of God contained in the Bible. The place of this Word in human history is unquantifiable. At the beginning of
creation it was the word that was spoken and everything came to be. Therefore, the word is creative by nature. This
word that is creative belongs to God, hence through the word, God creates. This is evident in the creation account
was presented by the redactors thus, and God says let there be.and that came to be (cf. Gn. 1ff). The Word has
the vitality to give birth to things but more especially the conversion of souls that become mothers to the same word
who continue to give birth to others. It has also the power to nourish spiritually. The mother church through this
word achieves two things: spiritual birth and nourishment of the Christians and the entire human beings.
312

Henri De Lumbac, op. cit., p. 64, cf. De Antichristo, c. 61 (GCS, Hipp, Vol.1, 2:41-42).

89

church understands all the languages, educates within the different languages and
cultures of the world. This is an inclusive quality as believers and non-believers, people
of different categories and works of life are recipients of the word.
The preaching and teaching of the word by the mother church thus makes her an agent
of evangelization which is more than an organic and hierarchical institution. 313 This is
the primary mission of the mother church in human society. Because of the place of the
kerygma in the life and mission of the mother church, the Pope in his new Apostolic
Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium sees the need to repackage the mode and method of
preaching the word in order to give it a renewed and refreshed look that appeals to the
hearers. In response to this, the mother church assumes her quality as an evangelizing
community. That is, a community that reaches out to the people by her preaching and
teaching of the word of God. Through her evangelization, the mother church gets
involved by word and deeds in peoples daily lives, bridges distances, willing to abase
itself if necessary, embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in
others.314 Thus, in preaching, the mother church preaches in the same way that a
mother speaks to her childshe listens to their concerns and learns from them. 315 With
her participation in the evangelization, the mother church cooperates with God, who
invites and leads the latter in the process with power and sustenance of the Holy Spirit.
We see a rich connection of what the mother does at home with her child in matter of
education been linked with the mother church when she preaches; she educates and
teaches, and learns together with her children. The teaching mother church through this
process becomes a learner from the existencial situations of her children. This attitude
helps her enormously in understanding and interpreting the gospel of Jesus christ to suit
the cultures she finds herself and the signs of the time as they affect the people. The
mother church therefore brings us forth to the new life she bears by receiving us into
her womb, and the more our divine education progresses, the more we become
intimately bound to her.316 What we learn from the teachings of the mother Church
challenges, inspires, provokes, guides and accompanies 317 us to be better human
beings, deepen our knowledge of God and transform the society. So in the place of her
divine bridegroom, the mother church equips and calls us to go and teach, preach, and
care for others in the society.

Our investigations here demonstrate the reality of the motherhood of the church. Her
motherly characteristics are realized and expressed through the liturgical celebration of
all the sacraments, although few of these are discussed here. Through the investigation,
different schools of thought emerged. One holds that the means through which the
313

EG, no, 111.

314

EG, no, 24.

315

EG, no, 139.

316

Henri De Lumbac, op. cit., p. 69.

317

EG, no, 11.

90

mother church bears her children is through the water of regeneration. The second
group holds that this is through the hearing of the word. We arrive at a necessary
synthesis that the first group position favors infant baptism. While the other group takes
cognizance of the adult Catechumens who first hear the word before the reception of
the sacraments. Interpretatively, the sacrament and the word belong together. Both
complement each other for the achievement of single result aim at spiritual birth and
realization of human salvation. Any attempt to put dichotomy between the two is
unnecessary. The sacraments and the word are two kernels that are indispensible in the
life and mission of the mother church. The two bring her motherhood to fore. For
ecclesia to be mater ecclesia, the sacraments and the word are vital for her survival in
her maternal mission in history. Through the liturgical celebration of the sacraments and
the word, the mother church is animated by Christ through the presence of the Holy
Spirit. From this animation experience of the church, she does the same to the human
beings.
The analysis so far shows that the motherhood of the church is sacramental as such
instrumental. Hence, salvation is communicated through the spiritual birth she gives to
the human beings. Therefore, we argue that the motherhood of the Church is a spiritual
type different from the biological type. Although, it bears some semblance to the reality
of mothers found in the human society and cultures. As mother, the church brings to
human understandings what God has done and is still doing in the universe. The
sacraments and the word are special moments through which the mother church lives
out her actual maternal life. They are privileged moments for us human beings to
appreciate Gods work of our salvation. It becomes demanding on the Christians to
implement what they receive and learn through the sacraments and the word into
practicality. Christians are called and challenged to move beyond the barriers of
cultures, languages, color and race in continuation for the making and maintaining of
the one noble family of God on earth. The sacraments and the word serve as means to
strengthen and enhance unity with God and unity with the members of the church. this
in return enables us do the same with those who are not members of our Christian
community thus bringing out three dimensions of the sacraments and the word:
Christological, ecclesiological and social. Precisely, the mother church execises and
achieves her motherhood in and through her members.
In other to achieve the three dimensions and especially, the social aspect, therefore, the
human society and Nigerian cultures need the hand of the mother church. By this, the
mother church and her members are called to challenge the ugly situations that rear
their heads up in Nigeria. These situations have posed serious threat to the faith of her
children on God and trust they have for their mother the church. Therefore, as
circumstances and needs of the people of Nigeria warrant, the presence of the mother
church is much needed as the last hope of the citizens. Just like her bridegroom, the
church is to take upon herself, out of love and in charity identifies herself with many
suffering Nigerians and concretely bringing them the Gospel message of freedom and
liberation.The leaders are to help in rectifying some of the abnormal conditions attached
to the administering of the sacraments and preaching of the word by the ministers in
places such exist as we shall discuss.
91

CHAPTER TWO: CHRISTIANITY AND NIGERIAN WORLD-VIEW

2.0 Introduction
Every nation in the world has stories of her existence. So it is with the country Nigeria.
Like every other nations, Nigeria has her own system of government, religions and
social ways of life original to her before her great encounter with the external world.
There are unique languages, variety of cultures, social, religious and economic life
activities before and even after the encounter in this present era. The nation Nigeria
forms however a good part of the Africa and the most populated black nation of the
continent. Her encounter with some of the external factors such as exploration
adventure, commerce, Christianity, Islam and colonization, Nigeria became exposed to
the external world. This led to closer contact between her cultures and other cultures of
the world. The aftermath of this, was exchange of ideas which culminate in development
and growth of the involved cultures. It has also some socio-cultural and socio-religious
effects on the people; and breed new problems.
Through the interaction, Christianity, western political system, social and economical
activities became introduced into the nation and other parts of the Western Coast of
African continent. But before this great encounter, each of the ethnic groups or tribes
exists independent of the other. It was the event of 1914 that saw to the amalgamation
of these different ethnic groups. This gave birth to what is known today as the nation
Nigeria. Not only that these historic events brought the nation Nigeria into contact with
the western world on one hand. On the other hand, the different tribes or ethnic groups
that formed the nation were brought into closer contact. In this section therefore, our
aim will focus on telling a brief story of Nigerian people, the dawn of Christianity, its
growth and challenges in the present period.
2.1 Nigerian People
The people of Nigeria lived in colony, sedimentary, or cluster form. Each group has
ways of living, world-view about the happenings within and around them. By world-view,
we mean to delimit the way these people see themselves which affect their attitude and
response to life in general. This involves their culture which includes: religion, social,
political, and economic activities that enables them survive in the environments they
found themselves. That is, the totality of their understanding of existential events. There
are many ethnic group in Nigeria. These ethnic group is divided into two as majority and
minority groups. In this section of the work, we take short exposition of the three major
outstanding ethnic groups in Nigeria: Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
They occupy the western part of Nigeria. They are not found only in Nigeria, but also in
other nations in West Africa. It is one of the largest ethnic groups found in the Republic
of Benin, Ghana and Togo, with a population of about 30 million throughout West Africa.
92

In Nigeria, their population is about 21 percent of its total population. 318 The language
spoken by the people is called Yoruba that has linguistic culture affinity with the Kwa
group of the Niger-Congo family. Despite this, there are still various dialects that exist
among them.319 In Nigeria, they are one of the largest political ethnic group with long
history of origin. Around the 15th century A.D, the Yoruba ethnic group established the
Yoruba empire. Although, there were other empires that existed during this period such
as the Oyo and Benin empires.320
One of the histories of Yoruba holds that Oduduwa is their founder. He had seven sons.
These grew and developed to the seven kingdoms of Yoruba ethnic group. The next
theory has it that all human beings were created at Ile Ife. Ile Ife is the centre of the
world, the cradle of civilization, not only of Yoruba but of the whole world. 321 Yet
another theory asserts that they came from Mecca and decided to live in Ile Ife. While
another theory claims that Yoruba people migrated from Upper Egypt. From all these, Ile
Ife is seen as the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Yoruba people. Hence, the city
Ile Ife is hold at great esteem by the people as, the first established city of the Yoruba
and the ground for acknowledging the head- the Ooni of Ife as their entire spiritual ruler
from whom all other Yoruba derive their sanctions to rule. 322 The Yoruba people have
rich tradition and culture. Among these are the family institution and strong Traditional
Religious practices. They celebrate the following cultural feasts: naming, marriage
ceremonies, Egungun, Ogun, Orosun, Igogo, and Olokun. 323
Yoruba's political institution plays vital role in their social, cultural and religious life.
Politically, the Yoruba ethnic group have clear system of governance that is monarchical
in structure. Above in the political structure echelon, is the traditional ruler called Oba,
who rules with council of chiefs. In his capacity he performs double functions of politics
and religion as he is seen as the representative of God on earth. 324 Traditionally
speaking, the Ooni of Ife is the spiritual leader and Olafin of Oyo the traditional political
leader.325 These control power and influence in the cultural life and activities in
Yorubaland. They have a centralized means of governance. Through these means, evil
is checkmated in the society, as moral conduct; sense of responsibility and respect to
the Supreme Being, parents and elders is inculcated in the people. Economically, they
engage in trading which takes them outside their own community frontiers to interact
318

Ezinwa Vincent Chi, Elements of Nigerian Peoples, Culture and History, Nigeria, 2010, p. 70.

319

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, Foreign Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland,
Owerri Imo State Nigeria, Living Flame Resources, 2013, p. 28.
320

The Federal Republic of Nigeria, A Publication of the Embassy of Nigeria, Bonn, 1992, p. 3.

321

Omolewa Michael, op. cit., p. 54.

322

Chigere, Nkem M.V. Hyginus,op. Cit., p. 29.

323

Ezinwa Vincent Chi, op. cit., p.77ff.

324

Omolewa Michael, op. cit., p.55.

325

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 29.

93

with other ethnic groups. They are good in farm and artistic works. They produce:
cocoa, cola-nut, maize, wood carving, metal works, pottery, bronze works, and weaving.
Their farm work and hunting expedition help them to spread. The farmers and hunters
among them guard the boundaries. They fought series of tribal and inter-tribal wars as
they expand beyond the cities. However, their final war of the 19th century with the
Fulani from the north and colonial changes brought a definite boundary. 326 In face of
change and development in human society, the Yorubas strongly maintain their
traditional religions activities and cultural practices than any other parts of Nigeria.
The Hausa people live in the northern part of Nigeria. The: Hausas are Nigerians by
origin, but the Fulanis were not Nigerians by birth. Their home of origin is western
Sudan. From there they came to settle in Nigeria at about 19th century having
conquered the Hausa people through Jihad of 1804 under the leadership of Usman Dan
Fodio. He replaced the Hausa Kings with Fulani emirs and converted the Hausa land to
Islam. They are immigrants that settled in the north and mingled with the natives, the
Hausas, and intermarried, thus the name, Hausa/Fulani.327 By origin thus, the Fulani
people migrated into the Hausa territory and settled among them. Another tradition
maintains that Hausaland was founded by Abuyazigu sometimes also called Bayajidda
from Baghdad who was acclaimed to be escaping from his father after a quarrel, settled
in Daura and killed a snake that disturbed the inhabitants. He later married the queen of
Daura that bore him a son, Bawo. 328 The above position has raised debates among
many scholars. One of such opinions asserts that, the Hausa ethnic group are the
original occupants of the Hausaland in Nigeria. Islamic religion and culture has a very
long tradition in this part of Nigeria. The Northern Nigerian had earlier encounter with
Islam before the coming of Christianity in the region. The first town to have encounter
with Islam in Hausaland was Borno in 11th century A.D., through Trans-Saharan Trade.
However, in 15th century Islam became strongly established in Northern Nigeria. 329
As a result of this contact, their world view and cultural values became influenced with
Islamic religious principles. Just like every other cultures in Nigeria and Africa, the
Hausa people place high social, cultural and religious value on family and marriage. The
Moslem communities in the North, practice polygamous type of marriage and keep also
concubines. Thus, a typical moslem family comprises of the husband, his wives and
concubines, unmarried children, servants etc. In this family setting, the males control
the home.330 Probably, this could be one of the major reasons why the people embraced
Islam since its teachings is in accordance wit the cultural practice of marrying many
wives. Due to the nature of the climate in the north, their major occupations were:
agriculture and animal husbandry. They produced wool, hides and skin which exposed
326

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, ibid, pp. 29-30.

327

Ezinwa Vincent Chi, op. cit., p. 87.

328

Omelewa Michael, op. cit., p. 41.

329

Chigere, Nkem, M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 27.

330

Cohen, Roland, Kanuri, in: Faulkingham R. etc. edi, the Moslem Empires and Peoples of the world, London,
1977, p. 504.

94

them to Trans-Sahara trade with the North African nations before the coming of the
white man. At the helm of politics in Hausa ethnic group are the Emirs as those of
Sokoto or Gwandu who appoint other Emirs. They serve as the spiritual political and
administrative leaders.331 Like the Yoruba ethnic group, the Hausa group practised
centralized system of government before the era of colonialism. With the centralized
system of government among the Yoruba and Hausa groups it was not difficult for the
colonial master to work in these areas.
The origin of Igbo people has been a long one. It is clouded with so many speculations
like the two previous groups, Yoruba and Hausa we have seen. Most of the available
resources are found in fragmentary, oral tradition and correlation of cultural traits. Some
historians maintain that the Igbo people never migrated from another place to the
region they occupy in Nigeria. The other school of historians are of the opinion that the
Forebears of Igbo people migrated from places like Egypt, Israel or some Eastern
country.332 A critical investigation into the culture of the Igbo people seems to support
the idea that they came from Israel. One of the major Igbo ethnic group cultural traits
that are similar to that of Israel include circumcision of the new born child after eight
days of birth. But one of the myths about the origin of Igbo generally accepted holds that
their ancestors lived in a town called Nri in present day Anambra state. From this place,
his children spread out and developed to what we have as the eastern states of Nigeria.
The Igbo people inhabit the forest area and share border with the followings: Cross
River in the east of River Niger, Benin in the west of the Niger, Igala in the north, and
Niger Delta in the south.333 Just as Hausa and Yoruba people can be found in other
parts of Africa and beyond, the term Igbo specifically refers only to a particular people or
race living in West Africa. There is no other parts of Africa or the world where this group
of people are settled as a tribe or race. The same is with their language. As a result of
difficulties with the pronunciation of the word Igbo, people especially the foreigners and
some Africans consequently renders the term Igbo as Ibo. Accordingly, the word Igbo
has no specific meaning. The meaning attached to it varies. Owing to this, scholars
have given various analysis of the word as follows: the real one or most genuine
person, one who carries commercial wares while travelling about; also to protect, to
shield, or to resolve a problem etc. 334 The interpretations of the term Igbo in these
various forms stem from the way the people carry themselves, their daily life activities,
interaction and encounter with others around them.
331

Ezinwa Vincent Chi, op. cit., p.89.

332

Omelewa Michael, op. cit., p.81.

333

Onwubiko, 1973, p. 107.

334

Chigere, M. V. Nkem Hyginus, op. cit., p. 14. He indicates how this group are differentiated from other ethnic
groups in Nigeria. In this case they are referred as Ndi-Igbo which means Igbo people or members of Igbo race.
We can say that this is also applicable to other ethnic groups in Nigeria. For instance, when an Igbo person want
to make a general statement about other people they often used the same pattern as Ndi-Yoruba (Yoruba people)
or Ndi-Hausa (Hausa People), when he or she speaks of an individual person from any of the other ethnic groups
it goes like this, onye Yoruba (a Yoruba person) or onye Hausa (a Hausa person). It is a pattern of expression
found among the Igbos.

95

The language of the people is called Igbo. There are many dialects spoken by the
different towns, villages and regions of the Igbo ethnic group. With these they
understand themselves. The Igbo language belongs to the Kwa Group of languages in
Africa.335 Among every other ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbo people are the most
travelling ones. They are found virtually in every parts of the nation and beyond its
frontier. Hence, the famous overemphasised saying among the people, that, anywhere
one goes in the world and did not found Igbo person(s), that the person is to leave as
there is not inhabitable. They are social people. Rarely can a month pass by without
communities celebrating one festival or the other to strengthen their social, cultural and
religious life and unity. Among the numerous celebrations are: dancing outing by
different groups of men, women, young girls and boys, new yam festival, marriage,
naming, masquerading, death and achievements of their illustrious sons and daughters.
The major occupations among these people are agricultural work, metal work or
blacksmith(Uzu), pottery and trading. They practice democracy which encourages
personal freedom and equality before law as against dictatorship in settling issues. They
never practised monarchical or centralized system of government like the Yoruba and
Hausa/Fulani in the past. The largest and strongest political body found among the Igbo
people has been the town or village-groups ruled by a council of elders... 336 As we
have seen with the Hausa and Yoruba ethnic groups, family and marriage institution are
regarded so high also among the Igbos. In their cultural, social and religions as well in
the family, kindred, clan, village and community settings men are the head. In both
ethnic groups therefore, the cultures and society place women at disadvantage in
comparison to their male counterparts. With regard to pattern of settlement, the Igbo
people live in small dispersed form considered as villages or towns made of families,
kindred and clans. Each village or town is organizationally autonomous from the other
on one hand. On the other hand, the various communities or clans neatly depend and
associate with each other on the background of common cultural, religious and
traditional activities.
The above brief survey shows how the people lived their lives before the dawn of
Christianity, Islam and colonization. They have a religion that is original to them, the
Traditional Religion. There were also means of checking evil and upholding of morality
in the society through the age grade, masquerade, women group known as (Umu Ada
or Umu Okpu) in the eastern part of Nigeria. Nigerians have strong respect for the
elderly people. Age for them means a lot and as such should be respected. These
express their reasons for placing high value on human beings. The people of Nigeria
are celebrating types. They celebrate achievements of their illustrious sons and
daughters and take different types of title in the communities. Just as the celebrate life,
they also celebrate funeral and burial of their dead ones. They have their informal way
of education like moonlight storytelling and the folk tales. Their economic life is centred
mainly on agriculture and this brings them together in transaction of buying and selling.
Linguistically, a person from Nigeria can be easily identified and defined by his or her
language. Despite the fact of the above positive qualities exhibited by the different
335

Nwala, T. U., Igbo Philosophy, Ikeja-Lagos, 1985, p. 15

336

Chigere, M.V. Nkem, Hyginus, op. cit., p. 20.

96

groups, there were some negative cultural, religious and social activities identifiable
within Nigerian cultures and society. Among such are: tribal clashes, village wars either
within or with another neighbouring ethnic group, human sacrifices, killing of twins,
subjugation of women and so on. However, with the inception and acceptance of
Christianity and Islam in Nigeria and colonization, most of the cultural, social and
religious activities became affected.
2.2 Religion in Pre-Christian Nigerian era
Naturally, human person is a religious being inasmuch as he relates with the Supreme
Being. By so doing, they strengthen their relationship with God, actualize their inner or
spiritual yearning and individually or communally find solutions to their material and
spiritual needs. If it is so with individual persons, it presupposes that every culture in the
world has some element of religion, be it Christianity, Traditional, Islam, Hinduism,
Buddhism, and host of others. In view of the universal nature of religion in human
history and existence, Eberhard says, Es scheint, soweit wir wissen, keine Menschen
ohne Religion zu geben-wie immer man dieses Phnomen im einzelnen zu bestimmen
sucht.337 Religion is therefore an aspect of the cultures that is very crucial in
development and growth of the people. In conformity to his earlier position, Eberhard
further argues that, no human group is without religion. Hence for him, human person is
naturally, homo religious. This is akin to the description given by Arthur Leonard in his
work entitled The lower Niger and its Tribes. In this work he maintains that, African is
so religious, he eats, drinks, and dresses religiously. 338
Within the ambient of religion in Nigerian society and cultures are rituals, sacrifices,
worship, and prayer. Religion for the people is an indispensable aspect of reality that
manifests itself throughout ones existence. Deductively, the understanding of human
beings, the happenings around them, their life experiences either negative or positive,
the entire world-view is seen within the context of religion. Mbiti John affirmed this
position thus, Africans are notoriously religious. He carries it to the fields where he is
sowing seeds or harvesting new crops, he takes it with him to the beer party or to attend
a funeral ceremony; and if he is educated, he takes religion with him to examination
room at school. 339 Religion being an essential aspect of peoples culture and
tradition permeates every aspect of an African persons existence. This position holds
also for Nigerians who are part of the African continent. There are element of religion in
their politics, businesses, farm works, factories and in their daily life transaction with one
another. To demonstrate how important religion is to Africans, Mbiti argues further that;
a person cannot detach himself from the religion of his group, for to do so is to be
severed from his root, foundation, context of security, his kinships and the entire group
of those who make him aware of his own existence. To be without religion amounts to
self-excommunication from the entire life of society, and African people do not know
337

Tiefensee, Eberhard, Homo areligious in Lebendiges Zeugnis, Vol. 56, 2001, p. 188-204.

338

Arthur G. Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, London, 1969, p. 429.

339

Mbiti, John, African Religion and Philosophy, London, Heinemann, 1975, pp.1-2.

97

how to exist without religion.340 This suggests that no one has his or her own religion.
One is born and brought up within the context of the communal religion; he or she
appropriates and makes his or her own. Religion therefore gives one identity that shows
where he or she comes from. It plays crucial role in the life of the adherents.
Humanity and nature in typical Nigerian traditional understanding are under the control
and governance of Supreme forces. In the categories of beings and forces, the
Supreme Being, God of the Christians. The same God is called Chukwu or Chineke or
Osebuluwa by the Igbo people, Olodumare by the Yoruba people and Allah by the
Hausa people. He ranks top among the spiritual forces and beings in Nigerian cultural
and religious world-view. The people worship the highest Supreme Being by offering
sacrifice, prayers, and other religious rituals both privately and communal. However,
some early writers on African concept of God contribute to the erroneous conclusions
and understandings people carry about with regard to worship in African Traditional
Religion. They judged the African Traditional Religious practices with their own
categories. They failed to understand that differences exist despite the fact that we are
all human beings. Thus, some of them based their arguments on absence of temples,
priests and lack of any form of worship on one hand. On the other hand, some maintain
that what is common rather was the worship of deities, ancestors and mystical forces. 341
These judgments are as result of their own religious practices that led to wrong
conclusions about African Traditional Religion. Through his selected study about West
Africa, Parriender identified at lest three forms of worship in African Traditional Religion.
According to him, general worship exist in Ashanti Ghana with private shrines, public
temples and regular priests. The second type of worship he called partial worship is
found among the Ewe of Dahomey and Togo. In some part in this place exists also an
organized worship with temples and priests especially among the people of Abomey.
While those who fall under the group of belief system without organized worship, lack of
temples and priests are found in Nigeria.342
For typical traditional or cultural Nigerian man and woman, the deities, spiritual forces
are seen as intermediaries and messengers of the Supreme Being. With this inherent
features in African and Nigerian Traditional Religion, the western christian missionaries
and scholars termed the religion polytheism. As such, a must converted or dethrone one
in other to enthrone monotheism they preach. For the natives, the gods, the deities and
the spiritual forces are at the service of the Supreme Being and the human beings.
They go in between the Supreme Being and humanity. Through them, (spiritual forces
and deities) an indirect worship is rendered to the Supreme Being. This understanding
of the people dislodged therefore, the notions of lack of worship for the Supreme Being
in Nigeria cultures. More so, recent research by Nigerian theologians and scholars on
religion dislodged the earlier positions that there are lack of worship, priests and
temples in Nigerian Traditional Religions. The works of some eastern Nigerian (Igbo)
340
341

342

Mbiti, John, ibid, p. 2.


Udoye, E. Anaegboka, Resolving the Prevailing Conflicts between Christianity and African (Igbo) Traditional
Religion through Inculturation, LIT Verlag, Berlin 2011, p. 40.
Parrinder, B. Geoffrey, African Traditional Religion London, Heinemann, 1969, p. 15ff.

98

scholars on theology and religion are clear instances on this point. 343
Nigerians understand also that no man or woman can lay claim of total or full knowledge
of the Supreme Being. He cannot be comprehend by the human minds. For them,
therefore, the Chukwu or Oladumare or Allah is full of mystery. On this account, the Igbo
people call Him 'Amama-amasimasi' meaning, (One that cannot be completely known).
He is a God that is active and unfolds his plans in human history. This captures one of
the names the eastern Nigerians call him Chineke or Chukwuokike (Creator God or God
that creates). Thus, He is not a dead God, and neither does he keeps silence in the
affairs within the environments human beings exist. For the Igbo people of Nigeria, He
is 'onoo nso eruaka' which means that (He is close or near and at the same time He
cannot be touched). This explains their expression of the Supreme Being's feature of
transcendence and immanence. As a matter of fact, there are many names given to Him
by Nigerians. These names are grouped into three: the personal names of God, title
names of God and attributive names of God.344
There are other important values apart from religion inherent in the cultures of the
Nigerian people. These include the sacredness of life, communal living; respect for the
elders, dignity of family and marriage, age grade, seasons, birth, death and burial, and
the ancestral belief system. Everything revolves around the human person. Thus, the
human being is at the center of their world view. The ancestors form an integral part of
the different Nigerian homes and towns. This portrays the communal attitude and
understanding of the world by the people, as the living, the death, and the unborn form
part of a continuum.345 Accordingly, African community is a single, continuing unit,
conscious of no distinction in quality, between its members still here on earth, and its
members now there, wherever it may be that the ancestors are living. 346 The nature of
the intimacy that exists between the ancestors in families and communities, they are
believed to intervene and involve in matters of difficulties and happiness. Hence, they
watch the living, and reincarnated among them 347 called on the issue of birth, marriage,
sickness, and family reunion.348 This entails that, they participate in the family and
community affairs of the living.
343

Arazu carried his investigation in Ihembosi Anambra State of Nigeria. In this research he came up with the
result that, in this town there is a community shrine called Okwu-Chukwu and Igba Okwu Chukwu. The Chukwu
(God) is worshipped every year by the eight villages that make up the town. In this feast of worship both men,
women and children participate in it actively. The items used include: cock, yam, kola-nut, and chalk (Nzu). Its
priesthood belong to a particular village in Ihembosi, the Umuabu. From this we can infer that there is a
worship, priest and the shrine where the celebration take place serves as the temple. Cf Arazu, C. Raymond, Our
Religion-Past and Present, Awka, Martin-King Press, 2005, p. 173. see also, Ilogu, Edmund, Christianity and
Igbo Culture, Onitsha, University Publishing Co., 1985, p. 40

344

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 35.

345

Isichei Elizabeth, A History of the Igbo People, London, 1976p. 25.

346

Parrinder E. Geoffrey, op. cit., p. 65.

347
348

Isichei, Elizabeth, op. cit., p. 25ff.


Isichei, Elizabeth, ibid, op. cit., p.63.

99

Ancestors veneration is a general religious belief system common among Nigerians and
Africans alike. This group of the living dead are venerated at various levels like in the
family, kindred, and community by the living members of their families, clans and
villages. They are offered ritual sacrifices morning and evening at the family by the head
(father) of the house. The kindred and community, have special day for such ritual
activity. It is the highest title of honour given to people of good integrity after their death.
In other to belong to this one has to live good life while still alive. The good life involved
ripe in age, the person(s) might have contributed to the development and well being of
the community. According to Anozie to qualify as ancestor, one must have lived a good
and successful life, attained ripe age, died a good death accompanied with a befitting
funeral rite.349 It presupposes then, that not everybody make it into the ancestor cult.
By good and successful life signifies, that the person had lived and ruled his life with the
laid down customs, traditions, and norms of his community.
Dying a good death suggests its opposite, a bad death. And by good death, it means
that the person died a natural death. Those whose death are classified bad include
those drawn by water, those died by hanging, those died with swollen stomach, and
those who died prematurely. These kinds of death are not honoured and thus
disqualified from the status of becoming ancestors. Viewing what can disqualify one
from attaining ancestorship, Shorter enumerates rather, the category of people that are
not allowed into the ancestor cult. According to him these include: children, barren
women, sterile men, disabled, outcasts, people with social censure, people who die far
away from their homeland and were not buried in their land. 350 Children, barren women
and sterile men belong to the group that left no descendant behind them. Their death
bring to end the continuity aspect of human existence. It is the duty of the descendant to
perform the rituals in honour to their loved dead ones, who are their ancestors. For a
person to become an ancestor means, that, he or she bears children who are to
venerate them as their ancestors. Being buried far from ones homeland indicates
separation from ones members, the living and the dead. Therefore, such persons
cannot be outside and accorded the ancestor title. With the dawn and contact with
agents of civilization especially, Christianity, this religious practice of the people became
affected. The natives were discouraged by the white missionaries of the different
Christian denominations not to participate in it. For them, the practice is against the
christian faith and was termed worship of the dead.
It is clear that in Nigerian and African cultures, religious activities are holistic in nature.
That is, it is a sacred event that involves and brings the Supreme Being, supernatural
forces, deities, the dead and the living members of any given community into constant
interaction. Religion brings harmony that reflects in the social life of the nation, among
human beings, the living, the dead, the yet unborn, between humanity and the created
349

Anozie, P. Ifeanyichukwu, The Religious Import of Igbo Names, A Doctoral Thesis presented at Urbanian
University Rome, 1969.
350

Shorter, Aylward, African Christian Theology, p. 127.

100

world, harmony with the Supreme Being with everything and in every sphere of life. 351
Consequently, for effective participation of the people in the traditional religious activities
presupposes need for representatives who go between the deities, spiritual forces and
human beings. In this case, not everybody is expected to work at this capacity. Rather,
all are invited to participate in the religious worship and events. Thus, one never chose
himself or herself, it is always a call from the deities on any person they want to go
between them and human beings and the community. Hence, the necessity of human
personnel entrusted with different religious duties such as the priesthood institution.
This institution is open for both men and women who function as priests and
priestesses. Other religious persons include, diviners, medicine men and women,
fortune tellers, rain makers and so on. They deputized for the people in matters of
religion, settlment of family and communal problems. They go between the human
person and the deities or gods. The gods, goddess, or deities in turn mediate human
beings in the presence of the Supreme Being.
At family levels the fathers perform this religious duty. In a place where the father is
dead, the eldest male child performs the household religious rituals. Where the child is
still tender, the mother performs some of the religious functions. She hold the position
for her son. On attaining maturity, the son takes over the role for the family. But, if the
father still lives, he discharges such a function. He represents the family in the gathering
of the kindred presided over by the most senior man in age. At this level, the religious
function of the kindred fall on the most elderly man. The priests and priestesses
participate in other important social functions apart from the religious duties in the
community. They play central role in the life of the society. Speaking on the centrality of
priest with reference to Yorubas, Bolaji Idowu says Priest is inevitable in the social
pattern of the Yoruba since the keynote of their national life is their religion. Virtually
nothing is done without the ministration of the priest. Apart from looking after the soul of
the community, he features prominently in the installation of kings and the making of
chiefs.352 There is charm and armulet of various types and usage in the traditional
religion of the people.353
In modern Nigeria, one finds three types of religions namely, Traditional, Islamic and
Christianity. None of these is considered as state or national religion. One is free to
worship in any of them. Before the coming of the white man in Nigeria, Traditional
religions was practised throughout the ethnic groups of Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa
respectively. This Supreme Being is all powerful, all knowing, creative, everywhere, and
351

352

Musau, Patrick Mwania,The African Woman as an Agent of Evangelization, Her Role and Function in the
Mission Activity of the Church in Africa, Aachen, 2009, p.107.
Bolaji E. Idowu, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief, New York, 1962, p. 139.

353

The use of charm and armuet is not foreign in the traditional setting of the Nigerian people. It is a common
practice among the people before the dawn of Christianity. Some wear these around the neck. Others used themas
hand bangle. While some pacentage of the people wear them around waist. The people use charm and armulet
especially when they are outside their homes. They hang them on the walls inside their homes, farm land, economic
trees etc. As one enters anothers compound it is found being hung at the enterance gate above. And some bury them
under the ground. For the traditionalists, the charms and armulets protect the people against evil, wicked spirits and
their human agants. They use them to protect their property from the menance of the community thieves.

101

invisible. He creates all that exists in the world and sustains it, and he is the source of
power and of existence of other forces and deities. 354 The traditional people from the
different ethnic groups approach him with respect through the deities represented in
material symbols like wood, stone and so on. These serve as intermediaries between
the Supreme Being and mankind as in Nigerian cultural world view, no one can directly
approach Him. It is because of this attitude of representation or symbolization and the
sacrificial rituals with animals often involved, that has merited the Traditional Religions
of the people the names such as animistic, pantheism, paganism and idolatry. The
Nigerian people have in their traditional religions places and quarters where they
worship the Supreme Being through the gods, goddess, or deities as in rivers, hills,
rocks, caves and forests. These places become sacred shrines for the community. As
each community have a place for their worship, so did every typical traditional families
and kindred. At these spots the living commune with the Supreme Being, and their
beloved dead members, the ancestors. It is a place of encounter and worship for the
people. What we have discussed above is a brief and not detail religious, social and
cultural situations among the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. It is paramount to
point out here that, the people of Nigeria have knowledge of God even before the
coming of Christianity. They have their peculiar ways, means, and understanding of God
whom they gave many names. This introduces us to the next sub-section that deals on
the planting of Christian faith (God) in the nation Nigeria.
2.3 The Advent of Christianity in Nigeria: Contact, Expansions and Challenges
The great mandate of Jesus centres on making all nations on earth his disciples. This is
to be actualized through missionary activities to teach, convert and baptize. The theme
of the mandate motivates and propels the first recipients the Apostles into series of
missionary activities beyond the Jewish culture with the help of the Holy Spirit. The
same motive and zeal to achieve repentance that leads to conversion base on love saw
Christians from Europe preach the gospel in the villages, towns, cities and nations in the
West Coast of Africa including Nigeria. The wind of adventure of the time saw to the
opening up of the various ethnic regions that make up the present nation Nigeria to the
wider society. This opening and contact was possible through many means as trade,
colonialism, Christianity and Islam. Observation shows that often our people experience
the dilemma of which direction to go in matter of religion, Christianity or Islam or
Traditional religion. In the face of this dilemma one thing is certain that before the
coming of Christianity and Islam there was a sense of God and religion in Nigeria. So,
the dawn of either Christianity or Islam is going to be a contact with what already exists
and practised within the cultures on one hand. On the other hand, it will provide moment
of encounter for the two foreign religions (Christianity and Islam) in Nigerian society. On
a general note, the Nigerian cultures and society will serve as platform or context on
which the three (Traditional, Christian and Islam Religions) experience each other. In
this section of the work, we are to bear in mind that a lot have been written about the
dawn of Christianity in Nigeria. So, we are not going to delve into elaborate discussion
on this.
354

Okafor C. Richard et al, Cultural Expressions in Nigeria in Nigerian People and Culture, edit by Okafor R,C and
Emeka L.N. fourth edition 2004, Enugu, p. 88.

102

2.3.1 The Early Dawn of Christianity in Nigeria


The dawn of new scientific and technological inventions like compass increased sea
navigation and the zeal of man to explore his environment and beyond. The resultant
effect was opening and discovering of new areas and places of the world often referred
as the new world. This attitude and quest of human persons to know more of their
environment in order to control and make positive use of its resources. This gave rise to
the great event of exploration in history; that led to exploitation of one by the other that
exists in the world. The Portuguese were the earlier Europeans to arrive in Western
Coast of Africa. They settled in the Islands of Sao Tome and Cape Verde. Speaking on
one of the reasons behind the settlement of the explorers at the Islands of Sao Tome,
Sanneh says, Sao Tome proved a rich source of sugar; the island experienced an
economic source for most of the sixteenth century as it became the capital of
Portuguese commercial interests, just as Santiago in Cape Verde. 355 The Islands was
very crucial for commercial purposes. At the same time it played vital role in the
spreading of Christianity in Western Coast of Africa. The main aim of the explorers was
first and foremost commerce, exploration and exploitation of the Islands for their own
advantage. Another reason that necessitated the arrival of the Portuguese in Western
Coast of Africa was the 1455 Papal Bull of demarcation that gave the control of West
Africa to the king of Portugal.356
However, towards the end of 15 th century, some Portuguese Catholic missionaries
followed the explorers to plant Christianity and establish formal education as a
formidable tool that will dispose the Africans for better trade. 357 It is clear that among
the earlier Portuguese that came to the Western African Coast include: traders,
explorers and Christian members of the Capuchin and Augustinians missionaries from
Portugal. Spain and Italy were also involved in the missionary caravan. 358 The
explorers went about the adventures of discovering towns and villages. The traders
among the group engage in business transaction with the natives of these new towns
and villages on the local products like: pepper, ivory, gold, ostrich feathers and gumArabic, in exchange for their own goods such as beads, mirror, clothes, guns, gunpowder, tobacco, distilled spirits and so on. Scholars discover cheat and imbalance in
the business transaction between the African natives and the Europeans. The ...
Europeans gave in exchange non-productive commodities (inconvertible goods) to the
Africans while the Africans gave productive and profitable commodities to the
Europeans. There was conspicuous commercial disequilibrium, the commencement of
our exploitation.359
The business transaction grew and expanded to the buying of human cargo known as
355

Sanneh, 1983, p. 35.

356

Udoye, Edwin Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 160. cf also, Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 140.

357

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 160.

358

The Church in Nigeria: Family of God on mission, A Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of
Nigeria (CBCN) To the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful on the First National Pastoral Congress, Nigeria, 2004,
p.11.

103

the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in human history. Before this, there have been practice of
keeping slaves in Nigerian and African cultures in the family and community. The victims
sold often into slavery include:
criminals, suspected witches and scorers, sometimes lazy fellows and
largely war captives. People are subjected into slavery because of family
impoverished condition. a family might exchange a child for money until;
it could pay back to the moneylender and then claimed back the child. It is
a mark of honour and economically viable to own slave(s) in Igbo traditional
society.360
In these cultures and society slaves undertake different functions. 361 Despite the nature
of works the family slaves engage with, they have right in these their families. In the
house of their masters they are treated with some respect but not to that of the children
of their masters. They are allowed to marry and have families of their own. For them to
do this, they are to discuss it first with their masters. That they are slaves do not prevent
them from owning property. Most often, they obtain their freedom through hardworking,362 loyal and obedient.
The planting of Christian faith in Nigeria was not carried out once. The process took
repeated efforts and time to come through. Some region had early contact with
Christianity than others. In all these the fact remains that the early contact of Nigeria
with Christianity began from 15 th century onwards. In other to make their work of
evangelization easy and to record success, the missionaries resorted to the system of
establishing close relationship first with the royal homes of the chiefs, kings and Obas.
With this idea, the first place of contact usually was the kings court to convert the kings
and then make the populace Christians.363 Chigere argues that, apart from the
intention to win converts, the missionaries were instructed to concentrate their attention
on the royal household and if possible to lull the king to decree the catholic faith as the
religion of his realm, initiating in effect a mass conversion. 364 This type of conversion is
best described as conversion from above. Had it been that this method worked out in
Nigeria, Catholic church and Christianity would have been a religion of the elites. In
Benin kingdom through which catholicism extends to her surrounding villages and
359

Udoye, E, Imperialism cum Neo-colonialism a Strangulation of Authentic Development in Nigeria, Disertation a


Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy, Bigard, Enugu, 1994, p. 26.

360

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 155.

361

The functions of the slaves range from household chores and farm works in the family. At community level they
are variously used such as during war outbreak. They are victims of sacrifice in appeaseing either the gods or deities.
In burial ceremony of chiefs and kings among some tribes in Nigeria they are used. Deductively in Nigeria there are
two types of slavery, the village slaves and the household slaves.
362

363
364

Cf, Okafor, L. M, History for Senior Secondary Schools Books 1&2, Onitsha, Jet Publishers Nigeria Limited,
1989, p. 260, cited by, Udoye, Edwin Anaegboka, ibid, p. 155.
The Church in Nigeria, Family of God on mission, 2004, p.11.
Chigere, Nkem, M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 104.

104

towns, the Oba of Benin and Olu of Warri during this period had many contacts with
Christian missionaries.365 In view of the situation, Sanneh argues, the search for
slaves in the hinterland led them to Benin City, the Slave River in the Niger Delta; from
this moment Benin Kingdom became a major centre for Christian contact of the
Portuguese, who operated from the Island of Sao Tome. 366 The then Oba of Benin
however sent one of his sons and some of his chiefs to receive baptism and education
from the missionaries. His action was not accepted by his people who rejected the
imposition of baptism and the attendance of the missionaries in their traditional
festivals.367
The unsuccessful effort of the first attempt to plant Christian faith in Nigeria open up the
second phase of missionary activities in the nation. Joseph Kenny testify to the evident
of this second movement towards the introduction of Christianity in and around Benin in
1644 thus, In the city of Warri there is a Church with an altar, a crucifix, statues of Mary
and the Apostles, and two candlesticks alongside. The black people came into this
Church with rosary constantly in their hands, just as proper Portuguese do. They recite
it together with other polish prayers.368 Towards the end of sixteenth century the
Capuchin missionaries from Spain and Italy attempted to evangelize delta areas of
Warri and Itsekiri.369 It is unfortunate that the first and second phases of missionary
activities of 15th and 16th centuries recorded unsuccessful result due to some inevitable
geographical, language, climactic, cultural barriers and methodological factors. All these
factors contributed immensely.370
The faith was not deep rooted and spread among the people. It could be possible that
most of these chiefs, Obis, kings, Olus and Obas accepted the missionaries for their
own personal interests. On the part of the missionaries, scholars identified that their
method have political motivation a superficial undertone. This gave rise to the next
factor that led to the collapse of the first missionary activities in Nigeria. It is clear that at
this period interest was more on the gain made through trade. It is not surprising that
the earlier initiative and organization was championed by the Portuguese traders. Of
course, the main aim to reach the African chiefs and to establish contact with them has
more of business undertone. The missionaries themselves were used to open and
establish the contacts for them. Thus, both groups collaborated in the entire episode.
365

Ibid, p.11.

366

Sanneh, 1983, p. 36.

367
368
369

Obidi, S. S., Culture and Education in Nigeria: An Historical Analysis, Ibadan, University Press, 2005, p. 164.
Obidi, S. S., ibid, p.12.
Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 161.

370

Geographically, it was difficult for the missionaries to enter the interiors owing to lack of accessible roads.
Climatically, they were inflicted with malaria fever. The approach they adopted to evangelize first the royal families
and those of the nobles in the land without reaching out to the people was not the best method. With this approach,
the missionaries intend first, to get the community leaders to accept the Christian faith as the religion of the people.
The aim was to depose traditional religion skillfuly and impose the new faith on the citizens. This missionaries'
approach of concentrating on the conversion of the royal families was shallow.

105

The existing relationship and contact between the missionaries, the trading explorers
and merchants on one hand, the chiefs and their subjects on the other hand gradually
became weaker and less effective. Consequently, as the hope of gains looked farther
shattered, the Benin and Warri missions were postponed until a more convenient period
while commercial opportunities and gains were reciprocally sought by both sides and
the Oba wittily got his son over to Europe etc. 371 Christianity was used to lure the
people into trade contact with the first Europeans from Portuguese. The chiefs played
along on this game of profit making. But in the real sense of it, there was no conversion.
The missionaries of the 15th century were mainly used as door openers for the
Portuguese traders and explorers. The aftermath effect was that the disappearance of
both kingdoms brought to an end the early encounter of Christianity in Nigeria as it was
not widely spresd among the commoners of the land, and not deeply rooted in the life of
the people.
2.3.1.1 The Penetration of Christianity in the Western (Yoruba) Nigeria
The abolition of slave trade contributed in no small measure in the planting of
Christianity in Nigeria and other Western Coast of Africa. The knowledge of how the first
attempt to Christianize Western Coast of Africa ended on a negative note, helped the
missionaries of this era to became more mission-oriented. Hence, the major objective
before them is to see to the re-establishment of Christianity in Nigeria and the Western
African Coast region. Again, the wind of evangelical revival blowing across Europe and
America among the Methodist and Anglican churches during the late Eighteenth century
contributed immensly in the actualization of the second missionary activities in Nigeria.
The Zeal led to the establishment of several mission-oriented groups. In 1792 the
Baptist Missionary Society was formed. Seven years later, the Society of Mission to
Africa and the East known also as the Church Missionary Society became established
in 1799. On request, a missionary Wesleyan James Ferguson came to Nigeria. Another
missionary Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman a Methodist arrived Nigeria in 1842. His
mission was to attend to the need of the freed slaves in Abeokuta one of the states in
Nigeria. By this time however, there are about 300 freed slaves settled in Badagry.372
As in the first missionary escapades, the kings, Obas and the royal chiefs received the
missionaries. This attitude continued even in this case. For instance, King Sodeke of
Abeokuta warmly received the missionary in the person of Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman.
The question is, why did he warmly accepted the missionary in his place. His action was
not different from his predecessors. Scholars disclosed that, he did this not because of
his total love for the Christian mission, but for the fact that Christianity would help him
gain political advantage over his enemies like Ijebu and Ibadan states. 373 The same
intension was displayed in Lagos in 1845. Here it was the issue of who takes the rule
between Akintoye and Kosoko. The disposed Oba, Akintoye supported the missionary
371

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 105.

372

Adewale, Ogunrinade, Christianity in Nigeria before Pentecostalism, in Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary


Studies, Vol. 2. no 2, MCSER-CEMAS, Sapienza Univerity of Rome, 2013, p. 124.

373

Adewale, Ogunrinade, loc. cit.

106

and its established in Lagos in the view to helping him reclaim his kingship on one
hand. While on the other hand, Kosoko sees the missionary as threat to be watched
very closely.374 By the end of 1842, C.M.S entered Yorubaland through Henry Townsen.
After his arrival at Badagry, he went to Abeokuta. There he met with Rev. Thomas Birch
Freeman from whom he received some help and guidance. He returned to Badagry to
take his missionary team to Abeokuta. In the process of doing this, King Sodeke died.
This brought a huge delay to his mission in Abeokuta. As providence may have it, he
and his team settled in Badagry. This led to the establishment of the C.M.S mission in
Badagry. Due to their presence in Badagry, the missionaries from C.M.S tried to convert
the rulers but to no avail. The people resisted because of the profit accruing from slave
trade business of the time.375 The occupants of Badagry were reluctant to accepting the
message of conversion preached by the C.M.S missionaries. The people guided
tenaciously on their slave trade business from been destroyed by the missionaries.
The liberated Nigerians and Africans slaves who first settled at Sierra-Leone contributed
so greatly in this phases of evangelization of the continent and the nation Nigeria.
These liberated slaves had already been converted to Christian faith. As they trace their
origin back to their different homelands in Nigeria, they returned with fellow missionaries
to start the work of evangelizing their land and people. In any case, Christianity spread
at different rates and in a variety of directions, being rejected in Oyo, grudgingly and
partially accepted in Abeokuta, welcome in Ijebu and eagerly sought after in Ilesha and
parts of Ondo.376 Before the introduction of Christianity in Yorubaland, Islam and
Traditionl religions were already in existence. The actual date Islamic religion was
introduced in Yorubaland is a matter of debate. For some scholars the date is unknown.
Others hold that by the early period of the nineteenth century Muslim communities exist
and spreads in Yoruba towns.377 Badagry route played vital role during the period.
Through it also, the then freed slaves of Nigerian origin were able to return home.
Again, missionaries were able to reach the other parts of Nigeria such as the south-west
and Calabar to the south-south.
2.3.1.2 Christanization of the Eastern (Igbo) Nigeria
There are varieties of history on how Christianity arrived eastern Nigeria. The 1830
expedition by the Lander brothers' of the River Niger was a very significant factor. It
opened this region of Nigeria for commerce, colonial occupation and missionary
activities at the Niger basin. 1841 witnessed the arrival of a group made of European
merchants and missionaries.378 It could be understand that the River Niger was the only
374

Adewale, Ogunrinade, loc. cit.

375

Adewale, Ogunrinade, loc., cit.

376

Dopamu, Ade, Traditional Religion, Islam and Christianity in Yorubaland: Patterns of Interaction, in: The
Gods in Retreat: Continuity and change in African Religion, edit, by, Ikenga Metuh Emefie, Enugu, Fourth
Dimension Publishing Co. LTD, 1985, p. 108. Cf, also, Webster, J.B., The African Churches Among the Yoruba,
1888-1922, Clarendon Press, London, 1964, p. 96.

377

Dopamu, Ade, ibid, p. 108.

378

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 165.

107

mean to reach this part and the other places in Nigeria. No wonder that those who
settled along the River route were the first to receive the missionaries and the European
merchants. Among the missionaries that arrived on the Niger to establish C.M.S mission
station were: Rev. J. F. Schn, a German, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba ex-slave
and Simon Jonas an ex-slave of Igbo origin. The later acted as the interpreter of the
group. On arrival the C.M.S missionary team met with Obi Ossai of Aboh to whom the
missionaries preached the Gospel message. He was impressed by the interpretation of
Simon Jonas. As a result of this, he requested that he stay back to teach him and his
people. Throughout the period of Simon Jonas' in Abo, children came around him to
learn the Bible. In any case, the stay was brought to an end the moment Rev. Samuel
Crowther and Rev. J. F. Schn returned from their missionary expedition to Lokoja, in
northern Nigeria. 379
Presenting the outcome of their founding, Rev. Samuel Crowther proposed Africans to
take up the mission on the Niger. His suggestion was based on the fact of climate,
disease, and willingness of the natives to return and teach their people. While Rev. J. F.
Schn advised that West Indian missionaries be sent to the Niger. He based his opinion
on the ground that they are better qualified than the liberated Africans. In spite of the
preceding considerations, the C.M.S went for the recommendation given by Rev.
Samuel Crowther.380 The mission however did not began immediately. There was a
period of fifteen years of delay before the Niger mission kicked off. A repeated attempt
was made after fifteen years of the initial effort failed. This time, the expedition was
sponsored by a Liverpool merchant Macgregor Laird in cooperation with C.M.S. He was
represented by Dr William Baikie in the expedition who also severed as the leader of the
commercial group. The C.M.S. mission group was led by Rev. Samuel Crowther.
The first two missionary attempt were not successful as expected. In 1857 Reverend
Samuel Ajayi Crowther was instructed to open an outstation of their mission at Onitsha.
On his arrival at Onitsha, he signed an agreement with the Obi Akazua of Onitsha that
will enable them begin Christian mission in his town. After the initial establishment and
beginning, Crowther handed over the mission at Onitsha to fellow members who are exslaves of Igbo origin. Although, the key personnel were Igbos, the C.M.S mission at
Onitsha recorded insignificant success in area of spread to the neighbouring towns and
villages of Onitsha. The slow progress were as result of some factors such as strong
resistance from the traditionalists in the area. The over dependency on the merchants
and the colonial master for help in the aspect of supply, protection from the hostile
natives and in the need of transportation. One could easily infer, that the contact and
relationship with the indigens were not healthy. Internally, the C.M.S mission had
problem as Reverend Samuel Ajayi Crowther was consecrated bishop in 1864. This led
to crisis in the church as the white missionaries could not imagine how they are to be
under the black bishop. Finally, this brought about the first division in the Anglican
379

Ekechi, F. K., Missionary Enterprise and Rivalry in Igboland 1857-1974, London, Frank Cass Company Limited,
1971, p. 2.

380

Ekechi, F. K., ibid, pp. 3-4.

108

church.381
The arrival of Roman Catholic Mission in this area, was possible through the Spiritan
Congregation with its headquarter in France. A team of French Roman Catholic
missionaries on 5th December 1885 arrived Onitsha with the help of Mr Townsend. The
leader of this pioneer Catholic Missionaries was Fr Joseph Lutz with other members, Fr.
John Horne, Brothers Hermas Huck and Jean-Gotto. They were heartily received by the
Obi Anazonwu of Onitsha. As a sign of acceptance, the Obi of Onitsha offered them a
piece of land. Unfortunately, the land belong to the Anglican missionaries. In the spirit of
love and understanding, Bishop Samuel Crowther allowed the Catholic missionaries to
use the land. However, two important treaty was signed. The treaty of non-commercial
interference or trade with the natives by the agent of the Royal Niger Company. And to
train and care for the children in religion and secular teaching with the approval of their
parents or guardians.382 This confirms the free giving of the land to the Christian
missionaries in perpetuity to establish, develop and carry-out their religious mission
without disturbance. The gesture demonstrates the cultural value of hospitality that
signifies acceptance by the host Nigerian cultures.
The mission of the Holy Ghost Congregation was that of primary evangelization. They
suffered climatic and environmental challenges such as malaria that led to the death of
brother Jean-Gotto. For a solid foundation and survival of the mission, Fr. Joseph Lutz
device several methods and policies. Ozoigboh said, Lutz introduced the use of school
(for boys and girls), charitable work (dispensaries, hospitals, orphanages and asylums),
trade and industrial institutions (for carpentry, masonry, tailoring, shoe-making etc.),
farming and gardening, as means of attracting and retaining converts to the Catholic
religion.383 The death of Fr. Joseph Lutz brought a moment of leadership change
among the Spiritan missionary team in the person of Fr. Rene Pawlas. He saw to the
continuity in the policies and methods of his predecessor, late Fr. Joseph Lutz. His era
is best described as period of consolidation. Another leadership change saw Fr. Leon
Lejeune as the leader. He continued the existing methods, but reorganized and
introduced new ideas in their mission. Scholars described him as one with ambitious
pastoral programmes and revolutionary ideas on how to capitalized on the school
apostolate to the advantage of all concerned. 384
His revolutionary ideas saw to the birth of the following projects: the building of mission
residence, recovery agenda of abandoning redeeming slaves and sponsors Christian
381

Onunwa, R. Udobata, Christian Missionary Methods and their Influence on Eastern Nigeria, in: The Gods in
Retreat: Continuity and Change in African Religion, edit, by, Metuh Ikenga Emefie, Enugu, Fourth Dimension
Publishing Co. LTD. 1985, pp. 60ff.

382

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 169. cf, Obi, C. A., edit., A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern
Nigeria 1885-1985, Onitsha, Africana-Fep Publishers Ltd., 1985, pp. 11-19.

383

Ozoigboh, R. A. Ikenga, Igbo Catholicism the Onitsha Connection 1967-1984, Onitsha, Nigeria, Africana-Fep
Publishers Ltd., 1985, p. 7.

384

Eke, C. I., p. 97.

109

villages.385 Throughout the early stage, Catholic extended to her neighbouring towns
and villages like Igboariam, Aguleri, Ozubulu and so on. However, the era of Father
Joseph Ignatius Shanahan who later became a bishop 386, witnessed the expansion of
Catholic faith to the interior parts of Igbo hinterland. For instance, during his era
Ozubulu mission was established in 1908. This mission covers places like: Ihiala, Orlu
and Oguta. 1909 saw the birth of Nteje mission. From here, Njikoka, Awka, Aguata,
Arondizuogu, Uburu and Okigwe were evangelized. The mission increases from Awka
and extend to Eke, Enugu and Udi with Eke as its centre. It expanded further from Eke
to Nkanu, Agwu, Nsuka, and parts of Abakaliki. However, in the year 1933, Nsukka
became with St. Theresa as its centre. As catholic faith expands, it finds its way from
Calabar to Owerri in the year 1912. the centre of this mission was later moved to
Emekuku and from here it expands to areas like Mbaise, Nsu, Umuahia, Aba and Port
Harcourt.387 The huge mission expansion success of Fr. Joseph Shanahan is attributed
to many factors such as his personality, vision and method. He was bold and fearless
and freely mix with the people. This characteristic qualities enabled him reason along
with the people. This in turn helped him understand actually the people he has come to
work with and for. He took the mission to the people and avoided the mistake of early
Portuguese missionaries of concentrating on the royal, chiefs, kings and nobles
household.
2.3.1.3 The Advent of Christianity in the Northern (Hausa) Nigeria
However, Protestant Christian denomination came before Catholic church in Nigeria
during the second tire of missionary activities. Observing the issue, Ikenga notes that,
French merchants invited two of the catholic missionary societies operating in West
Africa to send missionaries to the Niger. 388 In response to the request, the white-fathers
known also as the Society Missionary of Africa (SMA) and the Holy Ghost missionaries
arrived at Lokoja northern Nigeria. Another story about the coming of catholicity in
Nigeria has it that before the coming of:
the members of the Society of African Missions who based in Dahomey,
the present Republic of Benin, that Catholic community existed in Lagos
as early as 1860s under the supervision of a catechist named Padre Antonio.
They arrived in 1868 and began the evangelization of Lagos which covers
the following areas: Lagos, Benin, Ibadan, Jos and Kaduna. 389
We see the movement made by the Society of African Missions to extend catholicity in
the north. As catholicity grows Apostolic Vicariates were created in 1883 with its centre
385

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 170.

386

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, pp. 61-62.

387

Cf, Ozigboh, R. A. Ikenga, op. cit., p. 10ff.

388

Ikenga, 1988, p.39.

389

The Church in Nigeria, Family of God on mission, p. 13.

110

at Benin in the west and in 1884 at Lokoja which was later transferred to Asaba. 390 The
movement of both Catholic and Protestant denominations to the north was not an easy
task for the bearers of the Christian faith. Just as the other regions we have examined,
the planting of Christian faith in northern Nigeria was facilitated by the liberated slaves
led by bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. The first mission by the C.M.S in north was
erected in Igbebe 1862 with nine people baptised. Some Emirs for instance the Etsu of
Nupe Usman Zaki showed tolerance and bishop Crowther was well received. The Emir
gave him a piece of land at Nupe where Crowther built a missionary rest house. On his
visit in the year 1859 that the new Emir had closed the station at Rabba. 391 Despite the
apparent tolerance, respect and cordiality the missionaries received from some of the
Emirs, did not in any form negate the contemptuous attitude Muslims have for non
Muslim people whom they see and consider as infidels. The closure of the station was
insinuated according to Anyandele by a warning from Yoruba merchants. He advised
the Emir to watch closely the actions of the missionaries whom he sees as pathfinders
of British imperialism.392 The Yoruba merchants may have spoken from experience
and observation with regard to what might have happened in their region. Being
'pathfinders of the British imperialism' denotes that the Christian missionaries work in
collaboration with the former. They are the handmaid of the colonial master.
In the citations, we discover a mixed situation of acceptance on one hand. On the other
hand was a sign of non acceptance as a result of fear of the future due to the nature of
connection and cooperation between the British government and the Christian
missionaries. For instance the implantation of Islam and its system of government,
initial mistakes of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), its link to colonial ambitions in
the north, and the application of the Lugard exclusion from preaching to Moslems. 393
Summarily, the interruptions came from British order and Islamic religion. Speaking on
the nature of the hindrance from the British, Obi Celestine says:
Lugard was diffident about inviting missionaries to Northern Nigeria.
I see no reason why religion-be it of one sort or another should be
forced upon the liberated slaves. I see much in it to exasperate the
Mohammedan master who considers himself robbed of his property
that we may further a religious propaganda hostile to his creed. 394
390

Ibid, p. 13.

391

Metuh, Ikenga, Muslim Resistance, to Christian Missionary Penetration of Northern Nigeria 1857-1960: A
Missionlogical Interpretation, in: The Gods in Retreat: Continuity and Change in African Religions, edit, by,
Metuh, Ikenga, Emefie, Fourth Dimension Publishing CO. LTD, Enugu, 1985, p. 92.

392

Ibid, p. 90. Cf, also, Oyelade, E. O. & Kenny, O. P. Changes in Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria since
Independence, in: Nigerian- Dialogue, Journal of Inter-Faith Studies on the Relation between Christianity and
non-Christian Religions, Vol. 2, no. 2, 1977, p. 6.

393

Ibid, p. 16.

394

Obi A. Celestine, The French Pioneers, 1885-1905, in: A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern
Nigeria 1885-1985, edit, by Obi, A. Celestine, Onitsha, 1985, p.82.

111

We see a kind of defence of the Muslim religion by the leader of the colonial masters. In
actual sense of it does he mean the Muslims or fear of his statue being affected.
Position like this by the leader of the nation amounts to causing state of unrest between
the members of Christian and Islamic religions. For him, Christianity is going to be a
threat to Islam. One may not be wrong in asking if he is in a way projecting the idea of
Islamizing the nation.
As time unfolds, Lord Lugard gave permission for the establishment of Christian
denominations in the north under the condition that, missionaries are not to preach the
equality of Europeans and natives at this stage, which however true from a doctrinal
point of view is apt to be misapplied by people in a low state of development and
interpreted as an abolition of class distinction. 395 Lugard goes further to admonish the
missionaries about their specific works among the people in the north as follows, to
teach only moral instruction than specified creed, educate the natives on the formation
of habits of industry, truthfulness and social services, discipline and cooperation. 396 If
Christianity fells to preach equality, what can it preach and stand for since the opposite
of equality breeds social, cultural evils and unnecessary classing among human beings.
He fears that the natives will eventually rise up to demand for their equal right, position
and respect for being human beings. Again, the colonial master want to maintain the
idea that the white are and would continue to be superior over the people they colonized
considered as inferiors.
With the acceptance of the invitation:
father Lejeune a Holy Ghost priest set out and established a Catholic
mission Church at Dekina in 1903. The mission experienced series of
setback as a result of reactions against the colonial ways of administration.
The Church was burnt down in 1904 and 1905. In these series of disruptions,
the Holy Ghost missionaries left. But the villages of liberty they opened
continued to exist.397
What was known as Christian village in the east is referred as village of liberty in the
north. The most import fact is that both have the same aim and objective of giving hope,
protection and educating the people that live in there. The intension of planting
catholicity in the north was not given up, as, in 1907 father Zappa moved from Asaba
395

C.S.E. B/192/A/03, letters: Lower Niger, 1886-1920, Lugard to Lejeune in: Obi, A. Celestine, Background to
the planting of catholic Christianity in the lower Niger in A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria
1885-1985 edit, by, Celestine, A. Obi, Onitsha, 1985, p.83.
396

Obi, A. Celestine, loc. cit., p.83.

397

Olusanya, G. O., The Freed Slave homes: an unknown aspect of Northern Nigerian history in Journal of
Historical Society of Nigeria, iii, 3 (1966), p. 527ff in Obi A Celestine, Background to the planting of catholic
Christianity in the lower Niger in A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria 1885-1985 edit, by
Celestine A. Obi, S.T.D. M.A., Ph.D. Onitsha, 1985, p.84.

112

and established a catholic station in Shendam in 1930. 398 But before these later
attempts to establish Catholic Church in northern Nigeria, historical evident has it that:
in 17th and 18th century, Catholic Church presence was already in
the north in Gobir (Sokoto) and Bornu. The kingdom of Kororofa had
100,000 Christians and a sixty-bed hospital built by a priest. This early
contact became possible through the caravan route linking Bornu/Sokoto
and Tripoli. The first prefecture for the north was created in 1911 with
its centre at North of the River Benue and was later relocated to Jos.
By 1934 the Church in northern Nigeria had two Prefectures, Jos and
Kaduna.399
Base on our findings in this sub-section so far, it is glaring that the mission to
Christianize Nigeria was not an easy one. The project encountered setbacks and other
kinds of difficulties. In spite of the odds, we can say that the Christian faith has come to
stay in the nation. The Prefectures grew to different provinces and vicariates developed
to dioceses. According to the latest released information about the Catholic Church in
Nigeria, we have at present nine Ecclesiastical provinces: Lagos 18 April 1950, Onistha
18 April 1950, Kaduna 29 June 1953, Abuja, Benin, Calabar, Ibadan, Jos were in 26
Mrch 1994 erected, and Owerri 5 may 1994. 400 Nigeria that was once a mission land
for Western world now produces indigenous priests, religious men and women who are
on mission in different parts of the nation, Africa and the world. Indeed, Christianity has
come to stay in the nation.
2.4 Methods Adopted by the Early Missionaries in Evangelizing of Nigeria
For any project the human beings engage in to be successful depends heavily on the
systems used in the establishment of such enterprises. The missionary events in
Nigeria was in no means an easy one. It was a mixture of difficulties, failures, setbacks
and new beginnings. Despite the difficulties encountered, hope was not lost. Rather, it
was kept alive. It was hope that kept the missionaries on in the propagation of the
Christian faith in Nigeria. In other that their mission received positive response, the
Catholic Christian missionary team as well as those of the other Christian missionary
groups adopted strategies in pursue of their missionary programmes. Notwithstanding
the differences, there are common methodes that existed among them. In this subsection therefore, we are going to study some of these strategies that contributed to the
spread of Christianity in Nigeria.
2.4.1 Approaching first the Royal and Nobles of the Land (THE ROYAL COURT)
It is clear that in places the missionaries arrived, that their first place of contact has
always been the royal households. They do this with the intention to gain the favour and
approval of the kings, Obas, chiefs, Obis, Emirs, Olus, the Council and cabinet
398

The Church in Nigeria, Family of God on mission, p.14.

399

Ibid, p.16.

400

The Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Nigeria (2008-2009), Nigeria, 2007, p. 23.

113

members of the royal court. This strategy and method worked out successfully for them.
On such visit, the missionaries established relationship and link with the leaders of the
communities. As a sign of reciprocation of the gesture, the royals support the
missionary's project in their communities. For example, they were given piece of land to
build their mission house. This is clear in the case with C.M.S and R.C.M. in Onitsha by
Obi Anazonwu. The same was exhibited towards the C.M.S at Igbebe in Northern
Nigeria by the Emir Etsu of Nupe, Usman Zaki.
In some other cases the chiefs invite the missionaries in their towns as a result of the
development and progress in the neighbouring towns. This is evident with chief Idigo of
Aguleri in Eastern Nigeria. He was the one who asked the Catholic missionaries at
Onitsha to come to his town Aguleri. Nevertheless, in places like Benin, North and
Onitsha discussed above, the missionaries were the first that went to the royal
household. All these signify acceptance and extension of hands in fellowship and
togetherness in the project by the host to work with the Christian missionaries. This
strategy used by the missionaries is very important because, if they were not accepted,
the mission would not take place in Nigeria. It follows that in this case both the hosts
and bearers of the Christian faith (the guests) are involved in the work towards the
realization of the mission.
2.4.2 The Establishment of Villages of Hope
The issue of which Christian missionary team started first the use of this strategy as a
mean to evangelize in Nigeria is still an issue of debate. The village of hope is one of
the oldest methodes used in the evangelization process in Nigeria. Explaining this
approach as adopted by the C.M.S Chigere says, the protestant used a similar method
of evangelization as they wanted to form the people anew. They used the Sierra Leone
or Liberia case as an examples, and through this means, they aim at carving them out
in order to avail them new surroundings and cultural structure different and devoid of
local corruptions.401 This solve the seemingly problem of which missionary team first
used this strategy. Since the protestant missionaries first arrived in the nation, it implies
that they first used this method. At any rate, the Catholic missionaries introduced the
same policy with modification and improvement. 402
The village of hopes are homes for many who suffer persecution due to the new religion
they embraced. For security purpose, the victims (the newly converts) were taken into
the villages of hope to keep them out of the reach of persecutors and become homes
for the hopeless. The inmates of these villages were mainly: twin babies, mothers of
twins, redeemed ex-slaves, girls ransomed by the missionaries at Onitsha, from Nupe,
Bida and Igara....403 We are to recall that killing of twins in the early periods was a
cultural practice especially around the then south eastern Nigeria, presently the southsouth and eastern regions. These innocent children were condemned and thrown into
401

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, Loc. cit.

402

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, loc. cit.

403

Onunwa, R. Udobata, op. cit., p. 68.

114

evil forests. Consider the psychological, emotional and physically trauma of the parents
of these children. These mothers are looked upon as abnormal people in the
community. Be that as it may be, the fortunate ones were rescued and saved by the
missionaries together with their mothers, and accepted into the village of hopes. This
depicts and expresses motherly care and protection of the church. Again, the slaves
who were prepared to be sold to Europe or used locally for sacrifice either to the
community deities or for the burial of prominent people were redeemed. All these people
are rehabilitated in the villages of hope scattered over the country. In these centres,
people find conducive atmosphere to practice their new faith. They received also
instruction on the Christian doctrine and faith, medical care and elementary education.
Hence, Christianity became a new way of life as against what they are used to in their
communities of origin. Another positive aftermath was that the inmates turned out to
become effective agents used by the missionaries to reach out to the interior parts of
the land. It provided a platform for cultural interaction between the missionaries and the
natives and prepared both sides for more closer contact.
Despite the many positive dividend acquired from the establishment of the villages of
hope in the early period of mission in Nigeria, the project did not last as a result of some
factors. The inmates never came with anything with regard to contribute in their
maintaince of themselves. Hence, every aspect of their up keeping are the
responsibilities of the missionaries. Thus, the cost of running the villages became
exorbitant as the population of the inmates kept increasing. The level of education the
inmates receive could not afford them a higher job in government services and the
church. They only worked as clerks, custom officers, cooks and interpreters. Again, the
attitude of some catechists who backslide did not help issues either. Some of them slide
into superstition and paganism that scandalized people who looked on them and thus,
worsen the situation.404 From outsiders perspective, the method is exclusive in nature.
As a result of this, the villages of hope adopted by the missionaries rouses suspicion,
accusation and opposition that only few number of the population are evangelized as
majority are left out.405

2.4.3 Education
Speaking of education here suggests establishment of schools. That is, an introduction
of a formal way of teaching and learning. Rev. Samuel Ajayi Crowther sees education
as one of the means to elevate the Africans and enable the native converts to read and
understand the Bible. The C.M.S provided their pupils with new and attractive dresses
and often pared them in Onitsh town. 406 The missionaries discovered the love Nigerians
have for education and thus used it as one of the positive means to convert the people.
The enthusiasm of the people in this direction encouraged the missionaries into the
404

Udoye, E. Anaegboka,op. Cit., p. 181.

405

Cf, Obi, Celestine, op. cit, p. 119ff.

406

Onunwa, R. Udoabata, op. cit., pp. 69-70.

115

establishment of schools. According to Omolewa elementary schools sprang up in most


communities where mission stations were established. The Church Missionary Society
founded the Grammar Schools in the west namely Lagos 1859, Abeokuta 1908, Ijebu
Ode and Ibadan 1913. The Methodist mission established secondary school in Lagos in
1878; the Roman Catholic Mission founded St. Gregory College in 1868 in Lagos. 407
The wind of school establishment blew across the eastern region. Here, the
missionaries of the Holy Ghost Congregation took the lead. Although before their arrival,
the Church Missionary Society has been in the east with the school apostolate. As Rev.
Fr. Lutz and his group arrived, they met with the King. In this encounter Rev. Fr. Lutz
said, we come to live near you, to open a school, to teach your children and your good
people, all who may wish to come and learn knowledge from the white men of
Europe.408 With this intention, the resultant effect was the gathering of new converts of
people attracted by the white mans knowledge. The school system approach began by
Rev. Fr. Lutz was continued by his successors in the persons of Rev. Fr. Lejeune. It was
Rev. Fr. Lejeune who introduced boarding school system. The Catholic education
method reached its climax during the period of Rev. Fr Joseph Shanahan. Speaking of
his educational tactics, Ochiagha said, Shanahan wanted to give the people the full
benefits of Christianity by giving them formal education. Religion without education
degenerates to superstitious. He spreads religion and education in every town he visited
as Catholic schools serve as a solid avenue to hand on the Christian Faith to the
people.409 On his own part Rev. Fr. Shanahan said, If we go from town to town talking
about God we know from experience that much of our efforts bring no result. But no one
is opposed to schools.410 He stresses the need to increase the number of the school
pupils and advocates for the baptism of these children; since he believes that through
them, their parents will be reached and come to God. 411 Why the zeal to begin schools
by the missionaries? To this Onwubiko based his argument on the great mandate and
said, Christ himself mandated his Apostles to teach all nations. The successors
continued on the same idea of teaching and educating the nations of the world.
Missionaries all over the world, therefore, see education and evangelization as part and
parcel of their vocation.412
In all these, the fathers were not alone in the spreading of Catholic faith in Nigeria
through education. They worked with some female missionaries in this regard. The later
took the education of the young girls and women. Education at this early period prepare
407

Omolewa, Michael, op. cit., p. 142.

408

Ekechi, F. K., op. cit., p.73.

409

Ochiagha, G. Bishop Shanahan Apostle of Igboland in: Bishop Joseph Shanahan, edit, by James Okoye,
C.S.Sp. Onitsha, 1971, p. 17.
410
411

The Church in Nigeria, Family of God on Mission, op. cit., p.15.


Onunwa, R. Udobata, op. cit., p. 70.

412

Onwubiko K. B. C, The Catholic Church and The Development of Education in Eastern Nigeria (1885-1984),
in: A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria 1885-1985, edit, by Obi A. Celestine et al, Onitsha,
1985, p.225.

116

the people for jobs in the church as catechists, interpreters, workers in white mans
companies for a better future. The church identifies the value of education as one of the
means to communicate the Gospel of Christ to the people. It helps and leads christians
out from superstitious belief and teaches them about Christian faith. On a serious
sense, through the educational method, the church preparers her sons and daughters
not only for the church but also for the society in general.
2.4.4 Medical Service
It is a well known fact that health is wealth. The same health plays vital role in the world
view of every Nigerian man and woman. Based on this ground, anything done to
ensure, encourage and maintain good health is a welcome idea by Nigerians. The
method of medical apostolate employed by the missionaries in Nigeria is indisputable as
the need increases. This leads to the establishment of medical projects that are to
carter for the aged and sick ones, children, pregnant and nursing mothers. This
approach served many purposes. The medical services rendered by the early Christian
missionaries in Nigeria contributed in no small measure in saving the life of the people.
They introduced something new.413 The medical services approach introduced by the
missionaries serve as one of the means to win converts over to Catholic faith. Udoabata
observes that the children were not treated without first being baptised- apparently to
save them from eternal damnation in case they died in the sickness, but primarily to
make sure that those children would eventually become converts to the Roman Catholic
faith.414 They discovered the attachment of parents to their children and used it to get
them become members of their Church. A very crucial question we are to ask here is,
what is the initial intension that made parents bring their little children to the hospitals.
We think that their coming to the hospital was to treat their sick ones. So, placing
baptism first before the treatment of the sick little ones is not the best pastoral
approach. But if the sick child is in danger of death, then, the method of baptism before
treatment becomes a laudable one. The actions of the missionaries in this situation
could be understood as an expression of concern, sympathy and love towards the sick
413

Something never experienced before by the natives was introduced, the western way of treating illness. The
effect is simple, a change from native means of treating ill-health cases to accepting the new orthodox method. This
leads thus to seeing the traditinal means of health treatment as something fetish and daibolic since it deals with
herbs, roots, leaves and the likes. This attitude of the people encourage the missionaries to destroy some of the
things used in the cultures in the treatment of sickness. Again, the notion of comparing the Traditional gods and the
Christian God is bound to develop. This leads to the mentaity that one heals and the other do not heal attitude among
the people. The indication becomes a massive switch-over to Christian Religion and abandoning of the Traditional
Religion.
414

Onunwa, R. Udoabata, op. cit., p. 71.To this Ekechi says, pruned of its humanitarian trappings, the dispensing
of medicines and gifts was conceived to influence the people to accept the Catholic religion... As a condition of
treating the children, the missionaries demanded that they be baptized first. cf, Ekechi, F. K., op. cit., p. 75.They
discovered the attachment of parents to their children and used it to get them become members of their Church.
A very crucial question we are to ask here is, what is the initial intension that made parents bring their little
children to the hospitals. We think that their coming to the hospital was to treat their sick ones. So, placing
baptism first before the treatment of the sick little ones is not the best pastoral approach. But if the sick child is
in a danger of death, then, the method of baptism before treatment becomes a laudable one. The actions of the
missionaries in this situation could be understood as an expression of concern, sympathy and love towards the
sick.

117

child. When it comes with medical strategy, the Roman Catholic Missionary team takes
the lead. With this approach, they win converts from the Traditional Religions adherents
and some members of the C.M.S over to Catholic faith.
Commenting on the situation the C.M.S secretary once said, we are daily coming
across cases of persons who used to belong to our church but now are Roman
Catholics. In almost each case, the means used to draw out people has been medicine.
Father Lutz is the doctor of the whole town. 415 With this, there is going to be change of
attitude in this regard. Hence, the waken awareness of other Christian missionary teams
to use also the medical system in their missionary expedition. The resultant effect
among the different groups of the missionaries is the dawn of rivalry and competition in
this aspect. This led to boom in the establishment of hospitals in Nigeria. 416 It is
important to note that, the ulterior and basic motive behind this was to win members
from one Christian denomination and religions to another. In view of this Eke Casimir's
observes that the medical approach became Catholic missionaries' magic in winning the
heart of the people. Thus, hospital one of the social amenities becomes positive
channel through which the Gospel Message of God is communicated to the people. In
other to reach out to the natives, the different missionary teams built hospitals, clinics,
maternity homes, dispensaries and health centres alike. It is evident from the foregoing,
that the various early Christian missionaries in Nigeria cared not only for the spiritual
needs of the people. Through the medical strategy, they provided for the immediate
material needs of the people and restore most of them to health. However, we are to
bear in mind that this medical care was not only meant specifically for the natives of
Nigeria. The missionaries benefited from it.
We have seen that the Church as tender as it were displayed the maternal roles she is
415

Cf, C.M.S. G3/A3/30 Dobinson to Lang. 5 May 1890, in F.K. Ekechi, op. cit., p. 77ff.

416

The Roman Catholic missionaries built health institutions in various parts in Nigeria. Among the early Roman
Catholic missionaries medical establishments in the Eastern Nigeria are: a dispensary at Onitsha in 1893, St. Luke's
hospital Anua 1933, Holy Rosary Maternity Hospital Waterside Onitsha 1935, Our Lady of Lourde's Hospital Ihiala,
Charlse Borromeo Hospital Onitsha, St. Joseph's Hospital Adazi 1935, Mount Carmel Hospital Emekuku 1935 and
Mother of Christ Maternity Hospital Enugu. As need for medical services increase, it becomes very urgent for the
male missionaries to look for help. This is very crucial as they cannot attend to the people of different needs at the
same time. And in order that all aspect of their works are attended to, they resorted to the invitation of the female
religious who contributed greatly in the medical apostolate services. For instances, the Medical Missionary of Mary
and the Holy Rosary Sisters played major role in the establishment and running of hospitals. In 1898, the zeal to
engage also with the medical strategy as one of the means of evangelization became a dream came through by the
C.M.S missionary team. This saw to the establishment of hospital dedicated to Archdeacon Henry Dobinson at
Onitsha. Few years later another one was opened at Iyi-Enu Ogidi in 1908. Hospitals thus, became effective outlet to
teach patients about Anglican doctrine. The same was evident in Okonyong in the present south-south Nigeria. On
her arrival in this place, Mary Slesser a Presbyterian missionary built clinics and hospital she incorporated in her
missionary services. She extended the medical service to the neighbouring towns and villages of the Eastern Nigeria
such as Uburu in present Ebonyi State and Arochukwu in present Abia State respectively. The Methodist
missionaries were not left out. In Uzoakoli they built a hospital with attached clinic for the treatment of the victims
of leprosy disease. There was increase and wide spread of leprosy clinics and colonies in the nation by the different
Christian missionary agents. The victims thus find these colonies and clinics as place of hope, refugee and solace
since they are seen and treated as outcast because of the disease of leprosy. cf. Ozigboh, I.R.A, P. 23, and see also,
Onunwa, R. Udoabata, pp. 18, 72-73.

118

known with through the various methodes used in her early evangelization mission in
Nigeria. The church gained freedom of the slaves and through this mean gave hope to
the hopeless victims of slavery. She provided them psychological reorientation and
medical services as positive ways of reintegrating them back to life, society and the
church. The baptism of the converts is paramount as through it the church gave birth to
them as Christians that speaks of her maternal quality. Through education we see how
the church inculcates moral behaviour in the people, character formation and value of
human life. This does not mean that the people had no value for life, they do. With the
village of the hope, she provided shalter and food for those made homeless and left to
die of hunger as result of circumstances they know nothing about. For the destitutes,
the rejected and the condemmed the church was there as mother to give them hope
and meaning in life. Given birth to twins in these cultures was something considered
abomination by the people; and one of the socio-cultural evils prevalent during this
period that the church through her maternal missionary activities and evangelization
positively affected. Presently, people of Nigeria appreciate and wish to have twin
children. They welcome and see them as Gods gift to humanity.
The missionaries brought to an end the practicse of human sacrifice to deities and
burying them along side with the noble people like kings, chiefs, Obas etc in the
cultures. With the coming of Christianity, most of the societal and cultural ills were
stopped. While some were controlled like that of human sacrifice. In present Nigeria
people are been kidnapped for ritual sacrifices of various kind by occultic groups in the
nation. Some use their parents, children, wives, husbands, friends and relatives in
money ritual making. We can say that the human sacrifice has taken a modernized
form. This is one of the socio-pastoral challenges before the church and Christianity in
general in Nigeria. As hospitals and dispensaries were built so many lives were saved.
Medically, the religious sisters among the missionary priests helped greatly in these
directions. The establishment of all these by the missionaries attracted the attention of
the government who provided roads, and security to augment the effort of the church.
This shows another aspect of cooperation between the church and the government.
This encounter produced effects some we have mentioned. But one of the major effect
of all was the birth of different churches in the nation.
2.5 The Dawn of Independent Churches in Nigeria (ICN)
Historically, the missionaries introduced the mainstream Christian churches in the
nation. A look in Nigeria at present shows the presence of numerous Christian churches
apart from the mainline Christian churches brought by the missionaries. These churches
are regarded as Nigerian or African Independent churches. As the name shows, these
churches own their origin to Nigerians and Africans alike. The founders are known. They
were once strong members of the mainline churches like: Catholic, Anglican and
Methodist churches. Perhaps, history is repeating itself in the nation Nigeria and African
continent. This is because, the issue of separation from one church to form another has
been part of the history of the church. Some of the Independent churches came into
being as results of internal and external factors. Internally, there were series of crisis in
the already existing mainline churches. Others developed as a result of desire for
something new in ways and patterns of worship.
119

As Christianity continues to grow and spread in the country as well as in the other parts
of the Western Coast of Africa, came the wind of change that resulted to separation.
The struggle for independent by African nations from the colonial masters contributed to
this process as people understood the important of self-awareness, freedom and
liberation from foreign powers. The self-awareness zeal led into negotiation process that
brought about independent of African nations. The success recorded in the sociopolitical sphere prepared the ground for religious independent to seek for religious
freedom from the authorities of the mainline missionary churches. The immediate effect
was the birth of different indigenous religious churches and movements. 417 Another
factor that contributed to separation from one church to another was the aftermath of
the Nigeria-Biafra war. This left the people of the nation devastated and exposes them
to difficult challenges of life like:
sickness, hunger, war-casualties and rehabilitation hazards etc.
And many solutions, spiritual and temporal were sought and
welcome. That was among the other reasons why and how the
prayer rallies summoned by acclaimed indigenous Christian
prophets that existed took the opportunity to excel ... and graduate
into churches.418
The handicapped situation of the people were utilized by their brothers and sisters. This
eventually led to the founding of churches and evangelical movements. The people
thus, seek solution, freedom from emotional and psychological trauma, material and
spiritual liberation in the critical moment of after series of wars effect in life. For
instance, the influenza pandemic of 1918 that hit west Africa. After the first world war,
this spread to Nigeria affected up to 80% of the population. As the death rate increased
in the land, and not knowing what to do, the only option left for the people was to turn to
divine healing through the emerging Independent churches that promised them the
healing of their illness such as; the Cherubim and Seraphim, the Aladura and similar
Independent groups.419
However, the process of founding an indigenous Nigerian churches have been going on
in the nation even before her political independence and after the war especially in
Yorubaland. The aim of the movement was to have churches with Nigerian background
in view. People want to worship God in their own way and pattern of life. Worship that
stems from their culture. That is, the indigenization of the liturgy, self-governance and
self-organization. They want to worship God the way they are not with borrowed
mentality, disposition songs and languages. It is intresting to accentuate that as early as
417

Ikeobi, C. Godwin, Catholic Response to the Challenges of the 'Prayer Houses'- Origin of the Tuesday Prayer in
Onitsha in: The Catholic Church in Onitsha, People, Places and Events 1885-1985 edit, by, Nwosu V. A.,
Onitsha, 1985, p. 262.

418

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 260.

419

p. 732.

120

1891 the people seek for religious liberation through inculturation and indigenization in
the churches activities.Consequent of the reasons already given, some scholars identify
that domination and high-handedness of the Africans by the white missionaries are
amongest the causes of secessions. They want freedom from the overbearing political
and ecclesiastical bondage, too much foreign in structure, practice and
government420of the white missionaries in West African Coast. For instance, in 1888
pastor Stone expelled a fellow African pastor, because, David asked for an increase to
the remuneration he often receives. He was dismissed without following due
constitutional procedure of the Baptist Church. This led to the founding of the native
Baptist Church.421 Attitudes and treatments of injustice like this made many Nigerian
and African Christians to break away from the Church missions to founding the African
Church Movement (A.C.M). Simply put, the founders of African church Movement aim
was to Africanise Christianity. Unfortunately, the plan was not realized due to lack of
finance. The rich Christians in Lagos they hoped on failed to respond positively to the
plight. Also, the missionaries of the mainstream Churches in West Coast of Africa see
the idea as a challenge to their own mission.422
Despite the financial constraints and lack of support the desire to achieve something
new in this direction continued and led to the formation of the United Native African
Church (U.N.A.C) in Lagos.423 The year 1901 saw the birth of African Church
Incorporated (A.C.I) and 1917 witnessed the founding of the United African Methodist
Church (U.A.M.C).424 The act of secession and grouping to found new churches has
become a common event in Nigeria. The important point worth mentioning is that, most
of these churches began earlier before independence in western Nigeria and from there
spread to the remotest and interior parts in east, north, and north of the country. Hence,
individuals and groups were caught in the frenzy of seceding from one or more
churches to found a church or Christian prophetic movement. In Niger Delta region of
Nigeria occurred secession by an influential member of the Anglican communion, known
as the Garrick Braide secession. In view of the event, Ilogu writes that, in 1916 the
Garrick Braide secession had taken place in the Delta area and entered Iboland through
the Christ Army Church organised from the secession. Braide had been an influential
member of the Anglican Church... he was the Pastor's warden around 1914-1915. 425
when one speaks of Christianity in present Nigeria, it involves the different Christian
denominations that make up Christianity in this part of the African continent and the
world. This is classified into five blocs of: the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), the
Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria
(CPFN/PFN), the Organization of African Independent Churches (OIAC), and the
420

Adewale, S. A., Loc. cit., p. 173

421

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, ibid, p. 172.

422

Adewale, S.A., op. cit., pp. 172, 173.

423

424

Webster, J. B., The African Churches among the Yoruba 1888-1922, Clarendon, 1924, pp. 68-69. as cited by
Adewale, S. A., op. cit., p. 172ff.
Adewale, S. A., op. cit., p. 173.

121

Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA/TEKAN). 426 These five blocs of Christianity
are the members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
2.5.1 The Aladura Churches in Nigeria
The second type of the Independent Churches originated mainly from western Nigeria,
the Yorubaland are referred as the Aladura church; from where it spreads across the
nation and even beyond.427 The phrase Aladura church is described by Omoyajowo Akin
as ... indigenous churches which began to emerge in Nigeria.... different from the
traditional or mission-oriented Churches and those, which broke away from them.
founded by indigenous persons and run under indigenous leadership. 428 It is in the
process of trying to find a better way to worship God that gave birth to the Aladura
Churches in Nigeria known also as the church of the Lord. It belongs to the Christian
Council of Nigeria (CCN) and a member of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). This
religious group emphasises the values of divine healing and prayer protection. It was
foundered by Josiah Olunowo Oshitelu a one time catechist in Anglican Church who
practised fasting, strong devotion through prayers and received visions. In 1926 he was
dismissed from Anglican Church. In his prophetic ministry he preached against
Idolatory, encouraged destruction of traditional charms and medicines, prophecised and
healed people through prayers and use of holy water. The Aladura church spreads to
the north and east of the nation and other nations in Africa such as: Ghana, Liberia,
425

Ilogu, E., op. cit., p. 59. The history of Braide has it that he was converted to Christianity at his adult age. He
gave time to prayer and fasting. He encourages indigenization of liturgy in the aspects of: spontaneous songs,
clapping of hands, use of local instruments and ecstatic dancing. His method of preaching and the acclaimed
possession of the gift of healing power attracted large followers to him. He rejected traditional religion,
encouraged destructions of charms and idols, and discouraged people through preaching from consuming
alcohols. However, he allowed polygamy in his movement. His movement was considered by the then Anglican
Bishop Johnson as heretical. This could have necessitated his eventual secession from Anglican Church. From
the part of the British traders did not even helped matter. They conspired against him as he preached against
alcohol drinking that affected the market of such products to the people. His sermon against alcohol was a threat
to their economic gain through the sale of alcohol drinks. Hence, he was accused and imprisoned where he died
(cf. Udoye, E. Anaegboks, op. cit., p. 173). Despite the cruel treatment he suffered from his Bishop Johnson and
the British that led to his death, his movement survived, but later divided into two (cf. Isichei, Elizabeth, op, cit.,
p. 252).

426

The Christian Council of Nigeria is made of the following churches: Anglican, Methodist, Baptist churches,
Four Sequare, Presbyterian, Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubm and Sarafim, Church of the Lord Aladura and
other Orthodox churches. The Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria comprises the pentecostal churches.
cf. www.cannigeria.org/membership. Visited on 24.12.2015. The Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA)
originated from the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM). The Tarraya Ekkelesiyoyin Krista a Nigeria (TEKAN) that
grew from Sudan United Mission (Sum). TEKAN use to be known as TEKAS Tarraya Ekkelesiyoyin Krista
Sudan. The churches that belong to the TEKAN include the followings: the Church of Christ in Ngeria (COCIN)
which means in Hausa language, Hadaddiyar Ekkelesiyar Kristia Nijeriya (HEKAN) and the Lutheran Church of
Christ in Nigeria (LCOCN).Cf, www.openedition.org/ifra/416?Lang=en. Visited on 12.12.2015. see also,
Crampton, E.P.T, Christianity in Northern Nigeria, Zaria, Gaskiya Corporation, 1975, p. 150.

427
428

Adewale, S. A., op. cit., 171.


Omoyajowo, Akin, The Aladura Churches in Nigeria since Independence in: Christianity in Independent
Africa, edit., by, Fashole, E. L. et al, London, Rex Collings Ltd., 1978, p. 96ff.

122

Sierra Leone and beyond to New York City and London. 429
The Aladura churches are prophetic oriented in their religious activities. However, it has
been discovered by scholars that they combined prayers, African healing styles,
Prophetic practices, somewhat Pentecoastal features, divinatory features with depth in
Old Testament Jewish practices.430 The Cherubim and Seraphim was founded by
Moses Orimolade Tunolase and Christiana Abiodun Akinsowon in 1925-1926. The two
founders of the church later in 1928 parted. Although the church took off in Yorubaland it
has spread in Nigeria and other African countries. 431 The Cherubim and Seraphim and
Apostolic churches entered Igboland around 1939-1964. others that followed were
Sabbath Mission, Odozi-Obodo, ... Celestial Churches etc. 432
The wind of founding a prophetic healing movement spreads into the eastern Nigeria.
Historically speaking, the first Ibo founded Prayer-Healing Church was by Madam
Nwokolo of Ufuma who in the early 40's started healing through prayer, fasting and the
use of holy oil.433 Her prayer-healing foundation took unique process of beginning quite
different from those began before her own in the nation. The earlier ones as we have
discussed began by separation or secession from the mainline Churches brought by the
white-missionaries, and already existing African Independent Churches. According to
historical account, Madam Nwokolo started what she called a Prayer Band at Ufuma.
She maintains that the group is not a Church. She encourages and advises those that
gathered around to maintain membership with their churches. 434 In other words, she
discourages separation or secession. This could be regarded as a peaceful beginning of
her prayer-healing church. This prayer band has branches within and outside Igboland.
Whether her prayer band is a church or not is not yet clear. There are variations of ideas
in this case. For some scholars like Chigere who observes, that, what began in the for
of prayer band with no claim to church status and rights and many similar groups
scattered all over Igboland and beyond later on metamorphosed into healing churches
etc. Later, the tone changed and in fact, separation and independence is the most
outstanding character of the independent churches in Igboland. 435
The general characteristics and features with regard to the beginning of any of the
Independent Churches is separation in search of autonomy in all its entirety. This may
occur at the early or later stage in the course of development, growth and expansion of
the religious movements. Other outstanding features are, they lay claim of the
429

Cf, www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/12038/Aladura. Visited on 21.04.2015.

430

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 174.

431

Cf, www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/12038/Aladura. Ibid.

432

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 174.

433

Ilogu, E., op. cit., p. 61. cf. also, Ikeobi, C. Godwin, op. cit.,, p. 261.

434

Ikeobi, C. Godwin, op. cit., p. 266.

435

Chigere, Nkem M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 262.

123

possession of Holy Spirit, ability to deliver people disturbed of evil spirits (exorcism), gift
of vision, ability to interpret dreams, speaking in tongues as a result of one being
possessed by the Holy Spirit, claim of wider knowledge of the Bible and its
interpretations. This idea of that we are better than the others mentality extends even to
foods and drinks habit. They abhor alcohol and any drink capable of intoxicating. These
bring differences between them and the mainline Christian Churches in Nigeria
especially the Catholic Church. However, all have one basic foundation, God, Jesus
Christ, Holy Spirit. They preach the Gospel Message of God with the aim of achieving
the one common goal, the salvation of Nigerians and better Nigeria society and
cultures, though, through different means and methods. More so, we cannot deny the
tendency of rivalry, competition, castigations, comparison, and struggle to win one over
to my side attitudes among the different Christian denominations in the nation. Most
scholars have argued that this tendency was a hangover from the missionaries that
brought the Christian faith in the nation. According to Udoye, . bore the divisive and
cicatrices of the missionary fractionalization, frictionalizations and rivalry from the
missionary fatherland.436
The situation above is a fact one cannot deny. But can we continue to blame the past
mistakes of the missionaries. What is happening at present the white missionaries have
gone. Yet we cannot come together as Christians of one nation to reason together on
how to find solutions to our problems. The indeginous pattern of worship like dancing,
singing, clapping of hand, use of local instruments, vision, claim of the Holy Spirit,
prophecy and above all claim to provide needed answers and solutions to the problems
of the people in these churches pose serious challenges to the orthodox churches
brougth by the missionaries. People see these churches as the happening ones;
churches capable to provide immediate answers to their many existential problems.
That is, where God effectively works and answers very fast and quick to the plights of
the people. The pentecostal and charismatic style of worship bears enormous effects on
the mainline churches who loose their members to these churches on one hand. On the
other hand, some of the patterns obtainable in these churches are gradually finding their
way in the mainline churches in Nigeria.
2.6 The Situation of Catholic Church in Nigeria Today
There is no doubt that Catholic church in Nigeria is growing. Her present situation is
quite different from the early stage of encounter with the people. What used to be
mission outstations have developed into parishes and prefectures into dioceses and
archdioceses. Hence, we can say that Catholicism has come to stay in the nation
Nigeria. Presently the Catholic dioceses in Nigeria are fifty-four (54), two Apostolic
Vicariates (2) and nine Ecclesiastical Province (9). 437 In the aspects of education and
healthcare services Catholic church in Nigeria is a strong force to reckon with both
during the era of the colonial master and shortly after her Independence. Internally,
there was a positive revolutionary attitude towards Catholic priesthood and that of
religious life, etc.
436
437

Udoye E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 212.


Cf www.catholic-hierarchy.org/country/dng2.html. Visited on 29.4.2015.

124

2.6.1 Vocation increase in Nigerian Church


In Nigeria, there is no doubt that Catholic Church is growing in population and
expansion that leads to the creation of new parishes and dioceses. There is enormous
increase in vocation to Religious life for men and women and Priesthood. The
vocational increase to priesthood in turn leads to the establishment of seminary schools
in the nation. In each of the Ecclesiastical Province in Nigeria exist almost a major
seminary school excluding those own by some Religious Congregations. Virtually in all
the dioceses also are either one or more junior seminary schools. And every year there
are new intake of seminarians in both junioriates, minor and major seminaries in
hundreds to begin the long years of priestly formation. Some of those who began the
journey continued, graduate and become ordained in fives, tens, fifteens and twenties
each year.
Presently, the number of Major Seminary schools in Nigeria stands at about fourteen
and above. In the east are Spiritan International school of theology Attakwu, Bigard
Memorial seminary and Spiritan school of philosophy Isienu Nsukka all in Enugu. In
Owerri we have Claretian Institute of Philosophy Nekede and Seat of Wisdom. While in
Awka one finds Pope John Paul 11 seminary. In Onitsha is Blessed Iwene Tansi Major
seminary.In the west are: Ss. (Saints) Peter and Paul Major Seminary Bodija and
Dominican Institute of philosophy and theology all in Ibadan. Also in the north are the
likes of St.Thomas Aquinas Seminary Makurdi, St. Augustine's Seminary Jos and
National Missionary Seminary Abuja. In the south we have St. Joseph's Major Seminary
Ikot-Ekpene and All Saints Major Seminary Uhiele Ekpoma Edo state. Vocation boom
was not only evident with priesthood. It is also witnessed among the female and male
call to consecrated life including monasteries. This gave birth to the establishments of
indigenous religious congregations/monasteries scattered here and there in the nation.
As the western world witness backdrop in vocation to priesthood and religious life,
Nigerians join foreign congregations, incardinate into one diocese(s) either as
seminarians or as priests. Some of the foreign religious congregations visit Nigeria to
recruit members for their religious orders. While some have formation houses and
communities in the nation.
What could have been the motivating factor(s) that necessitated this great increase in
vocation to priesthood, religious and monastic life exhibited by Nigerians. There are
variations in answers to this question. One of such answers holds that Nigerians
embrace vocation to priesthood and consecrated life due to hardship and poverty in the
land. There may be element of fact in the above position. But the question still remains,
to what extent. However, some Nigerian scholars contend with such conclusion. For
them, the reasons for vocation boom in the nation are: respect accorded priests,
religious men and women, loyal to the hierarchy, good foundation laid by the early
missionary priests with regard to Christian family life, the strong religious nature of the
people438 etc. Udoye responding to the issue says that, some candidates for priesthood
are from well-to-do families. Some have finished their university studies and earning
438

Okorie, B. C. Joseph, If the Nigerian Church is to Survive..., Imo State Nigeria, Chimavin PRODS. NIG LITD,
2006, pp. 14-15.

125

reasonable salaries before opting for the priestly vocation. 439 From a different
perspective, Eke Casmir suggests that vocation increase in the nation is not because of
the good ways of life and efforts of those involved. For him, vocation boom in the nation
is an act of God.440 Consequently, vocation boom in Nigeria is a divine gift from God to
the people who willingly accepted and embraced it.
2.6.2 Other signs of Development Growth and Expansion in the Church in Nigeria
Statistically, Catholic church in Nigerian is doing well when viewed from parishes,
dinaries and to dioceses levels. For the bishops, inasmuch as their priests, religious
men and women and lay faithful do not bring troubles to them, no doctrinal issues and
there are good and effective financial sources of funding the dioceses show that the
church is doing well. The priests based their own arguments on the populations of
Catholics that attend daily and Sunday's Eucharistic celebration, the amount of money
realized on Sunday collection and during the annual harvest thanksgiving and bazaar,
and response shown for extra ordinary financial appeal for one project or the other in
the church. They compar the growth of the church on the increase in number of the
newly baptised, those wedded and those converted to the faith within the year. The
large number of those ordained as priests and those professed in the different religious
congregations according to the formators are signs that the church is doing well. 441 All
these are good external and structural signs that suggest growth, development and
progress in the Nigerian Church.
Internally, the laity participate at various levels in the zones, parishes, dinaries and
dioceses. There are different lay faithful organizations through which they live out their
Christian life in the church. These include: the Bible societies, Marian societies,
Organizations and lots of others. All these are outlets through which the laity are
empowered and encouraged to actively participate in the life and mission of the church
in Nigeria. Each of the above lay groups is actively engaged in the church. For instance,
the Marian groups are involved with devotions and prayers to Mary. They engage in
religious and pastoral activities like: home visitations of the sick and aged. Where and
when necessary, they inform the priests some of the urgent cases in which the involved
persons need sacrament of the sick and communion. During such visit, the members
engage in different corporal works of mercy like washing of clothes, fetching of water
and firewood, sweeping and weeding of compound and attend to their farm works. They
also visit the weak members of the church. Through their apostolate, this group bring to
fore, the motherly care of the church to limelight. Hence, the church as mother cares for
and is in solidarity with her children especially the suffering ones through these groups.
The members of the Pentecostal Christian denominations in Nigeria are always fond of
accusing Catholics that they do not read the Bible. They based their arguments on the
fact that Catholics are often seen going to the church without Bible in hand. They do not
quote Bible like their other Christians counterparts. Rather, most of the men go to
439

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 217.

440

Eke, I. Casmir, op. cit., p. 548. cf. also, Udoye, E. Anaegboka, loc. cit. 217.

441

Okorie, B. C. Joseph, op. cit., p. 15-17.

126

church with newspapers for kneeling down and the women the hand bags. At a certain
time then, come the awareness of bible reading by the faithful outside the liturgical
celebration in the church. This brought about the dawn of Bible Societies in the church.
People gather around in small and big groups to read the Bible. Among the groups that
make up the Bible Society in the church include, The Catholic Bible Instructors Union
(C.B.I.U), The Charismatic Renewal and The Catholic Bible Society (C.B.S) and so on.
These groups are very effective in the church. They engage in primary evangelization
programm. They organize prayer meetings, crusades and revivals to reach out to the
people. They lay emphasises on Bible reading. 442 The Charismatic Renewal is further
organized in groups for specific activities like: teaching, healing, visitation, counselling,
deliverance and singing ministries. Just like the Independent and Aladura churches
already discussed, some members of the Charismatic Renewal often do claim been
possessed by the Holy Spirit, have gift of vision, interpretation of dreams and speaking
in tongs.
In the Church one also discovers that there are numerous lay associations and
organizations. These include, the Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O) or Christian
Mothers Association (C.M.A), Catholic Girls Organization (C.G.O), Catholic Boys
Organization (C.B.O), as a single body (made of boys and girls) the youth organization
is known as Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O). we have the Catholic Men
Organization (C.M.O) or Christian Fathers Organization (C.F.O). From the youths the
church gets the future members of Catholic men and women organizations, priests,
religious male and females. They are the life wire of the church. The members of these
organizations participate in both spiritual and material activities and events in the
church. They engage in charitable works toward the poor and suffering ones. With all
these, we see the eagerness of the people to participate in the activities of church
through the different organizations, associations and groups discussed. In one way or
the other, the people of Nigeria extend and showcase the spirit of generosity towards
the church. Their engagements are expressions of the pastoral maternal qualities of the
church. Their actions are response to concrete life situations of the people. The lay
faithful involvment corresponds to the position of Augustine that every christian is a
mother within the motherhood of the church. It accentuates also the understanding of
the church as mother according to Tertullian in his Ad Martyrs and Cyprian's early notion
of the church's motherhood.
2.6.2.1 The Surge of Prayer Ministries and Healing Centres in the Church in
Nigeria
However, something that never happened in the history and life of the church in Nigeria
began to take place. This signifies another aspect of growth and progress in the church.
That is, the birth of Prayer Centres and Healing Ministries. The famous among them
are, The Catholic Prayer Ministry of the Holy Spirit known also as The Pilgrimage
Centre of Eucharistic Adoration and Special Marian Devotion Elele River State. By its
name, the centre is founded on Jesus Christ, Mary and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we
infer that the centre exists and carry-out her spiritual events and material activities
442

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 223.

127

revolves in and through the three: Jesus, Mary and Holy Spirit. With special place for
the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharist) and Mary, we see an occurrence of the medieval
spirituality. This Centre was started by Rev. Fr. Dr. Prof. Emmanuel Matthew Paul Edeh
C.S.Sp in the year 1986. It began at the time the wind of pentecostalism was blowing
strongly across the nation. Families and business organizations were in total collapse
as result of hardship and fear of diabolic attacks from bad spirits and wicked people.
There was untold hardish of poverty and sickness sequel to the aftermath of the
Nigerian-Biafara civil war. Also, Catholic church in the nation was about loosing her
members to pentecostal churches especially in the eastern region and the nation at
large.
With the birth of Catholic Prayer Ministry Elele, adoration to Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament becomes a strong devotion in the Nigerian church. Parishes began to build
adoration chapels to enable the faithful render devotion to God through Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament. The centre became a place of hope and refuge for the afflicted,
less privileged, poor and suffering people of different Christian denominations and
adherents of other religions in the nation. The centre is the village of hope in this
modern era. It is also a centre where people obtain justice for their cases. The centre is
a place where people receive God's blessings, that manifests itself in different forms like
liberation and breakthrough from different kinds of problems in life. Be it as it may be,
the centre is national. Nigerians from north, east, west and south attend in thousands
and participate actively in the pilgrimage activities every first week of the months. Its
members extend beyond the frontier of the nation. They are found in Africa, America,
Asia and Europe. Outside this period in the month, the centre is always open for people
as both spiritual and counselling programmes go on in the centre. The method here is
more of Orthodox Catholic ways of doing things.
Another Prayer Ministry is the Adoration Centre in Enugu State founded by a diocesan
priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka. This prayer centre operates every Wednesday in the week.
People of all works are always in attendance. His approach and method is more of
Charismatic in nature. In the same diocese is the Upper-Room Ministry founded by late
Fr. Njoku. This ministry engages in family deliverance known as healing the family root
from ancestral causes that sets the family back in progress. They participate actively in
Bible instruction. Again, in Nsukka is another one founded by a priest. His centre is
known as Oku N'Erere (the consuming fire) praying ministry. In Onitsha we have the
Rev. Fr. Gbuzue and Ebube Mmunso healing ministry. Some of the founders of these
ministry operate with group known as prayer warrior groups. Some engage in
community and family prayer for breakthrough. In this process they follow normal
procedure of invitation by the community through the priest in the village or community.
One important fact about the old ones among them is that, these centres have become
the modern village of hopes for the sick, poor and rejected in the society, and those
persecuted because of their faith in family. The centres like Catholic Prayer Ministry
Elele and Adoration Ministry Enugu not only provide spiritual services to the people. As
it is, the two are effectively involved also in creating job opportunities for the youths both
the educated and uneducated ones. All these suggest a holistic maternal role of spiritual
and material cares by the church through these centers. The church in Nigeria thus,
128

reaches out to the people in their spiritual and concrete situations of life as mother in
these centers.
2.6.2.2 The Prayer Ministry Directed by the Lay Faithful
From every indications, there are lay faithful members of the church, who opened and
run Prayer Ministries and Healing centres in Nigeria. Udoye categorized the lay faithful
Prayer Ministry and Healing Centres into three groups. Those who operate within the
Church compound, those who run their in hired warehouses outside the church and the
mobile ones. The first groups are always at the watch of priest or priests assigned to
them by the bishop. In most cases, a priest or more are attached to them as chaplains.
These watch and guide the people according to the tradition and doctrine of the catholic
church and render equally priestly duties to the group. The second group are outside
the reach, watch and direction of priest. The third group are also not under the direction
of priests or the bishop. The members of this group move from one place to another. 443
They arrange prayer trips for people to places like monasteries or to any lonely place
they often called desert. In imitation of the Independent and Aladura Churches, the
above mentioned lay faithful Prayer Ministry and Healing Centres organize family or
home prayers for their clients.
They engage in strenuous prayer and fasting activities. In some cases the fasting period
last weeks, a month or months. For their prayers to become more effective and
powerful, they progress to the level of dry fasting. That is, a type of fasting without food
and drink of any type. It is a total abstinence from food and water before the encounter
with the devil in deliverance process of any family or individual person(s) possessed by
the evil spirits. They continue the destruction of private, family, and community shrines,
killing of sacred animals, cutting down of sacred trees and burning of other traditional
objects of worship started by the white missionaries. Notwithstanding, the wind of
opening prayer ministry and healing centres is not only evident in the Nigerian Catholic
Church. The Protestant and Independent churches in the nation are involved. There are
many of such centres and ministries among the other Christian denominations operating
in and outside Nigeria. It is a Christian national phenomenal. The number of Prayer
Ministry and Healing Centres among the Protestant, Independent churches and as well
as Catholic Church in the nation is at increase rate. Obviously, in every development,
expansion and growth process there are always prose and cons that go with such. This
is evident in the case of the church in Nigeria. As the cultures, Traditional Religion,
society of the people and the new religion (Christianity) encounter each other there are
undeniable consequences. Some of these we have discussed. Consequently, as the
mother Church in Nigeria develops, grows and expands, there abound evidence of new
challenges and difficulties. In view of this, the follow up section concerns itself with
some of these new challenges and difficulties.
2.7 The Challenges Facing the Church in Nigeria
The discussion so far in this section of the work reveals some challenges and difficulties
the church in Nigeria is facing in this present era. The gain of Independence by the
443

Cf, Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 224.

129

nation led to the departure of most of the early Christian missionaries from Nigeria. This
creats vaccancies that must be occupied by others so that the mission of the church in
Nigeria will be continued. This saw the natives taken up the leadership mantle of the
church. The indigens became ordined as priests and professed in various religious
congregation in Catholic church. The same took place among the other Christian
denominations whose members became pastors, reverend and ministers of God. It
becomes evident that the onus now fall on the shoulders of the indigenous priests,
religious men and women and the pastors of the other christian denominations to pilot
the affairs of the Christian Churches. We are to bear it in mind that in some places the
method used in the planting of Christianity in Nigeria pose some problems. For
instance, in the course of evangelizing the indigens lots of destructions and damages on
the cultural and religious system of the people were made. While on the other hand, the
quick reception and acceptance of the Christian faith without proper study to actually
know what this new religion is all about by the people has its own problem. As result of
these, the present Christian man and woman in Nigeria is left in-between Christianity
and the Traditional Religions practicese. He or she exists within serious confused
religious, cultural and social situations.The modern Nigerian person suffers huge
identity problem and crisis in difficult existencial situations- is he or she a faithful
Christian or an obedient traditionalist or a respecter of cultural and social norms, or
better an agent of all.
From the outset of missionary escapeds in the Western Coast of Africa and Nigeria in
particular attention was not payed to Indigenize Christianity by the missionaries. It is
more of transpose and imposition of their world-view, mentality, religious belief system
on the people without considering the caltural heritage of their host culturesn. This is
one of the initial mistakes made by the white missionaries who first evangelized and
sowed the seed of the Christian Faith in the nation Nigeria. Thus, Christianity presented
to Nigerian to a great extent was that of repudiation, aggression and repugnance
against their traditional, cultural and social values. They were made to hate what is
theirs in other to take up that which the foregin missionaries brought. Christianity as far
we know never work against the cultures of the people she encounters. She exists
within cultures to modify, teach with reason for change where and when necessary and
not condemnation. This is very important as condemnation without reasons expose
owners of such cultural and religious practices in a more serious problems and danger.
The climax of what happened in Nigeria was that the people are left in between the two:
the cultures and the new Christian faith as pointed out ealier. This makes them more of
half backed Christians in moment of delima. Outwardly majority of them wear Christian
dresses. But in the real sense of life, they are strongly attached to their cultures. This is
one of the serious problems facing Christianity in Nigeria.
In matters of existencial difficulties, the same Christian man and woman seeks solutions
through traditional religious practices. The person feels that the church cannot sactfies
him or her. Hence, many live double stand life. They want to be Christians and at the
same time not lose their socio-cultural identity. The harmony or co-existence of the two
was not seen as a necessary thing to have been done by the missionaries and the other
agents of civilization in Nigeria. Rather, most of the socio-cultural and socio-religious
130

activities of the people were condemmed without justified reasons. The after effect is
that most of the people just hang on with Christian faith. When it comes to real issues of
life, they seek solutions in traditional ways. Consequently, when people feel that
Christianity has no answer or solution to their existential problems, they turn to tradition
way.
2.7.1 The Upsurge in Founding Churches, Ministries and Healing Centres in the
Church in Nigeria
The birth of Independent and movement churches in the nation began during the era of
the missionaries as already shown. As it is, this religious phenomena has come to stay
in Nigeria as many new Independent churches, ministries and healing centres are been
daily and monthly founded in the cities and remotest villages. Hence, the dawn of
churches, prayer ministries and healing centres proliferation in the nation. Why all these
rush to found a church by Nigerians? Does it mean that the available mainline Churches
cannot sactisfy the religious and spiritual desire of the Nigerian people? Or better
asked, what is the motivating factor that propell people into founding churches? These
many different Christian denominations add to already existing religious complex and
pluralistic problems. The most difficult issues are that these indigenous Churches differ
in practice, doctrines, governance, and liturgy from one another and from the mainline
churches. As people were exposed to hard economic, sickness and other social
conditions they seek solutions for their material and spiritual problems. This search for
solutions become an added advantage and zeal to open churches. But the current
eagerness to open church or churches is as a result of the present exigent quest for
new meaning, intepretation and correlation of Christianity to the sociological and
phenomenological needs of man. 444 There is no doubt that the teachings in these
churches revolve around God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.
Notwithstanding, we cannot dismiss the fact that some of the founders and ministers
preach, teach new and different doctrines. The training system is different from those of
the mainline churches especially Catholic church. Also, the method of call and formation
of the pastors of these new generation churches is quite different. On this Udoye
observes that, some founders claim their inspiration and call from God through dreams,
vision, and revelation or by special anointing. The claim of special revelation and
apparitions as authentication of God's choice and call gear towards confusion as there
is no empirical means as such to legitimatize or authenticate such claims. 445 They do
not need human formator and formation in most cases. They differ also in mode of
worship and liturgical attire446 from the mainline christian churches.
Not only that they separate from the mainline churches, within themselves, secession
444

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 238.

445

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 239.

446

They are always loud in praying, with hanged loudspeakers in every corner of the church. There is enough time
for praise singing accompanied with rythmus dance steps. This is often rferred by the members as one being moved
in spirit.
131

continues as divine call keeps coming. Thus, the claimed divine call is one of the good
reasons for the choosen ones to begin new churches. In view of this Bolaji Idowu says:
the churches which came out of these movements have proliferated
in consequence of various factors ranging from the motive of evangelism
to that of unwillingness to accept discipline and a desire to build up a
kingdom of one's own..., they have spread all over the country either by
ramification and splintering, ... they continue today to take a heavey toll
of the membership of the orthodox Churches.447
It always begin with evangelism. They people involved gather around themselves few
numbers of members and start to find fault virtually in everything in the older church.
Before one could know it, they have gone out to begin their own church in the same
street or other place. The irony of what goes on here is that, they convert only those
who are already Christians and claim to offer solution to every problems in ones life
through healing, miracle working and deliverance. These are means to attract people to
their churches.
Systematically, the game is gradually changing to that of who gets what. Rather, which
church is better than the other. Which one has more population than the other. In other
to maintain the tempo has given rise to unhealthy competition and rivalry. It may not be
an overstatement to argue that, there is the tendency that unchristian practices are
likely to find their ways in these churches. Lamenting on what happens in eastern
Nigeria, Udoye said, The church in Igbo land is no longer in fight of religious or
territorial hegemony but rather is in an intensive defensive and offensive battle for
snatching or reconverting people from the Church in which they were baptized and
multiplying the number of particular Churches within the same street corner or zone. 448
Does one who is already a Christian need conversion? If we believe that Jesus Christ is
the same yesterday, today and forever why this Christianity madness called conversion
in present Nigeria. Do Nigerians actually need these multiplicities of churches here and
there. Thus, this excessive founding and building of churches everywhere in the nation
scandalizies. It is not a good sign that Christian's faith in God and trust of one another is
strong. The Christian religion and faith suffers in these situations, as the gospel of Jesus
Christ is distorted.
The modern ministers and pastors preach what the people what to hear and not realy
what the word of God says in most situations. What we experience these days
synchronizies to the definition of an African person as a notorious religious being. He or
she takes religion in all his or her existential experience. Christianity has been
commercilized. It has become one of the quickest means to make money. In these
churches, there is over stress on paying of tithe by the members from what they earn or
have in support of the church. There is also series of offertory in a single sunday
service. The pastors have deviced resent method of exploiting the people known as
447

Bolaji, E. Idowu, Towards an Indegienous Church, London, Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 42.

448

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 240.

132

sowing of seed in these churches. The philosophy of the sowing of seed holds that the
higher amount the money one used in sowing this seed determines how big and
magnificient God blesses the person. They even encourage people to give out
something that will be painful to them in the name of sowing of seed in the house of
God. For instance, if one has a car, television, refregerator, generator etc he or she is
asked to sow such as seed. What a deception in the house of God. The socio-cultural
value of generosity practice by the people of Nigeria has become a weapon used
against them in the name of God.
The centre is seriously contextable; as areas previously dominated by a particular
church are no longer so. This extends also to families wherethe era of what we believe
system gradually gives way to what I believe set of mind. As a result of this new
mentality, the traditional or family faith is being abandoned to more vibrant and
emotional worship.449 Thus, the awareness of privatizing faith or religion increases
today in the nation. With this, Christianity or Religion is becoming a matter of individual
choice of affiliation and preference of where to belong by many modern Nigerians.
Hence, the era of religious or faith revolution is gradually developing. Those who no
longer agree with the family religion or faith are seen as rebells and black sheep in the
house. This new wind of religious self-awareness affect relationship in the families and
communities in Nigeria. Nigerian families, villages and communities are characterized in
such away that the different religions and christian denominations are represented. In
some northern Nigerian families the parents may be practicing Islamic religion, while
some of their children are Catholics and others belong to one pentecoastal churches or
the other. In the east, west and sout the mother and father attend one of the mainline
churches, while some of their children are members of the pentecoastal churches. In
the families also, are some who do not belong to any religious group either. Again, some
parents may be traditionalists and their children belong to different Christian
denominations. In the above situations exist disagreement, tension and cold war
because of differences in belief. Some even go to the extent of not helping family
members who do not share the same faith affilliation wit him or her. Often such people
also disassociate themselves from family, kindred men and women meeting, burial and
in some community activities.
2.7.1.1 Manipulation in the Name of God
This challenge is a follow up from what we have already said. The name of God and the
church have been used in various ways. In some situations the two (God and Church)
have been positively as well as negatively used by men and women. Manipulation deals
with the act of controlling action(s) of people either as individual or as a group. The
involved person or persons are often not aware that they are been controlled.
Manipulation signifies and connotes negativity. When apply in the christian or religious
context, it suggests undue control or influence of one over the other through dishonest
ways. It entails also, forcing one to do what he or she in the normal sense will never like
to do. This attitude of life have found its way in the church. The situations of life in
Nigeria do not even help matters. Rather, it contributes much to this practice. Naturally,
449

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 241.

133

human persons have this survival instinct in them. People want to be free from anything
that disturbs and causes stress for them in life. In search for this solution Nigerians use
every necessary means avaliable. Since, religion plays vital role in their world-view, they
seek spiritual solution for their problems also in the church. This is because, for them,
both the material and spiritual are connected. They believe that every human problem
has both material and spiritual affects. Therefore, any treatment to be given has to be
holistic oriented. However, we are to understand that whenever somebody is under
stress of one problem or the other any means suggested to him or her is acceptable
without proper examination of what one does or is doing.
Manipulation has to do with fear, lack of self trust and low self esteem. What one sees in
himself or herself is all negative, self pity and so on. Unfortunatelly, the act of
manipulation has become the order of things in most of the independent new
generation, prophetic and prayer churches, evangelical and charismatic movements in
Nigeria. They get their clients so easily because, manipulation is deeply emotional and
psychological seated in the human persons. It takes place in the form of expressive
worship, prophecises, interpretation of toungues, mirraculous healing and rebuking of
demons. In such religious atmosphere, the perception implies that God is in this place.
450
In other to keep members, new expression of God is in this church a suggestion that
he is not in the other is developed. It is just a way of maneuvering the members. He
goes further to enumarate what he called manipulative weapons as follows: the Bible,
over blow of mirracles, induced fear and man of God or anointed man of God mind-set
that promotes apotheosis used to command allegiance and compliance to the church
leaders.451 Manipulating people in the name of God and with the church is paramount
to religious decit. It encourages strong believe in the presence of devil and breeds
hatred against family members seen as agents of devil, witches and wizards.
2.7.1.2 The Mentality of Devil Menia
Nigerians are very much aware of the presence of spiritual forces in the physical world.
The spiritual forces are further categorized into two group: the good and evil ones. The
people believe in the existence and activities of both. As praises and thanks go to the
Supreme Being and the good spirits, so do blame and courses go to the evil spirits for
misfortunes in peoples' life. Thus, the influence of the evil spirits are well known to
Nigerians. Despite the presence of the mainline Christian churches and the
multiplications of the new generation indepentent churches, the people believe strongly
on the existence and naferious activities of the evil spirits. The prescence of devil has
not been conqured with the numerous churches in the nation. Rather, it seems that evil
spirits and negative forces are gaining more recogniztion. What an irony. As a result of
this, people sought for solution on how to deal with some of these obstinate existential
problems.
In the world-view of the people, every human misfortune has demonically background.
Even mistakes one makes in life are seen as been caused by the evil spirits or been
450

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 243.

451

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, loc. cit., p. 243.

134

manipulated by the human agents of the evil forces. Interestingly enough ill-health,
misfortunes in marriages like in ability to have children as result of the followings:
infertility, impotent and miscarriages, unable to marry, lack of financial breakthrough in
life, success in education, promotion in places of work and death are seen as works of
the evil spirits. This mentality leads to suspicions of various kind and degree in families.
The victims live most of their life under the bondage of fear of the devil itself and their
human agents. As a matter of fact, The new generational Churches and Charismatic
groups in the mainline Churches capitalize and exploit this traditional sociopsychological mindset to preach the world full of demons and his agents who are bent
for belligerent activities against the well-being of the people. 452 This demands urgent
need of deliverance and exorcism, as the only alternative to free people from the
menace of demons and their agents. We are not in any way denying the activities of the
evil spirits and their human agents in Nigerian cultures and society and the world at
large. In attempt to liberate those under the bondage of demons lead to many problems
and challenges. Among such problems is the use of unchristian methods in realizing the
expected healing that leads to the freedom and liberation of those held captive by the
demonic spirits. The unchristian methods used include: cartomancy (card lying with
esoteric meaning), psychometry (mediumistic fortune telling), and palmistry (interpreting
the lines in a person's palm). Others are pendulum (indicates the location of the hidden
objects), spiritualistic visions and necromancy (invocation of the dead) etc. 453
2.7.1.3 Sacramentalism
The use of sacramentals in the church is not something new. They are instituted by the
church. According to Canon Law no. 1144 sacramentals are things or actions which the
Church is accustomed to use... Among the sacramentals are liturgical prayers and
rites...454 Two things are involved whenever we speak of sacramentals in the church.
Sacramentals appear in the form of material things and sacred actions. The
sacramental actions include the various liturgical activities the church carries out to
sanctify the moments and hours of the days. In this work however, we are concern with
sacramental objects and materials the church is well known with. The instances of these
sacramental objects are, holy water, medals, crucifix, holy pictures and statues, rosary,
scapular, holy oil and others.
The early Catholic missionaries in Nigeria gave out madals, rosaries, scapulars and
crucifix as gifts to attract the natives. Even at present, Catholic Christians use
sacramentals as an outward expression of their faith. The sacramentals serve as
symbol of identity that one wearing it is a Catholic. In the earlier years of the church in
Nigeria, the only place one can buy these sacramental objects and materials was in the
church. The church has the monopoly of selling the sacramental objects then. As at
1980s and early 90s other Christian denominations make caricature of Nigerian
452

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 249.

453

Unger, F. Merrill, Demons in the World Today: A Study of Occultism in the light of God's word, USA, Wheaton
IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971, pp. 55-72. cf. Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 250.

454

Karl, Rahner, Herbert Vorgrimler, op. cit., p. 417.

135

Catholics because of the sacramental usage. With change in time and maturity of
understanding by present Nigerians, sacramentals are no longer used only by
Catholics. Non-Catholics buy sacramental materials and ask Catholic priest for its
blessing for personal use. Again, sacramental materials have become one of the goods
one easily buys at the market. As it is at present sacramentals are manufactured in the
nation by some people, while some percentage of men and women trade on the
produce. The business take some of the dealers even outside the country to places like
Jerusalem and Israel. These days, sacramental objects are at the reach of everybody,
Christians and non-Christians. Surprisingly sacramental materials are found even at
some native doctors shrines. The major question still remains as for what purpose.
With the new explosive attitudes, the fear is that many things are in use as sacramental
objects one can find in the market and in churches sacramental shopes. With close
observation to the boom in the aspect of new sacramental materials in Nigeria one finds
the followings: good luck oil, back to sender oil, crude oil, akwu ojuwu oil, etc. There are
different sizes, scents and colours of candle in the market. In the family of candle we
have: St. Michael, prosperity, good luck, and back to sender candles. Under soap are:
St. Raphael's, Bathsaida, healing, goodluck, protection soaps etc. in the group of scents
that have become sacramentals are: St. Michael, winning love, good-luck, back to
sender etc. Other materials used as sacramentals include: Jerusalem sand, rock and
mustard seeds.455 Worthy of inclusion here are St. Michael and favour oils, black stone
and inceance. What we have before us suggests that many object material things are
sacramentalized. These are the new generation sacramental materials used both in the
new Generation Independent Churches (N.G.I.C) and the mainline Christian Churches
in Nigeria. The situation according to Udoye is a celebrated madeness.
There is abuse of usage of the sacramental materials by the people. It is an abuse for
one who is sick and makes no effort to go to hospital. The person's going to hospital is
to undergo some medical test to confirm his or her health condition and follow it up with
proper medications. This is a right and first step to take by anyone who finds himself or
herself in such condition. The opposite is always the case in some situations. Some of
the sick ones end up in the churches, chapels and healing centres seeking for
mirracles. This is not wrong since God is the only healer of all human ill-health. We think
that it is important to educate our people on the first thing to do when one finds himself
or herself in this situation that medical attention should come first then, prayers. Or
better, prayer together with medical treatment. It is certain, that some sick ones rely
heavily on the use of sacramentals rather than medicine. It could be possible that
people are into this because of financial poverty. However, overemphasis and too much
dependency on the use of ihe nso (sacramentals) only is a problem. The question
becomes, is it not God who created the doctors, nurses and gave human beings the
insight to produce medicines for their own good. Through these group of people and the
medical services they render for humanity, God extends his healing and mirraculous
hands on the sick ones.
Another sign of abuse and misuse is the idea of burying sacramental objects
455

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 251.

136

underground in one's compound. The practishioners believe that it enhances protection


of people from the attack of evil spirits, poison, witches and wizards. It is important to
point out that, people do not just initiate this action. They have been adviced to do so by
some of the so called men and women of God operating in the nation at present. In
most cases they usually come with their prayer team and bury these materials in the
compound of their clients. We have forgotten that God asked us to care for the earth.
This entails, caring for the environment in which we and other living things live and
thrive. How do we achieve this great mandate then. By burying objects that when decay
threaten our existence that will lead to environmental disaster. Again, people hang some
of the sacramental materials on property to prevent them from been stolen by thieves. It
is not a surprise that one sees little bottles of holy water tied on orange, mango, pear
trees; and in farm land.456
For some people, the sacramentals are christian's armulets wear around necks, hands,
bury in their compounds and hang on the wall in homes like cross, holy pictures of
Jesus, Mary and saints of one's choice. In some christian's compounds are big statu of
either Jesus or Mary. We can say that what they lost as they abandoned traditional
religion, they indirectly gained in the use of sacramental objects. The attachment to the
sacramentals by the people is an expression of their religious nature. The major
problem now is that some people see these sacramental objects as the end of what
they represent. The sacramentals are not the end in themselves. They are only means
to the end. In other words, sacramentals are means or channels through which God
mediates his blessings and sanctify the users. This leads the recipients to God through
Jesus Christ. So, when we speak of sacramentalism in this work therefore, we delineate
abuses and misuses of the sacramental objects.
2.7.1.4 The Practice of Family Deliverance
Family is a precious gift of God to humanity and one of the oldeset institutions in human
cultures and society. Despite changes in human history as result of development, family
institution has remain to the test of the time. At present it has be discovered that evil
spirits and forces have found their ways in the family. Not only that, what the dead
forefathers and relatives committed affect the living members of their families in one
way or the other. And Christian ministers see the urgent and necessary need to deliever
and heal the family, hence, the birth of family delieverance ministration. The Igbos referr
this as oru Ezi n' ulo or olu Ezinaulo. 457 The pentecostal, evangelical, charismatic
456

Udoy, E. Anaegboka, loc. cit.

457

Oru Ezi na Ulo is a new form of expressing the Christian way of family prayer. But in this situation, the people
are charged to pay huge amount of money. For the pastors and some priest who are involved in this type of ministry
with their groups move from family to family on invitation. They engage in a very long period of fasting and prayers
before the final stage of the spiritual exercise at the persons home. This event is referred as, healing the family root
of the evil committed by the grandparents. That is, breaking the living from the curse of the evil of their ancestors.
This according to them hinders the present generation of the family from progressing, and some sudden death of the
family members. In most cases this has caused more prolems than leading to the expect success, aversion of the
sudden death of the youths in the family. In most cases, the cord of hatred is sown between members of the same
family, kindred, community, and among friends. While in some cases, only few family or friends or community that
are involved in such spiritual exercise are been liberated from setbacks in life.

137

movements, and African Independet churches understand it as healing family tree or


healing the family root. The people of Nigeria belief strongly on the law of retribution,
curse and effect. In their world-view any offence committed by people never go
unpunished. Based on this background, and to carry-out the family delieverance,
referrences are always made as far as the period the dead ancestors and other
members of the family or community lived. This is very important because, the past has
effect on the present conditions in the family as both are connected. The people believe
tenaciously that their present sufferings are repercussions owing to what their ancestors
did. This is a very grievous problem. The family root delievrance thus deals with
ancestral sins people believe that have effect on their present generation. It puts
members of family apart and against each other. The affected individuals, families and
communities blame virtually the dead ancestors, survived traditional sacred bushes,
trees and shrines as causes of their hardship in life. The livings are not even free as
accusing fingers point at some surviving members of the family and community.
According to Udoye, The whole gamut of Olu Ezinaulo appeals to African traditional
mind that inclines to pathological fear of linking misfortune and unfathomable incidents
to genealogical and hereditary causalities or bondage. Healing the family root then may
be described as a sorth of dialysis, an attempt to reverse the negative trend in the family
line by . for liberating the living. 458 The main reason families request for family root
ministration is clear from what we have before us. People want to live good life free from
health and material backwardness. Simply put it is an attempt families make to escape
from the schakles of hardship of poverty, sudden death and other bad omens in life.
Hence, the effort to re-direct, re-position and change old order of things to something
new and better in the affected family. If we ask the question of why this practice. The
answer is not far fetched. We are to bear in mind that within the cultures of Nigerian
people, this practice is evident in their religious practices. Traditionally, when a family or
community is besieged with sudden death, outbreak of sickness, rampart mental
disorder, barreness, backward in development, poor yield of farm produce, women
dying at child's birth the people often consult the chief priest and native doctors. These
in turn consult the gods, deities and the family or community ancestors to acertain the
cause and further effects of the problems. After the diagnosis, they prescribe possible
solution to the problems. This goes always with sacrifice to appease either the gods, or
goddess, or ancestor or deity with the aim to reconcile the people once more with the
Superem Being and spiritual forces.
In trying to discover the actual cause of the problems in the family, people often read
beyond the present physical signs of the time. They investigate and interpret the
problems from socio-anthropological, socio-cultural and socio-historical perspectives
and even extends to the spiritual. It is a good idea that people seek christian way of
liberating their families and communities. But the major issue here is on the
methodology or approach employed in the practice. Some ministers of family root
healing ministration manipulate their clients in the name of liberating the affected family
or community. There is fear of syncretic practices in the process. The observations of
some scholars in this regard testify to the fear. In view of this, Udoye says:
458

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 247.

138

Certain clandestine and occult practices go on in the family ministration


... bags of salt, cartons of olive oil, jellycans of holy water and sometimes
crude oil are mystified in their usage in the course of ministration.
Exorbitant charges are made before a prayer is to be conducted ....
there is the digging up charms and sometimes revealing the suspected
person that buried the charms. The charm may be farce or factual ....
Indeed, cases abound where these charms were pre-arranged by the
deliverer in order to make himself or herself relevant and popular.459
There is relgious manipulation of the people in the name of God. As Christianity has
become one of the lucrative businesses in the nation, there is the tendency of syncretic
practices in some of these churches. That is, the combination of traditional method,
ocultic practices and christian doctrines to effect healing. In this situation also,
Sacramentals or sacramental objects have been misused just to prove the power of
God and that of the minister with aim to retain members and clients.
There are evidence of using forceful methods in the proces of the family root healing
ministration. They engage in house-to-house campaign in search for charms, traditional
sacred objects of worship, demolition, destruction and burning down of sacred shrines
of the community and family without proper consultations to gain the consent of the
people. They forget that not all are Christians in many Nigerian families and
communities. There are still adhereants of the Traditional Religion, whose right of
religion and freedom of worship should not be violated no matter what condition. This is
a sign of fanatical way and approach that should not be used in any of the activities of
the church. Another serious danger inherent in this mentality is that human beings find it
difficult to own up to the moral responsibility of their actions. There is always a situation
of shifting blames to the events of past and what others said about the person. The
effect of this attitude is enormous. It plays down on the ability of the victims to be and
apply objective, humanistic and socio-historical approaches in confrontating of their
existential predicaments. Rather, they often remain in their subjective limited horizon in
a bid to find how to go about understanding and solving their problems. Moreover, the
notion that every human problems has spiritual origin hinders acceptance of the positive
benefits from scientific and technological breakthrough especially in medicine. This will
help in no small measure in the treatment of some of the human sickness often
attributed to have been spiritually caused by the ancestors or by some living members
of the family through charms, poisning or witchcraft manipulations.
2.7.1.5 Marriage Problems
Already in this work we mentioned that marriage is very important for every Nigerian
man and women. This institution is affected by its encounter with western cultures and
religion Christianity. With much emphasis on monogamous marriage system that is
not new in these cultures many issues came up. Again, the issue of intermarriage
between members of the different Christian churches and other religions add to the
459

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, ibid, p. 248.

139

problem the church is facing in the nation. It is a well known fact that love is an essential
aspect of marriage in Catholic teaching and doctrine. With the introduction of
Christianity in Nigeria, many became Christians and took to this system of marriage.
Even those who were married with many wives dismissed some and settled with one
whom they got wedded in the church because; that is one of the requirements for one to
become a member. In most cases these women have grown old and have no chance of
marrying again. The old family is divided against itself and thus the beginning of hatred
between the children and their fathers, and the dismissed wives and their one time
husband. Where children are involved it has been observed that when they come of age
and build house, they request that their mother comes back home to them. One of the
major threats to monogamous marriage in Nigerian cultures and society is the issue of
childlessness. It exposes the Christian monogamous marriage and family institution into
crisis of divorce and marrying of another wives. This affects the basic Christian teaching
on marriage centered on unity and indissolubility. The most difficult issue is that the
Christian couples who seek divorce do not get it. As a result of this, some men and in
some cases with the support of their lawful wedded wives marry another wife. Hence,
the socio-cultural pains and shame of childlessness lead majority of the victimized
Christian families to marry more wives as the only remedy to the problem of
childlessness.
As we pointed out that love is the base for marriage. In Nigerian and African cultures the
main aim of marriage for every typical Nigerian man and woman is procreation of
children. They appriciate their marriage more when the fruit of the love is manifested in
the gift of children male and female alike. For the rich families to get another wife or
wives is not an issue as financially they are equal to the task. In view of this the
observation of Mbitit rightly corresponds to the situation. He says, often it is the rich
families that are made up of polygamous marriages. If the first wife has no children, or
only daughters, it follows almost without exception that her husband will add another
wife partly to remove the shame and anxity of apparent unproductivity. 460 How do the
poor families go about the same problem. These often receive help either from
relations, kindred or friends to marry another wife. An important question is called for in
the entire case of childlessness. This is because, only one side of the parties involved is
favoured. The other bears the psychological, emotional pain and shame from the sociocultural and socio-religious environment she lives in.
Universally the Church teaches and encourages mixed marriage. She holds the position
that the man is to allow his wife to continue in her faith and see that children born in the
union are baptized and raised in Catholic faith.461 Practically, this has not been easy for
Nigerians who live in a pluralistic religions and different Christian denominational
saturated environment. The socio-cultural mentality of the people do not help issue
either. The fact is that in these cultures a woman is married by man. This influences the
statue of the woman in every ramifications. She changes her family name and assumes
that of her husband's. Her religion automatically changes to that of her husband. Thus,
460
461

Mbiti, S. John, op. cit., p. 143.


See, Canon, no. 1125.

140

by marriage, women belong to their husbands. This makes it very difficult for proper
practice of mix marriage. Things have never worked out when it comes with marriage
between a Catholic girl and either an Anglican or Methodist or the Independent church
man.
Where the initial love is strong, the Anglican or Methodist man accepts the mixed
marriage. But what happends after is another thing altogether, as the promise is often
not kept. The man begins to manifests his in born socio-cultural ego as the head of the
family and the one who married the woman. So, experience has shown that
immediately after the marriage, most of them begin to sing in a different choir and this
has led to the breakdown of many marriages. 462 If the parents of the man are for
example reverends, pastors or canons in Anglican or Methodist, the marriage is
considered never dreamt of. The same attitude do occur among the Catholics. If the
mother of the child is the leader of Catholic Women Organization, or leader of any group
in the church. The parents of both sides hold to their faiths and positions in the church
not minding the love of the young people directly involved. The mix marriage issue has
done more harm than good. Majority of those who attempted it ends up with divorce as
result of not keeping to the promise of allowing the woman continue with her Catholic
faith and the training of their children in this faith. Another problem this poses is that in a
situation the young Catholic girl despite all odds got married with the non-catholic man,
her parents become suspended from the sacraments. However, one is to ask if the
choice of the involved adults man and woman is to be used against the other (the
parents) in the church. The question here is, if such action has any theological,
ecclesiological, moral and pastoral justification.
This is where the church in Nigeria is to carefully look into to avoid using the
sacraments as weapon to punish parents as result of their children's choice. Even when
some of them religiously distance themselves from the sacraments, it becomes the role
of the church through her priests to discover such people and educate them on the right
thing to do in such situation. It is obvious that effort parents and the concerned young
ladies put in to wedd in the Catholic church in the mix mariage is mainly for the parents.
After the wedding most of the women switch-over to the faith of their husbands without
any effort to maintain their Catholic faith. One of the reasons according to them is to
maintain peace in their new homes. This is informed by the socio-cultural notion that, a
married woman has no religion except that of her husband's. What we have seen are
some of the problems and challenges that Catholic church and Christinity in general is
facing in Nigeria. These are issues that need collaborative efforts of all the members of
the church in Nigeria beginning from the hierarchy, priest, religious men and women
down to the laity alike.
The dawn of Christianity in Nigeria and its spread across the nation was never a one
time action. Christianity was introduced in Nigeria and its environs in different time and
period. For the early missionaries it was not an easy mission. They encountered
challenges and difficulties like that of climatic, language, and their early methods of
462

Nwabugwu, Titus, Marriage and Family vis-a-vis Evangelisation in Onitsha Archdiocese Today in: Synod Acta,
Archdiocese of Onitsha, 2005, p. 123.

141

evangelization centred only on reaching out to the members of the royal households.
With the liberation of the black slaves, the mission of evangelizing Nigeria took a new
form and became effective. Hence, the involvement of the freed black Nigerian slaves
contributed immensely in planting Christianity in the nation. These with the western
Christian missionaries counterparts saw to the effective second missionary work in
Nigeria. The dawn of Christianity in Nigeria consequently led to socio-cultural and socioreligious contacts. At various levels of the contact, there is always act of resistence and
acceptance. Acceptance leads to new knowledge and better understanding of the
involved parties. The political independence of the African nations led to the departure
of the early Christian missionaries. With this, the leadership mantel rest on the
indegiens who are to see to the continuity of the works and efforts of the early
missionaries. Hence, the spread of the Christian faith never stopped with the departure
of the white christian missionaries. As the church increases and spreads, the population
of her members grow with adition of new converts. Many ecclesiastical proviences,
Archdioceses, dioceses, dinaries, parishes and basic christian communities known as
zones or units in Nigerian ecclesiastical concept are created.
As the mainline Christian churches were spreading in the nation the wind of secessions
took place. This saw to the establishments of the Independent churches. They want an
Indegienized or Africanized church of their own. A church or churches where the natives
can express their religious feeling through singing, clapping of hands, dancing and use
of their language in the worship of God. They want also religious freedom from the
overbearing and domination of the white-missionaries. It is no longer a surprising issue
that different christian churches established by the indegiens spring up in the cities and
villages of the nation. It has become a phenomena. House owners and rich people
create more avenue and places where these begin in small number of people gathered
for prayer and bible sharing as non-denominational group. But as the number increases
the group metamorphosed into full church. Just as the numbers of Christian churches
grow in the nation, ministries such as healing houses, prayer centres and family healing
ministry run either by priests, or pastors and lay faithful develop and increase.
What one expects in this situation is nothing but crowds tropping in these places. This is
because, Nigerians are pragmatic Christians. They want immediate and quick answers
to their material and spiritual problems. This survival instinct contribute in their jumping
from one church to another, from one healing centre to another in search of solution and
escape from the schackles of difficulties, pains and backwardness in life. As a result of
this psycho-religious mentality, some priests, pastors, men and women of God
capitalize on this, manipulate and exploit the poor masses all in the name of God. In
other to retain their members and clients, they preach the presence of evil virtually in
everywhere, see visions of death, backwardness that lead to accussation of members of
family and community. This leads to internal war and breakdown of family love and
unity. We can argue that, from the moment of its inception till this present period,
Christianity in general has made great positive impact on the people of Nigeria.
However, there are challenges and difficulties before the Church in present Nigerian
socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political and socio-religious contexts as we shall
discuss in this work. Now is the time for the church in Nigeria to make more effort so
142

that the Gospel message of God will give meaning to re-orientate Christians and nonChristians on how to live authentic life. Therefore, the church in Nigeria is to discover
new form of maternal pastoral approach to go about, to help and to address the
existential issues that affect the people and pose challenges to their Christian faith.

CHAPTER THREE: MOTHERHOOD IN NIGERIAN CULTURES AND


SOCIETY
3.0 Introduction

Mothers form part of the world, and contribute in the development of the human cultures
and society. Unfortunately, these cultures and society in turn form them, determine the
positions, as well as roles and functions assign to them. Within the human cultures and
societies abound various notions, ideas and beliefs about women who are mothers.
There are for instance in Nigeria specific socio-cultural stages that mark process of
passage from young girl to maiden, to wifehood and finally to motherhood. One fact
remains that, at the foundation of the transformation passages is womanhood.
Consequently, mothers are first and foremost human persons, women who move from
one stage of maturity to another to the realization of motherhood.
The stages thus, reflect the images through which women are perceived as mothers.
Every girl child in these cultures and society is understood in the light of her future roles
and responsibilities built on tripod aspects of being: woman, wife and mother. The issue
of not been married out by the girls to attain wifehood and motherhood is a serious
problem for the person directly involved, the members of the family and the community.
The same fate is applicable to every young boy who remains a chronic bachelor. He is
referred as Akaleghori which means an irresponsible or useless man in Igbo culture of
Nigeria.The Yoruba people hold similar notion about the unmarried men and women.
For them, it is against the mores for a grown up man or woman to be single. 463 So,
every little girl is a woman and a potential future wife and mother. Simply put, she is a
wife and mother in the making. As a result of this inherent cultural attachment, the Igbo
people of Nigeria refer to little girls as Nne which means mother.
The existence and continuity of human beings, cultures, society, human families depend
heavily on them. Therefore, they are mothers of human race, cultures and society, and
as such symbol of beauty in creation. Naturally, women through the vocation of
motherhood are elevated to occupy central position in the actualization of Gods desire
through the process of giving birth to their fellow human beings. It is by discharging this
role, that, the potential statue of women to mother becomes actuality. Apart from giving
birth to human persons, mothers participate in other roles and responsibilities for the
sake of the family and the society. At the centre of every home in Nigeria are the
mothers who tirelessly work to maintain, sustain, manage and balance the daily
activities of the family. Industriously, they contribute in providing food, building of family
463

Fadipe, 1970, p. 65.

143

house, buying of family car and seeing to the education of the children. 464 Through
these means, they contribute and augment the efforts of their husbands. In some of the
homes, they are the chief bread winners. They are esteemed by their virtue of industry
and resourcefulness in Nigerian cultures and society. They are respected and referred
to with different words in Nigerian cultures. We begin this section with the understanding
of the concept family in general and specfically with regard to Nigeria as one of the
avenues through which women realize their motherhood.
3.1 The General Understanding of the Concept and Structure of Family
Family is one of the oldest human institutions in the world. Presently, this institution
faces serious crisis that leads to confusion as modern men and women claim not to
understand and believe any longer on marriage and family institutions. The modern
human society try to develop new understanding of what family means and what makes
it up. In most traditional cultures before now, the family and marriage structure has been
that of a man who is the husband and a woman known as the wife, with their biological
child or children; and in some cases adopted child/children. With the development of
human society, cultures and given the challenges of our modern technologically
advancement, the traditional understanding of the concept and structure of family and
marriage do not seem to be generally accepted any longer in our contemporary society.
Recently, the world is facing the issue of same sex which some world poiticians have
legalized as marriage.465 This has become a strong topic of discussion that generates
serious debate around the glob.
It is also a thing of concern in the church. Because of this, the Pope, Bishops, Cardinals
and lay faithful from different parts of the world in October 2014 gathered at Rome for a
special Synod to delibrate on the current issue as it affects marriage and family. The
discussion of the Synod since October last year extends to 2015. As the discussion
goes on in various continent of the world under the direction of the bishop's confrences
with priests and the laity. The Synod convokes again for its final delibration on marriage
and family in Rome from 4th - 25th October 2015. The effort is to save the human family
and marriage institutions presently under serious crisis coming from the human beings
themselves.
Some of the world politicians make serious effort to sell the idea out to the poor masses,
464

It is obvious that in many families in Nigeria parents are not educated. Not that they do not want. But because of
what was invoke during their own period to marry and establish homes so far the man can feed his wife and
children. Education wise, most of them did not have the opportunity as their children. As result of this, they make it
possible that their children are not deprived of the opportunity of attending school at least to secondary level.
Presently, it is a positive competition in the families to have a university graduate. In this struggle to better the life of
their children, mothers engage strongly in the training of their children from nursery school to university education
in the Nigerian families through their petty trading, farm work and as carrier workers. In most difficult situations,
they sale their coastly clothes and jewelleries for the sake of the future of their children. This is a way of
demonstrating parental love towards their children.
465

Cf, www.pewforum.org/2015/06/26/gay-marriage-around-the-world-2013/. Visited on 05.10.2015.

144

nations and continent of the world under the cover of fighting for equal right and
respecting the consent of the involved persons. This definition of new right and consent
contradict human cultural and religious values of marriage and family institutions. Those
in entertainment like musicians, film producers, actors and the different outlets of mass
media add to its wider and fast spread. In some hetero families and marriages in the
west, the issue of childbearing does not come into discussion. In this situation children
are excluded as part of the family structure. Procreation towards that in most cases is
purposefully hindered with the use of contraceptives. It is now a matter of choice and
decision in some modern families in the western world between the husband and wife
whether to have a child or children in the union or not. The gift of child from God is
considered a burden for most of the modern man and woman. The modern way of
viewing family and marriage thus contradicts the initial intention of God, who made them
male and female (Gen.1:27). Not only that he made them male and female, he did not
keep them apart from each other; rather, he brought them together. The original
foundation on which the institutions of marriage and family was built on is a mutual and
sincere gift of self between man and woman in love. With this, both are invited by God
as his co-workers, as he blessed and empowered them thus to produce, multiply and
fill the earth (cf. Gen.1:28). In view of this, a man leaves his father and mother and
becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gen. 2: 24).
From both biblical citations, it is clear to draw three stages in God's intention for
marriage and family. Ab nitio, marriage and family is in God's salvific work of human
beings. He creates them of two opposite sex: male and female and built the institutions
of marriage and family on these two. He blesses them with the blessing of fruitfulness,
which is in anticipation of child or children. And he encourages them to live life of unity,
oneness and communion. Marriage and family institutions are rooted in God's plan of
salvation.466 Family is in the order of creation that exists in every human culture. 467
Through marriage and family, God continues to manifest his creative ability in the world.
Consequently, family and marriage are not accidental products. Both are not either
product created by human beings. Rather, human beings were naturally gifted with
these by God. Marriage and family were created for the good of the human beings.
They are part of the human nature. In the creation of the first human beings in the
persons of Adam and Eve, God established the institutions of marriage and family on
man and woman; and not vice versa as we are experiencing it in the world today. This
means that whatever modern men and women are doing as it concerns marriage and
family that do not correspond to God's notion and intention is anti-family and marriage
agenda.468 Through this invitation of God, the man realizes his fatherhood and the
woman achieve her motherhood.
466

Synod of Bishops, XIV Ordinary General Assembly, The Vocation and Mission of Family in the Church and
Contemporary World, Lineamenta, Vatican City, 2014, no. 14.

467

Walter, Kasper, Kardinal, Das Evangelium Von der Familie: Die Rede vor dem Konsistorium, Freiburg im
Breisgau, Herder, 2014, p. 17ff.

468

Cf, Arinze rebuts cardinals claim that Catholic Faith is unrealistic. Who do you think you are? Greater than
Christ in https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/arinze-rebuts-cardinals-claim-that-catholic-faith-is-unrealisticwho-do-you. Visited on 22.10.2015.

145

Based on recent invention, development and understanding, the meaning of family and
its structure has in no small measure undergoing transformation and changes. The
evolution goes on. The transitions were as result of changes in human history and
mentality. This goes back to the moment human society moved from agrarian to
industrial economy which contributed immensely to the transition of the family into a
diversified reality.469 Family has been characterized by persistent change as we have it
in the above citation. This persistent change began from the agricultural period to the
industrial epoch and up to the technological era of today. However, any activity and
decisions of men and women outside the primary order and objective of God hinders
and distorts the fundament of family and marriage institutions. The Church is identified
and defined as a family. In this family there are different members that makes it up: the
fathers, mothers and children, men and women, young and aged, sick and healthy
members. This depicts what is obtainable also in the human families. Thus, family from
this perspective could be best described as a school of differences built on and guided
with love.470 Family is the basic foundation on which every other human institutions are
built. It is the starting point in the life of every human person in the world. The family
prepares and lunches people as individual or group into the wider society. Hence,
marriage and family play important and central role with regard to the persons, the
cultures, religions and the societies. Because of its place, the Catholic Bishops of
Nigeria maintain that individual is born into and grows up in the family. He never grows
out of the family. Nature has intended the family to be the first school, the basic unit of
all groupings, big and small of societies, developed and developing. 471 That no one is
outside or without family is a basic fact. Each and every human person in the world
belongs to this or that family. Marriage and family are thus gifts given to human persons
by God. It has been seen also as a place where human beings begin to develop their
potentialities, become aware of their dignity and are prepared to face their unique and
individual destiny.472
Pope John Paul 11 (now Saint) expresses the centrality of family and maintains that, it
is the primary place of humanization for the person and the society, and the cradle of
life and love.473 Similarly, family has been equally understood as a nursing ground,
where people experience and gradually learn from childhood the basic tenets of life
such as: love, care, connectedness, compassion, ethics, honesty, fairness, common
469

Tanye, K. Gerald, The Church as Family and Ethnocentrism in Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S.A/London, 2010, p. 17.

470

The difference is clear. The father is different in all ramifications from the wife. Children are different from their
parents. And the children in the family are also different from one another. Each coming with the hope that he or she
is the only child. The factors that add to the differences include, gender of either being a male or a female. This is
more of biological. There are also physiological and psychological factores that play great role here. But love brings
all together for the good of the family.
471

Schineller, Peter, S.J, edit, Save the Family Ibadan February 14-18, 1978 in Pastoral Letters and Communiques
of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria 1960-2002: The Voice of the Voiceless, Nigeria, 2002, p. 80.
472

John, Paul 11 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1991, no.39.

473

John, Paul 11, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 1989, no 40.

146

sense, reason, peaceful conflict resolution and respect for themselves and others. 474 In
the family therefore, one begins to experience his/her humanness and personhood with
the members through the act of interaction. The birth of the person into this or that
family helps him or her develop his or her potentialities. The family is a nursery ground
for every human person. It is a preparatory stage in life that introduces one to the
religion, cultures, and the wider human society, the world. In the family people begin to
learn the necessary and fundamental values of life that will enable them withstand the
(existential) challenges. The family is thus, the basic resilient human network that is
creatively constructing a human space for the future. 475 Therefore, family is the key that
opens up life and the universe to every individual person. It is the basic unit of the
human society, cultures and every others of their institutions.
3.1.1 The Family in Nigerian Cultures and Society
Like their counterparts in other continents of the world, Nigerians have similar
understanding of family as an institution of human persons. But in Nigerian and African
cultures and society, family has wider scope. Mbiti while describing the nature of family
in African cultures points out the essential aspects of family among the Africans which
applies to Nigeria as well. According to him, family is made of children, parents,
grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters who may have their own children, and
other immediate relatives. It includes the departed relatives and the unborn members
who are still in the loins of the living. 476 It follows that, when one speaks about family in
Nigerian and African cultures and society many things are involved. Family in both
cultures are opened and not closed. The open nature extends to those yet to be born
into it. These are the buds of hope and expectation for the survival of the family. They
are the future hopes of the family, cultures and society. So, when the people discuss
about family, they have the future in mind. Another aspect of the openess includes the
dead members of the family. Hence, what makes up the family in the understanding of
Nigerian people are the ancestors who belong to the past, the living that beong to the
immediate now and the unborn who are the future members. Thus, each family tries
through procreation to forestall its extinction. Consequently, progenitor is a necessity in
the understanding of family in Nigerian cultures. Though invisible, the dead in the
people's world view form part of the family they left behind. This is one of the reason
behind sacrifice, prayers and libation offered to them. Traditionally, where the living
members of the families failed to observe this is an open invitation to disaster, hardship
and misfortunes.477
The basic idea of family structure is that it exists between two different opposite sex of
man and woman. Although men are allowed to marry many wives. Thus, monogamous
474

Tanye, K. Gerald, op. cit., p. 16.

475

Prior, John, the Asian Family towards a culture of integral life: A personal reflection on the Eighth FABC
plenary Assembly, Daejeon, South Korea, EAPR 42, 2005, p, 288.
476

Mbiti John, op. cit., pp. 106-107.

477

Chigere, Nkem, M. V. Hyginus, Foreigen Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland,
Owerri Imo State, Nigeria, Living Flame Resources, 2013, p. 37.

147

and polygamous systems of marrage and family are aspect of the cultural value of the
people. The advent of Christianity and western ways of life affected the polygamous
marrage and family system of the people. In the understanding of some of the western
world, the polygamous family system debases women. An insider question should be,
how did the women themselves see polygamous marriage. Responding to this question
Uchendu says, ...women did not care about polygamy, as it enhanced their economic
participation.... they encouraged their husbands to take more wives, and in some cases,
they financed the marriage.478 Within African cultures, polygamy is a symbol of high
status welcomed by women. A man with many wives has many children, and the more
children one has the more chances of not losing immortality. 479 The western scholars
used their eurocentric mentality to judge polygamous system of family as one of the
socio-cultural means of degrading women. However, Nigerian scholars see the practice
from a different perspective.
Inasmuch as one has many children, and the status of the husband and wives socially
and economic enhanced; this system of family has its problems. Even the aclaimed
monogamous family system has its own short comings. Back to polygamous family, in
most cases there are always jealousies, fear of using witchcraft and poisoning. At the
death of the man in most cases, there is always difficulty in sharing the husbands
properties among the children. One woman captioned what happens in this family as a
poly war, that is, polygamous war. Hence, in this modern context, majority of men and
women in Nigeria and Africa are no longer in favour of it. The system is gradually at
present waning at the urban areas. In the rural areas polygamous system of family still
exists. This does not mean that monogamy is foreign in indigenous Nigerian cultures.
Before the advent of Christianity, monogamy was practiced among many Nigerians
even in this present era. The two family systems exist in Nigerian cultures and society.
The understanding of family in Nigerian cultures as in other African society is not only
between the two persons that are directly involved and their children.
Linguistically, there are various words used by the different ethnic cultures in Nigeria for
the English word family. For the Yoruba culture the word for family is ebi. The Hausa
word for family is Iyali. In Igbo culture family is known as Ezi n l, which literarily
means (compound and house). When one speaks of family in the Nigerian context, he
or she means the people directly involved. This include the immediate relatives of the
bridegroom, the bride and children. Family is seen under two levels namely extended
and nuclear family systems.
The extended family is coming together of nuclear families. 480 In extended family
(Umunna) Umunna two relationships emerge from the side of the man and that of the
woman and necessary blood ties is develop on patrilineal and matrilineal sides. This
imples that, those related in this way in no circumstance is to hurt one another. They are
478

Cf. Uchendu, C. Patrick, op. cit., pp. 9/56.

479

Musau Patrick Mwania, The African Woman as an Agent of Evangelization, Her Role and Function in the
Mission Activity of the Church in Africa, Aachen, 2009, pp. 82-8.3
480

Ejimchukwu, A. D, Scheme Social Studies, Enugu, 2004, p.8.

148

bound by this marital relation not to spill the blood of any member of the family. This
idea synchronizes with the notion of extended family held by some scholars like
Gyekye. The latter holds that when one speaks of family in African context he speaks
not of the nuclear family which consists of husband, wife, and children. But, the
extended family that comprises of large number of blood relatives who trace their
descent to a common ancestor and are held together by a sense of obligation to one
another. And it is the responsibility of every member to seek and maintain cohesion of
the family.481 Hence the famous saying, I am because we are, since we are I am. This
understanding reflects the idea of family by the Israelites. 482 People that belong to the
same extended family in Nigeria do not marry each other. It is a taboo for a man or a
woman to marry within his or her extended family.
The nuclear family (Umunne) is a family setting made of a father and a mother with
their children. There may be cases of more than one wife in the nuclear family. In
nuclear family, there is always closer relationship and interaction between parents and
their child or children. Every nuclear family that makes up the extended one traces its
lineage back to a single ancestor. In Nigerian cultures family is patrilineal. The fathers
house plays vital role in the persons life. In search for his or her root of origin and
identity one goes back to the fathers lineage. Also, marital contract is always a
patrilocal type. This means that women are married into a mans house and not the
other way round as found among some part of Ghana. The husbands are the leaders in
the homes. They direct the families and majority of homes decisions are taken by them.
Even in the bible, power and authority revolves around the father or husband of the
family as every other member are regarded as his subjects. 483 Due to this, Nigerian
people place strong emphasis on male children. This does not imply that female children
are not valued. They believe that every female child in the family belong to another. At
maturity she lives the fathers house and marries into another family where she bears
the name of the new family. The male children see to the continuity of the lineage of the
fathers house and name to generation yet to come. Hence:
for the fostering of progeny in the family, the female children are
said to be lost to the future new families and do not count much in
481

Gyekye Kwame, African Cultural Values: An Introduction, Accra, 1996, p.75

482

For the latter, family means fathers house considered as the smaller unit that makes up the extended family.
Accordingly, these families were made of single male ancestor, his wife/wives, the mans sons and their wives,
grandsons and their wives and conceivable even great grandchildren and unmarried male or female descendants
(married female descendants were excluded, having left the household to live with the families of their families) and
unrelated descendants male and female hired servants and slaves along with their families, resident laborers(cf.
Judg. 17:7-13). cf. Daniel, L. Block, Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel, in Marriage and Family in the
Biblical World, edit, by, Ken, M. Campbell, Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2003, p, 38. One of the major
differences is the inclusion of resident laborers, hired servants and slaves who never shared any kind of relation to
the ancestral parents as members of the family by the Jewish people. For the Igbos, a slave (ohu) is never counted as
member of the family in which he or she lives. This is because, the slave never in any way have blood relationship
with the members of his or her master's household.
483

Daniel, L. Block, Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel, in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, edit, by,
Ken, M. Campbell, Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2003, p, 35.

149

their own families, where they are originally born. Only the males
remain and bring in wives into the family and fill up the natural gap
created by the departure of the females giving in marriage elsewhere
apart from their family extensions. That is also why generally every
family strives and longs for more boys than girls for the simple reason
of fostering the family.484
Since male children are preferred over the females in the traditional family in Nigeria,
they assume leadership role like their fathers in the family. However, in absence of male
child or children, the elder uncle presides over in serious family issues. Where the male
children are still tender, the uncle and mother discharge this duty for them. With maturity
in age the first born male child assumes leadership role in the family and consults the
mother and uncles in most cases. In both family systems exist strong bond of love and
spirit of sharing in good and sorrowful moments. The newest type of family structure
practice in the global society known as patchwork family exists in some tribes in
Nigerian cultures.485 Despite the changing lifestyle evident in our modern period,
marriage and family still remain so central in our lives as human beings, important for
the society, cultures and the church. Nigerians believe strongly in family life and
encourages it. He or she considers family and marriage life to be the most important
aspect of their socio-cultural value they carry on with in life. Through marriage and
family they express bond of love for each other; share with one another the pains and
sorrows of life. We can argue therefore, that marriage and family provides the people
with prestige, honour, identity, companionship, protection and security.
3.2 The Concept Mother in Nigerian Cultures
In the introduction to this work we looked at the meaning of the concept mother and
motherhood from a general perspective. Here, our concern will focuse on how Nigerian
peope understand the term and its application within the socio-cultural, socio-economic,
religious contexts. The Nigerian cutures as we know are mainly patrilineal. That is,
484

Chigere, Nkem, M. V. Hyginus, op. Cit., p. 38.

485

The type of patchwork family practiced in Nigerian cultures is possible only when a man who is married, and in
this marriage he has a child, male or female but his wife is died. After the period of mourning, cutlturally and
religiously he is allowed to marry. In this situation, the man may decide to marry a woman that has children in her
parents home. Or those of them, whose husbands are dead and they are stll young to stay for their deased husbands.
Not the one that is still living with her husband. Or a woman aboundoning her original matrimonal home because of
hardship and enter into another marriage relationship. In this case the woman is only in friendship with the man
which is not acceptable by the people. In marrying such women, the children are given to the man along with their
mother. But in some other places in Nigeria, it is only the woman that is being married out to the man. The practice
varies from culture to culture. If the woman is a widow and has small children in her first marriage, she marries the
new man and move in with these children. This new marriage relationship does not in any way change the statue of
the children she has with her her dead husband. These retain the name of their father and at ripe age they return to
their fathers home where they have right of inheritance. In this her new home, the woman becomes a stepmother to
the first children born by her new husband. The children she bears this man becomes step brothers and sisters to the
first children of their father. Hence, the share one father but different mothers. However, both share in blood ties
from the side of the father and have right of inheritance from the man's wealth. In most cases once there are children
in marrage, it is always difficult for a Nigerian woman to live them to re-marry no mater the situation. She lives and
suffers for the children who are her hope and joy in the future.

150

cultures men are at the helm of virtually all the activities at homes, society and religion.
Within the milieu of these cultures, the word mother has different names for the many
Nigerian ethnic groups. Irrespective of these varieties in matters of normencleture the
term mother in both tribes of Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba have the same meaning and
values attached to motherhood. In these cultures women are respected. They occupy
different special positions as daughters, wives, mothers and so on. The Yoruba word for
mother is Iya. Of all the positions Iya occupies the highest value given to her is
motherhood. The respect accord mothers and motherhood among the Yoruba people of
Nigeria is depicted in one of their proverbs thus:
Iya ni wura, Baba ni dingi meaning, mother is gold, father is a mirror.
In songs like Iya ni wura iyebiye Ti a ko le f owora. O l oyun mi f osu
mesan O pon mi f odun meta. Iya ni wura iyebiye Ti a ko le f owora.
The song means mother is a precious gold that cannot be purchased
with money. She carried me in her womb for nine months. She nursed
me for three years. Mother is a precious gold that cannot be purchased
with money.486
As a wife, she is referred as eru which means slave and connotes subordination to her
in marriage. This statue changes with the birth of child or children to become a precious
stone, the gold. What happens if she has no child? Does it mean that such women will
remain slaves in perpatuity. Hence, women are more respected and valued in relation to
their ability to bear chidren.The woman is one of the properties owned and used as the
owner wants.487 In Hausa language the word for mother is Uwar. The condition of
women in these cultures is the same. Despite the conditions that the socio-cultural and
religious contexts placed them in these cultures, motherhood is an important aspiration
of every woman who is not a religious in Catholic church aspires to attain in life. The
actualization of this dream occupies a central position in their world-view.
For the Igbos of Nigeria, the word commonly used to translate the english term mother
is Nne, in addressing any woman who has given birth to a child. In its loose form among
the people, it applies even to animals in such expressions as Nne Ewu (the she goat),
or Nne Okuko (the hen). Thus any thing female is addressed with the word nne. The
idea of Nne as applies to human being is common among the Igbos of Nigeria. This
notion is derived from their understanding, belief and notion of the prime universal
mother, Tera Mater, the Mother Earth. The earth for Igbos occupies a very central
position. Because of her roles in existence the Earth is seen as a perfect mother. It
stands for the people as a reference point in life. The starry sky harbors the supreme
Deity understood as the husband of the mother earth. As a husband, the Sky visits the
mother earth with rainfall to fertilize the mother earth. He does not abandon her in this
condition; rather he cares for her with intermitent sunlight. With all these necessary
486

Taiwo, Makinde, Motherhood as a source of empowerment of women in Yoruba culture in: Nordic Journal of
African Studies 13(2), 2004, p, 165. Cf. www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/Vol13 num2/makinde.pdf. Visited on
15.02.2014.
487

Taiwo, Makinde, ibid, pp, 166-167. Cf. www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/Vol13num2/makinde.pdf. Visited on


15.02.2014.

151

elements, the mother earth on her part conceives, generates and nurtures the vast
vegetation. And thus provides food for the nourishment of every other living being such
as the human beings, animals and trees. Through this act the mother earth sustains life.
If not, the living creatures die and go into extinction.
Even when these creatures die, the mother earth receives them back into her motherly
bosom. This confirms the popular axiom found in the church and among the
traditionalist, committed to the mother earth at burial events. So, Ani nwee Madu nile mother earth own all human beings. Consequently, for the Igbos of Nigerian and of
course most cultures in Africa, Land or Earth is one of the most sacred entities among
them. Base on this background and understanding, any offense committed against the
mother earth is a serious Aru taboo. This attracts excommunication of the offender from
the family, community or village for some period of time. 488 The Akans of Ghana hold the
same Idea with regard to the earth spirit being feminie as the Igbos of Nigeria. However,
between the two groups in West Africa, there is slight difference. According to
myajowo, A. Joseph, the Akans see the earth spirit not as a goddess. This earth spirit
is known among the Akans as Asase Yaa and next to the Supreme God. 489 For Akans
of Ghana the earth is a spirit, while for the Igbos of Nigeria the earth is a goddess. In the
cultures abound many other female deities and divinities with shrines. Among the
Yoruba people of Nigeria are the following: lsa (Lagoon goddess) ya (goddess of
River Niger) sun (River sun goddess) ba (goddess of River ba).490 Many
women in Nigerian and African cultures have strong attachment to the earth goddess
and water goddess.491
An insult against one's mother is regarded as offense that cannot be tolerated. This
does not imply that the offense cannot be forgiven. It simply shows the gravity of the
peoples reaction towards insult against their mothers. In matter of obtaining justice
when valuable things are missing in the community, poisoning of fellow human beings
and suspicious death, people are arranged for swearing at the mother earth's shrine.
This action have implications. First, it shows the moral significant attached to the mother
earth goddess in the cultures of the people. It entails that the mother earth is a symbol
of justice. Oath taking at the shrine of the mother earth goddess implies one swearing
488

The offender is in this case ostracized from doing anything with his or her kinsmen and women. The person buy
from from nobody. As he or she sales to no one. If the person happens to be in difficulty situation during this period,
he or she bears it alone. But in early history, such culprits were asked to leave the community or family till the god
or deity invoved is appeased with sacrifice. There are cases were family fall victim and receive such punishment.
Therefore, offense against the mother earth is intolerable and must be appeased to effect the offenders reunion, the
mother earth is appeased with sacrifice. This brings about the restoration of peace, harmony and unity that exist in
the community, family and village.
489

myajowo Joseph Akinyle, The Role of Women in African Traditional Religion among the Yoruba, in African
Traditional Religions in Contemporary Society, edit, by Olupona K. Jacob, United States, 1991, p. 75.
490

myajowo Joseph Akinyle, loc. cit., p. 75.

491

The main reason behind such affinity has been attibuted to the blessing of fecundity and fertility. In some parts of
Nigeria, for example, one hears such names as chi mumu (the goddess of fertility) in description of the earth
goddess.

152

with everything that explains and holds his or her life. With this brief exposition of the
concept Nne it becomes of great important that this work beams its light in few various
contexts Nne is applied by the Igbos of Nigeria.
3.2.1 Contextual Applications of the concept Nne in Igbo Culture of Nigeria
In Nigerians world-view, every female child is seen and treated as a potential mother.
Hence, every female child is by nature a future mother. Because of this understanding,
to wish or expect any female child not to beget children of her own is paramount to
wishing her the worst thing in life. To wish her death is an ill luck to her family members.
This accentuates the idea that, a woman must not be killed. She is the mother of life,
and to kill her is to kill her children (real and potential); it is to destroy humanity itself. 492
It is always the wish and happiness of every parent to see that their daughters actualize
this noble role in life. In this culture, little girls are called 'mother' Nne. By addressing
little girls with such an honour, they believe that in future these girls eventually will
realize this role in life. There is exception of course. In its potency therefore, it is obvious
to comprehend that the value and role of woman is defined from birth and not from the
point of her marriage.493
At tender age in life, every young woman is like a packaged product. As she develops,
grows and matures the mother qualities in her unfolds. These she bequeaths humanity
through many acts such as giving birth to another human beings and through every
other things she can achieve in life as a human being. The application of the world Nne
in its potential context presupposes the opposite actuality. The ambition of every young
Nigerian girl is to attain motherhood. Even educational honors and qualifications or
wealth do not change this singular ambition of Nigerian women. Attainment of
motherhood is central to their womanhood. Because of this, a woman who dies barren
is considered as a big loss to her family, the community, and the entire humanity. The
joy of motherhood is expressed in some of the names women bear. That is, as a
maiden, the young woman is called by her name as Theresa, Nwamaka, (child is
beautiful) and so on. But with the birth of her first child, the name of the woman
automatically changes to Nne of the new born baby such as Nne Peter and so forth.
This does not in any way mean that the maiden name of the woman is no more useful.
No, she retains her name, but this new form of addressing her is a sign of honor and
respect of being mother.
It is a belief system that parents live on in the life of their children even after their
demise. Hence, the existence of the parents is one of the most and necessary
prerequisites for the existence of the children. However, in Nigeria generally, children
are very much attached to their mothers. This close affinity explains why in the face of
danger Igbos always exclaims Nne moo which means oh! my mother. Equally, children
do not play with their mothers words. They believe that mothers words are effective on
them in matters of curses and blessings. The belief in reincarnation is very strong in
492

Mbiti. S. John: Flowers in the Garden: The Role of Women in African Religion, in African Traditional
Religions in Contemporary Society, edit. By Olupona K. Jacob, Paragon House, United States, 1991, p 63.
493

Mbit, S. John, loc. cit., p. 63.

153

Nigeria cultures rooted in their Traditional Religious belief system. It is a belief system
held by the people that life is cyclic, hence, those who die worthy death are reborn as
new born babies in families. Formed with such religious and cultural world-view,
whenever a child is born the grandparents always consult a diviner to ascertain the
particular fore parent that has reincarnated through the new born child. Given this
connection, one often finds a female child been addressed as Nne. This is done with
reference to the reincarnated grandmother of the child who happens to be the mother of
either the man or the mother. Hence, Nigerian female child bears such names like
Nnenna, meaning, gradfather's mother or Nnenne, which means grandmother
especially among the Igbos of Nigeria. The child is seen, known and addressed as such
all through her life time.494
3.3 The Roles of Mothers in Nigerian Cultures and Society
In the context of the family, women as wives are at its centre. Families in Nigeria derive
happiness in having a wife but more interestingly a good one. She becomes the object
of pride in her new home and her own family. On the part of the man, his wife becomes
a priceless sign of his respect in his family, among his equals and associates. The
above reality captures the famous Igbo proverb that says, Ezi nwanyi bu ugwu di ya,
which means that, a good wife brings honour and respect to her husband. In this
context, the character of a woman counts on the one hand. But on the other hand, her
ability to procreate is more important than her facial appearance. Contextually,
character here implies also hard working which depicts a wife who is supportive in
contributing to the up keep of her household. With regard to this therefore, among every
other things, Enterprise, industry and resourcefulness were among the qualities
sought for in a prospective bride as those factors would enhance the family fortune. 495
This is the dream and aspiration of virtually every young man. The proverb of Ezi
nwanyi bu ugwu di ya according to Igbos of Nigeria lends credence to the scriptural
saying, that, in the good wife finds the husband confidence, as she brings respect to
him that enables him take his position of honour in the council of the elders of the land
(cf. Prov. 31:10ff). On the other hand another Igbo proverb says that Di bu ugwu, which
means that, the dignity of a woman is her husband. From the two proverbs, we argue
that both the man and woman in typical traditional marriage relationship among the Igbo
people of Nigeria complement each other.
speaking to the newly wedded husbands and wives, Pope Pius X11 1942 says that
there is in every given family a bright sun. The bright sun of the family in question
according to him is no other person than the woman who is the wife and mother. She
plays the role of an organizer and a manager in the family institution. A woman does all
these by utilizing those feminine qualities she is endowed with by the Creator. She
494

Odo Ngozi Agujiobi, Rediscovering Our Traditional Values: A Process for Resolving the Crisis of Moral in
African Humanities: Issues in Humanistic Studies, edit., by Ali Vincent Egwu 7th edition, Afro-Orbis Publications
Limited, Nsukka, Nigeria, 2007 p 58.
495

Rose, N. Uchem, Overcoming Women's Subordination: An Igbo African and Christian Perspective: Envisioning
an Inclusive Theology with Reference to Women, USA, 2001, p. 71.

154

supports her husband for the actualization of the familys common goal; since behind
every successful man and family is always a woman. The realization of the motherly
roles of women in the Nigerian cultures imply marriage that leads to family formation.
Family as we have seen is of great importance in the life of human beings either as
individual person or as groups. Hence, the existence of the society depends inevitably
on the family. Therefore, anything that happens to this very foundation of human
existence be it positive or negative, affects every other aspects of the society. Thus, any
attempt to consider the family as a subordinate or secondary role in the society, inflicts
grave harm on the authentic growth of society as a whole. 496 It is the focus of
existence.497 Every human culture, tradition and religion whether primitive or civilized
has an institution of marriage. It is a natural and universal phenomenon; though, there
may be differences in forms and rules with regard to it from one society to another.
3.3.1 Traditional Marriage in (Igbo) Nigerian Cultures
Marriage is one of the oldest social, religious and cultural institutions that exists in
Nigeria and in the world. For the existence and realization of family in these cultures
and society, marriage plays central role. It is the foundation on which family life is built.
This means that family life begins with marriage.Traditionally in Nigeria, marriage
contract is not left to the decisions of the man and the woman alone. Parents of the both
parties and wider community are involved in it at different levels. Generally in Nigeria:
marriage is a drama in which everyone becomes an actor or actress
and not just a spectator. Marriage is a duty, a requirement from the
corporate society, and a rhythm of life everyone must participate.
Failure to get married under normal circumstances means that the
person concerned has rejected society and society rejects him in return. 498
Marriage in Nigeria and Africa provides the stage where the three aspect of human life
meet. These aspects are: the dead, the living and the unborn. The dead (ancestors) are
the foundational root on which the living stands. The living in turn serve as the
necessary connection between death and life. While, the yet unborn are the seed of life
in the lions of the living waiting for the appropriate moment to sprout out. The possibility
of their birth relay on marriage. Consequently, marriage garantees their birth and
growth.499 Chigere argues that among the Igbos of Nigeria, marriage is, compulsory,
evading it means a curse to community under normal circumstances. 500
Therefore, anyone (man and woman) who is not married is considered a waste and
496

John, Paul 11, Letter to Families Gratissimam Sane, 1994, no. 17. 906.

497

Mbiti, John, African Religions and Philosophy, London, Hienimaan, 1970, p.133.

498

Mbit, John, loc. cit., p.133.

499
500

Mbiti, John, ibid, p. 98.


Chigere, Nkem, M. V. Hyginus, op. cit., p. 35.

155

non-existent. Consider the sacrifice of those who are priests, religious men and women
in the Catholic Church in these cultures. For their counterparts in the other mainline
Christian denominations it is not a problem. This is because, their pastors or revrends
do marry and have family. In fact, it is one of the criteria for any person aspiring to
become a pastor to get married before his ordination. Those of them in Catholic Church
were regarded as wast as it is a taboo to see healthy men and women remain
unmarried in these cultures. Therefore, marriage is one of the socio-cultural values
Nigerians hold so high. In Nigerian cultures it is not an overstatment to argue that,
marriage is an important status indicator. 501 So, single life has no meaning in these
cultures as marriage enhances the status of every young man and woman in the
society. Also, the new wave idea of marriage and family, the same-sex union in the
western world does not exist in the cultures and society of the people. Although, there
are men and women who could be sexually attracted towards their fellow men or
women rather than the opposite sex.
There are stages involved in the process of marriage in Nigerian cultures and society.
One does not just see a man or a woman and both jump into marriage. No. Among the
Igbos, the first process is called iju ese meaning enquiry. This is geared towards
preventing a brother marrying a sister or cousin, or a person that is bloodily related to
him or her. This is done to help one to know the family background he or she is about to
become a member, the type of sickness that runs in the families like madness, epilepsy,
barrenness and premature death. Another important reason behind this is to avoid one
marrying an out cast (osu). The outcast (osu) is any person or persons dedicated to a
deity. There are two ways through which one becomes an outcast (osu). The community
can make one an out cast by dedicating such person or persons to the service of the
community deity. A person or persons can make himself or herself an out cast in the act
of running away from the cruelty of his or her people.The person becomes the property
of the deity he or she seeks save under its protection. These group of people were often
the objects of stigmatization in both the social and cultural sphere. In the culture and
society they have no identity and denied many benefits every other members of the
community do enjoy. They suffer pains of lonleness as they do not freely associate nor
intermarry with the freeborn, regarded as nobody and should not take tittle and
leadership position. The birth of new child by them are not celebrated by the freeborn.
So also their death are not mourned by the freeborn. They are buried in the evil forest.
No matter what happened, the freeborn do not take refuge under their shelters. 502 They
are avoided in the communities and villages. They are social outcasts. In view of this
Onwubiko said, by coming into contact with the initial osu who was formally dedicated
to the deity, the fugitive was believed to incur a ritual impurity and contracted a defective
ritual status in Igbo conception. 503 Marriage between the freeborn and the outcasts is
not allowed. Although the church is seriously involved to help people overcome the
501

Onwurah, C. Polycarp, Marriage: Christian and Traditional: a social and theological study of the interaction of
ethical values in the Igbo society of Nigeria, Colubia University Teachers College, 1982, p. 137.
502

Okafor, J. N., The Challenges of Osu Caste System to the Igbo Christians, Onitsha, Veritas Printing and
Publishing Co. Ltd, 1993, p. 23.

503

Onwubiko, A. Oliver, Facing the Osu Issue in the African Synod (A Personal Response), Enugu, Snaap Press Lit,
1993, p. 29.

156

negative attitudes towards this group of people especially in the eastern region of
Nigeria, but the issue persists. The man and the woman carry out the investigation to
avoid being victim of the above mentioned issues with attached socio-cultural stigma.
After inquiries, the next stage is known as ikuaka which means introduction takes place
at the house of the woman. The parents of the future bride and bridegroom, and few
elderly members of the kindred are the only people involved at this stage. It is here that
the bride to be accepts before her parents and the guests to be the wife of the suitor. In
the past, parents used to choose wife for their sons. Today, through interaction with
other cultures in most cases the male children are allowed to choose their future wives
and ask for the blessing of their parents and relatives. However, there are still some
places and cases where parents chose wife for their sons, especially when the son is
far away from home like living in abroad. The next stage is the igba nkwu nwanyi, the
traditional wedding. The friends of the woman, her people both maternal, paternal and
those of the man are invited to the special event. It is at this ceremony that both
exchange their consent publicly. This act is accomplished thus. The bride takes a locally
made wine and goes in search of her suitor who is hidden somewhere in the crowd.
When she finds him, she kneels down before him, sips the wine and hands it over to her
suitor. The latter drinks it and together they returned the cup to the father of the bride.
This is of great significance in the whole process of marriage. If she gives the wine to
another man, the marriage is canceled; and the man outside her husband to be she
gave the wine does not become automatically her husband.
When this traditional marriage is over, if they are Christians, they prepare and celebrate
their mirrage in Christian way. However, if the couples are not Christians, they are
traditionally declared husband and wife the moment the man pays the dowry known as
the pride price. This is the honour and pride of every young woman and man in Igbo
culture and a mark of respect to the parents. The paying of the bride price is also the
pride of the man. It signifies his readiness to face the challenges in family state he is
about to enter. The inception of Christianity in these cultures add to existing challenges
on the marriage system of the people. One can say that, despite the positive aspects of
marriage in these cultures, that things are fallen apart with regard to marriage in Nigeria
in this present era than past forty to fifty years ago. Previously there was stability and
socio-economic life in the family was normal. Marriage was considered sacred with long
stages of preparation, festive ceremonies and religious rituals. Presently, through
globalization and migration people learn and ex-change ideas that affect the human
institutions of which marriage is not exceptional. The sense of sacredness of marriage
dwindles. There is more high rate of divorce of marriages even the christian ones.
These days only few are willing to enter into church marriage at the early stage of their
marital union.504 Among Nigerians and Africans there are other problems that challenges
marriage in this contemporary period. And in these homes they perform numerous
duties and functions. Through these roles, come to limelight their motherhood statue. In
Nigerian cultures and society, they are locked into a trinitarian categorized identities of
woman, wife and mother.
504

Anthony, O. Gbuji, The Pastoral Care of Marriage and Family Life in Nigeria, SNAAP Press Ltd, p. 13ff.

157

3.3.1.1 The childbearing role


In Nigeria a family without a child or children is not yet complete. In some cases it is
regarded as non-existent and often seen as a curse to humanity. Observing the value
attached to children in Nigerian and African cultures accentuates the position of
Kossodo thus, Die Fhigkeit, Kinder zu gebren ist die wessentliche Vorbedingung fr
ein glckliches Leben, Ansehen und Rang in der Gemeinschaft, den mit der Anzahl
ihrer Kinder wchst der Respekt, den man ihr entgegenbringt.505 The ability to give
birth to children is one of the substantial conditions for a happy family life and a sign of
successful marriage union. Ones reputation and statue in the community grow
according to the number of children he or she has. Thus, the more children you have,
the higher your respect and reputation in Nigerian cultures and society. Children bring
honor, respect and happiness to their parents and the society at large. Hence, they are
the buds of society, and every birth is the arrival of spring when life shoots out and the
community thrives.506
The birth of every first child in the family calls for celebration. It seals and consolidates
the stay of the woman in this home and earns her the title of mother. Therefore, the first
pregnancy of the woman is a sign of complete integration into her husbands family and
kinship circle.507 The case of Nnu Ego portrays that of every married Nigerian and
African woman. Pregnancy brings greatest joy and it is a sign that the gods have
approved the union.508 Hence, prgnancy is one of the joyous moments in the ife of every
married woman in Nigerian cultures. The news brings untold joy to the parents of both
husband and wife. The birth of children in these cultures is understood as the summit
and joy of the husband and wife, the immediate famiies and the community. This
attitude of the people towards family, through which new life is brought into the world,
synchronizes with the notion of John Paul 11 who sees the family as the sanctuary of
life. A place life the gift of God can be properly welcomed and the heart of culture of
life.509 The term sanctuary refers to the fact that family is a sacred institution that has
also the responsibility of nurturing and protecting human life.Through the institution of
family, continuity of human life becomes possible as against the background of artificial
ways of killing unborn children through abortion, the culture of death.
A situation where the gift of child is found lacking is already a threat to the survival of
and happiness in the family. The condition of married women without children is always
painful. In some Nigerian cultures if such persons dies, his or her corpse is thrown into
the forest. There will be no befitting funeral celebration for the man or the woman. Both
becomes object of laughter in the society and their culture. In the childless families
Women are often the victims of cultural and social ill-treatment. Hence, Unhappy is the
505

Kossodo, L. Blandena, Die Frau in Afrika: Zwischen Tradition und Bekehrung, Ullstein, 1980, p. 125f.

506

Mbiti, John, op. cit., p. 110.

507

Mbiti, John, loc. cit.p.

508
509

Buchi, Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood,England, Heinemman, 1979, p. 52.


John, Paul 11, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1991, no.39.

158

woman who fails to get children, a failure to give birth to children is worse. She has
become the death end of human lifechildless wife bears a scar which nothing can
erase.510 This is equivalent within the ancient Israel culture that holds that:
the most important contribution a woman could make to a
household was to present her husband with children. Indeed,
the noblest contribution a woman could make to a household in
general and her husband in particular was to bear a son for him.
Through childbearing a woman earned her place in life and her
share in the household. Conversely, failure to deliver on this was
viewed as a curse and a shameful disgrace. 511
As it is in this culture with married women, so it is with Nigerian married women. The
birth of a child or children bears strong witness for the woman and the man in the
society and cultures. One, it means that the woman is not barren. On the part of the
man, the birth of their child or children prevents the questioning of his manhood. 512 The
two (husband and wife) are in serious tension the moment there is no child to show for
their marriage and family.
Similarly, a woman with a fruitful womb is most precious to a man; contrariwise, a
woman without a fruitful womb is of scant value to a procreative man and holds little
power over him.513 Any married woman who has no chid to show for it is seen and
considered as a failed woman.514 The issues addressed through these positions are
the problem of childlessness and the joy of fruitfulness among married women in
Nigerian and African cultures. Barrenness and giving birth to only female children are
capable of leading to many problems in the homes like, polygamy and divorce.
Consequently, this leads the man to marry another woman. The problem of barrenness
in Nigerian cultures is often seen as a problem caused mostly by the woman. With
present breakthrough in medicine, it is clear that such problems can equally come from
the husbands which makes no more the problem of women alone. Nigerians attach so
much value to childbearing as it means that the lineage of the family will not go out into
extinction. This proves the philosophical principle of giving such names as: Afamuefula,
Amaechila and Obiechila among the Igbo culture of Nigerian society to their sons. The
birth of children is of great important in Nigerian families outside the fact of linage
continuity. At tender age in the house they run errands and contribute in other little
home chores. When the parents are old, it becomes the priority duty of the children to
take over the family affairs. Another great significant of children in the families is to care
for the parents at their old age. The presence of their children and grand children solves
510

Mbiti, John, op. cit., p. 110.

511

Block, L. Daniel, Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel, in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, edit,
by, Campbell, M. Ken, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 72.
512
513
514

Buchi, Emecheta, op. cit., p. 51.


Chinweizu, Anatomy of Female Power, Pero Press Lagos Nigeria, 1990, p. 19.
Buchi, Emecheta, op. cit., p. 65.

159

the problem of lonliness around the aged parents. This captures discussion between
Nnu Ego and her father thus, When one grows old, one needs children to look after
one. If you have no children, and your parents have gone, who can you call your
own?515 Nnu Ego is to re-marry after the first marriage came to an end as resut of
barreness. Just as she takes care of her father, Nnu Ego needs children of her own who
will look after her when she grows old. When death calls, it is the responsibility of the
children to give their dead ones befitting burial, continue to remember and venerate
them as ancestors through prayers.
One begins to question the fundamental reason why these people enter into marriage. It
is indisputable that the people go into marriage for the purpose of procreation. When the
aim is not realized, then, a crack develops in the marriage. Following the strong
attachment and love to birth in the family in Nigerian cultures; we can argue that
marriage is only consummated with pregnancy that leads to birth of a child or children. It
is from this point that the people begin to affirm and appreciate marriage and family.
Hence, without pregnancy and birth, marriage and family is non-existent for a typical
Nigerian man and woman found even in the church. This is a different direction as the
Church teaches. Here the cultures, society and the church exact pressure on the
people. Even if it seems to exists, the husband and wife in question live only in pains,
fear, agony and the likes. Then, what has the church identified as mother to offer
childless families and couples who want to be faithful to the doctrine of the church.
Being a mother, the church gives birth to sons and daughters of God. And she rejoices
in fulfilling her motherly roles and functions for God and humanity. It is a clear fact that
her own ability to give birth to children of God depends largely on the family, whose
children are presented at baptism. Consequently, her sacramental motherly giving birth
through baptism as we previously discussed, to a great extent depends on the birth in
the families. What does salvation mean for barren couples. How can they reconcile the
fact that the church that gives birth to her children is their mother in the situation of
childlessness. This we shall see as the work unfolds.
In spite of the preceding consideration, mothers in Nigerian cultures as in other cultures
in the world play central role in childbearing. They are the only available channel made
by God, through which the birth of human person is possible. They are the primordial
progenitors of the society associated with the ability to guarantee, produce, and nurture
life.516 Their womb is the first world known to the unborn child. It is the first house that
provides shelter to the child for the period of nine months more or less in some cases.
She is the only person and companion the child knows at this early period. She is the
one on whom the childs survival to a considerable proportion depends. Her womb
becomes a fertile garden in which the seed of life is sown, develops and grows.
Following this analysis women are in a real sense of it, the mothers of human beings,
dispensers of life, as agent of God, she shares in the causes and effect of suffering,
misfortune, and death in the world. As she shares in the mysteries of lifes beginning, so
515
516

Buchi, Emecheta, op. cit., p. 38.


Musau Patrick Mwania, op. cit., p.78.

160

she shares in lifes end.517 Whenever a woman gives birth, God manifests his creative
attribute. A blessing that spontaneously calls for joy; as expressed by Eve who out of joy
exclaimed; I have acquired a man with the help of Yahweh (cf. Gen. 4:1).
3.3.1.2 The caring role
Generally, mothers are endowed with the special quality of caring. It is one of the traits
that bring their feminine nature more to limelight. We are to bear in mind that every
human person in the world is gifted with this characteristic trait to care for another or
oneself. This singular act affirms as it actualizes the event of human creation in the form
of male and female in genesis. Hence, nobody is meant to be alone. The human person
is called and challenged to care for each other and the earth in which we live, move and
work. The English word care in Latin means, cura. To care means provision of what
is necessary in both private and public situations of human life. This implies availability
of things necessary in life that concern the areas of health, welfare, maintenance, and
protection518 of someone or something. The word care has a wide range of applications
such as in politics, professional occupation like medicine and nursing, agriculture,
environment management, and in the Christian context. For the Igbos of Nigeria, the
term care appears in two different forms: ilekota ihe anya (to look after something),
ichekwa ihe (to take care of something). The term ihe in Igbo language means
something. This something includes also, in this context the human beings and other
things outside human persons. It is a household term common to people. When use in
the context of this work therefore, mother as onye n elekota ihe anya (mother as one
who looks after something) implies that, she cares for every persons and things that are
in her household. When the second, ichekwa ihe is used, the mother not only takes
care, she guides with tender the lives of those of her home. So, caring is psychological
and deals with deep human feelings, concerns, emotions and compassion towards the
others and oneself. Theologically, it propels one toward seeking for the good of the
others.
With pregnancy the caring role of a woman increases. During the period of pregnancy,
mothers carry their babies in their wombs. At this stage, the baby shares in the life of its
mother till birth. Even when the child is born, the sharing and caring continues through
the act of mothers breastfeeding. They spent quality time with their babies. As the child
grows and develops from stage to stage, the mother accompanies him or her on this
course in life. They are the first educators in the life of their children. They teach them
how to walk, sit down, talk and eat. All these are the caring role of the mother towards
the upbringing of children. When the child is sick the mother becomes uncomfortable
over the helpless condition of her baby and does everything humanly possible to make
sure the baby recovers. They keep wake when baby cannot sleep. This does not mean
that men do not care for their children in the family. The issue here is that in Igbo culture
as in other African cultures, husbands are regarded as the head of the family and have
as such duties in the family. As far as her children live, mothers care for them even
when they are independent; by sending foodstuff from her farm produce to them. There
517

Mbiti, John, Flowers in the Garden, op. cit, pp. 62-63.

518

Oxford English Dictionary, www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/care. Visited on 18.10.2013.

161

is no age in Nigerian cultures and society when someone can claim that he or she is
above the care of his or her mother. It is a special mothers service to her children. She
extends her caring role to her grandchildren and other children around her.
In the upkeep of the family, mothers are not left out. Majority of them who are employed
workers, professional career mothers, earn money for the upkeep of the family. They
engage also, in domestic chores such as preparing and serving of food at homes. They
make sure that the home is kept always clean as they believe that a clean home is a
healthy one. The other populations of mothers who are not employed engage in selfemployed petty businesses of buying and selling. Some also, participate actively in farm
works with their husbands. Through the caring role, mothers manage and contribute to
the maintenance of the family, to serve (bad) and to protect (smar) it. The wifes
basic tasks in serving and guarding the household consisted of tending the garden,
harvesting grain, cooking food and clothing the family. 519 In present Nigerian homes,
majority of mothers are bread winners in their families. We can argue that, the era when
men alone provide and care for the family and mothers were seen as ori aku (literally
means one who does not do anything in the house only to eat what is been provided by
the husband) has gone. Mothers contribute immensely in this regard as the okpata aku
(one who earns wealth in the family). They are of great importance in the preservation
of life through their service of caring in the family.
3.3.1.3 The educative role
Family by nature is a cohesive unit made of human persons bound in love and mutual
self-giving. In other words, family is a communio personarum.520 And in every Nigerian
family, children occupy its centre because of the value attached to them by the
members. Therefore, it is a common and joint responsibility of the immediate members
of the family to see to the upbringing of the children. The father and mother have the
responsibility of providing them with the basic physical and spiritual necessities of life
and health; thus defining the social and moral norms which govern the behaviour, by
safeguarding both material and spiritual customs and traditions as well as providing the
child with role models or good examples to follow on its way to adulthood. 521 The
mentioned responsibilities, gear towards the education of the child.
In Nigerian homes child's education is a general responsibility of everybody. But
mothers play fundamental roles as the first educators of their children before any other
person or institutions. In the traditional Nigerian family setting, mothers educate their
children via folktales by moonlight outside in the open air. They tell the children
educative stories. Sometimes children are encouraged to tell their own stories. In his
work entitled Things Fall Apart, Achebe presents how Okonkwos wives educate their
children through story tellings accompanied with songs after the night meal. He
observes that every evening, low voices broke now and again by singing from
519

Block, L. Daniel, op. cit., p. 73.

520

John, Paul 11, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, no. 10.

521

Musau Patrick Mwania, op. cit., p.93.

162

Okonkwo's wives huts as each woman and her children told folk stories. Ekwefi and her
daughter, Ezinma, sat on a mat on the floor. It was Ekwefis turn to tell a story. 522
Through the stories mothers tell their children, the latter learn that greed and cheating
are not good. In other folktales interesting topics as death, origin of life, history of the
people, animal world, about the deities, the spirits, socio-cultural events, religious
activities of the community and so on are treated. In this situation children learn only
about their communities. This imples that the context and content is a narrowed,
restricted and particularized type that is concerned only with the community of origin of
the children. It is more of a community oriented type of education that the children
received at this tender stage of their life. By hearing such stories, children in the family
under the tutorship of their mothers, learn the rewards attached to doing good, being
honest and respectful to the elders. They learn also the punishment for doing wrong.
Generally, children learn the ethos and morals of their communities through such stories
and become socialized. The act of socialization means, as a process through which a
child learns ways of life that is acceptable in the society. 523 through this early process of
learning how to socialize, the child learns how to be a member os a social, cultural,
religious group in the family and later extends to the wider clan, village, community and
society. Hence, the home is the primary educational agency in laying the foundations
for civilized behavior, excellent performance and responsible decision-making. 524 In the
home, children begin to learn how to live with one another under the watchful eyes of
their primordial teachers, the mothers. Expressing the fundamental and traditional roles
of educating children by the mothers, the Burundians of Africa hold that, primarily
mothers had the duty of bringing up their children at the tender stage until they reached
a given age.525 Implicitly, mothers in the Nigerian and in African societies have it as
their basic duty to educate their children about the ethics of the societies and cultures.
Thus, through this means, they lay down the basic foundation of life for their children. As
the children grow, they become separated, that is, the boys follow their fathers to the
farm; feed the domestic animals such as; goats, cows and others. They begin to
assume male functions and roles after the footsteps of their fathers in the families. The
young girls follow their mothers and observe the feminine roles she undertakes in the
house, such as cooking and helping in the farm work. The mother teaches her
daughters how to dress, how to talk, and how to sit as a female. The latter gradually
learn from their mothers how to prepare dishes, so as to be a good wife and mother in
anticipation of her future home. Thus, the mothers and fathers role in this context is
important in the lives of every child. With this, children grow up as responsible, honest,
upright and dutiful members of their families and the communities, and become socially,
culturally and religiously integrated within his or her community.
522

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, London, 1958, pp. 91-94.

523

Ezinwa, C. Vincent, op. cit., p. 242.

524

Block, L. Daniel, op. cit., p. 76.

525

Ntahobari, Josephine and Ndayiziga, Balissa, The Role of Burundian Women in the Peaceful Settlement of
Conflicts, in: UNESCO, Women and Peace in Africa, Paris, 2003, p. 11ff.

163

It is a fact that the mother-figure plays an outstanding role in traditional educational upbringing of her children in Nigerian cultures. Here, Traditional education means the
system or process of cultural transmission from one generation to another. 526 It is a
primitive form of education. That is, an informal system of education. There is no
systematic curriculum for pupils in this family-school-system. Traditional education deals
with the transmission of cultural heritages of any given group to the new members. By
deduction it implies that traditional education covers all the activities relevant to ones
life, a dynamic process and instrument for change, not a short span process, it lasts as
long as man lives and his society or community exists. 527 In Nigerian cultures, the
upbringing and education of children is a shared role of all adults in the family and a
common responsibility of everyone in the society. This is in keeping with the saying
among the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria that a child is, nwaoha meaning that a child
belongs to the community. In other words, a child belongs not only to the immediate
parents and family, but also to the entire community. It is a collective effort, hence we
hear people referring to the child as our child. The education and well-being of the little
child is also the obligation of the entire community. Arguing from the Yorubas
perspective on the participation of the community in the mothers educative role of her
child, Fadipe says, it is within the extended family that a child learns the bulk of his
education as a member of the society. He cannot always be under the watching eyes of
his parents, brothers and sisters. Different members of the extended family take a hand
in his education.528 In view of the place of the community or the extended family
members in the education and upbringing of the child, Mbiti argues that, the birth of a
child is, therefore, the concern not only of the parents but of many relatives and kinship
plays an important role here, so that a child cannot be exclusively my child but only our
child.529
These reiterates the communal concern with the education of the little ones; that affirms
an Igbo proverb which holds that, ofu onye adighi azu nwa meaning: one person does
not raise a child. By implication, it requires a whole village to train a child. In his
understanding, Pope John Paul 11 says, the first and fundamental structure for human ecology is
the family in which someone receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and
what it actually means to be a person." 530 The family is the first school and church of the
child. The family serves as a quasi or grass-root school, and a domestic or little
Church531, in which the mother above every other members of the family either nuclear
or extended, or community is an outstanding teacher and educator of the child.
Elucidating the immense role of mothers in the education of their children, John Paul 11
Emeka, N. Lawrence, Traditional Education in Nigeria, in Nigerian Peoples and Culture 4th edition, edit. By
Okafor C. Richard et al Enugu, 2004, p.218.
526

527

Emeka, N. Lawrence, ibid p. 219.

528

Fadipe, A. Nathaniel, The sociology of the Yoruba, Ibadan, 1970, p.312ff.

529

Mbiti, John, op. cit., p. 110.

530

John, Paul 11, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1991, no.39.

531

John, Paul 11, Letter to Families Gratissimam Sane, 1994, no.15.

164

says, the first months of the childs presence in the mothers womb bring about a
particular bond which already possesses an educational significance of its own. The
mother, even before giving birth, does not only give shape to the childs body, but also,
in an indirect way, to the childs whole personality. 532Through her educative function
which the Pope traced back to the beginning of the formation of the child in the womb
the mother influences her child. The maternal role of mothers as teachers and
educators help children to learn about society, cultures and ways of knowing and doing
things. They are so significant in the development of children. This affects and leads to
positive maintenance of human community.
3.3.1.4 The protective role
In the life of every Nigerian child, we see the mother-figure as the childs source of
protection and refuge. This is evident beginning from conception to birth and throughout
the period of nurturing. At conception the mother begins her protective role in the life of
the unborn baby. She protects her baby from unexpected infection as the latter is still in
the womb by attending her regular antenatal programms in the hospital. She eats
balanced diet, abstains from eating anything that can lead to the malformation of the
child and untimely death of her child in the womb. In her womb, she protects the child
from any physical and direct damage. At birth she breastfeeds her baby. As the child is
being breastfed he or she feels psychologically the mothers assurance, security and
protection. The breast milk feeding provides a further closer contact between the child
and the mother. It equally brings about the protection of the child from falling into
sudden sickness and fortifies the immune system of the child through breastfeeding.
This is why the traditional Nigerian mothers in the villages breastfeed their children to
one year before giving the child any other food. Even as the child is over one year, the
mother continues her breastfeeding till the child is properly weaned. But for modern
mothers, the period of breastfeeding differs. Some breastfeed for six months and
argument mother's milk with artificial ones.
Mothers are known for their tender heartedness which makes it possible and easy for
their children to always approach them in times of need and trouble. Within and outside
the family, when a child is threatened to be punished, the child always solicits the
mothers protection. In such moments, the child runs to its biological mother or another
woman in the neighborhood and, feels safe from the looming danger of punishment
either from the father, brothers and sisters, or from outsiders. Chinua Achebe buttresses
this fact in his novel that, when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its
mothers hurt.533 Thus, in the life of children, mother's house or room is a place of
refuge in moments of trouble, sickness, and other difficulties. When a child is no longer
safe in his paternal compound, he or she takes refuge and protection in her maternal
home. In Things Fall Apart for example, okonkwo, the protagonist of the novel was
banished from his fatherland he and his household seeks safety in his maternal home.
Achebe affirms that a man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is
sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your
532

John, Paul 11, ibid, no. 16.

533

Achebe Chinua, Things Fall Apart, London, 1958, p. 126.

165

mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is
supreme.534 The authors perspective highlights the Igbos view that mothers are
always there for their children as strong symbol of refuge and protection.
This great value accorded to mothers reflects in some traditional names given to their
female children such as, Nneka -mother is supreme, Nneamaka - mother is beautiful,
Nnedimma - mother is good, Nnedi - mother is etc. Reflecting on the roles of mothers in
the family, Chinweizu summarizes it thus: the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand
that rules the world. That is so because whoever rules the nursery shapes boys and
girls for life.535 Hence, Endeffekt aber ist es die Frau-Mutter, die das Leben
umformt; ja, sie rettet es und besiegt so den Tod.536
3.3.1.5 The economic role
As the saying goes, behind every successful man, there is always a woman. Both in the
traditional and also in the modern Nigerian cultures and society, (wives and women)
mothers contribute a lot to the up-keeping of the family. In the pre-colonial era one of
the major means of survival was agriculture mothers participated actively in it. They
farmed alongside with their husbands. While men cultivate yam tubers (considered as
the king of farm produce), their wives plant cassava, vegetables and cocoyam. The
proceeds they generate from selling these products are used to support in the up-keep
of the family. Not only that they provide money from the sells, they equally provide food
in the house. Speaking specifically about the economic contributions of Igbo women for
instance, an observer asserts that, they participated in local and long distance trade in
sale of different food items and related commodities, involved in food processing like
fish drying, garri, palm oil, salt production, pottery making and local weaving. 537 On a
general note Uchendu observes that in different ethnic groups in Nigeria,women were
economically independent in the pre-colonial era. Their condition changed with the
introduction of Islam, Christianity and colonialism. 538 Nigerian women in the precolonial, pre-christianity and pre-islamic era were financially independent of their
husbands. This means that economically, they were on their own during the pre-colonial
era. Whatever happened with regard to this was as result of contacts the Nigerian
cultures had with the external world society. Commenting on the condition of Igbo
women before pre-colonial era for instance, Agbasiere Therese Joseph argues that, on
an economic level, the women, not the man is the main provider. 539 In his own view,
Onwurah, C. Polycarp, argues that in Igboland, the wife's contribution to the family's
subsistence is normally direct and indispensable.... a husband is as much dependent
534

Achebe, Chinua, ibid, p.126.

535

Chinweizu, op. cit., p 15.

536

Bujo, Bnzet, Feministische Theologie in Afrika, in Stimmen der Zeit 206, 1988, pp. 530-540.

537

http://www.onlinenigeria.com/Nigerianwoman/?blurb=150.Visited on 13.07.2011.

538

Uchendu, K. Peter, Education and the Changing Economic Role of Nigerian Women, Enugu, 1995, pp. 9-10.

539

Agbasiere, J. Therese, Women in Igbo life and thought, New York, Routeledge, 2000, p. 6.

166

upon his wife's contribution as she on him, and so an Igbo woman is valued and
respected by her husband.540
Before the encounter with the three major agents of civilization in Nigeria, it is obvious
that mothers contributed so much to the economic well-being of their homes. This is one
of the effects of cultural contact that brings about either positive or negative influence of
the people involved. Reflecting on some of the effects of Islamic religion in some African
countries, Musau argues, Women played active roles in production and were in control
of land. Their position changed with the dawn of Islam and colonialism. Their economic
and power statues in the society became affected and women lost their traditional
domestic and land right to men on whom the mothers became economically
dependent.541 Commenting further on this situation, Barbara observes: the jihad
brought a moment of alteration in womens roles and positions within the Hausa society.
Women moved out of farming which prior to jihad had been practiced openly by them.
Female agricultural labor was replaced with the male captives. 542 One of the major
means they contribute to the economic standard of their families was taken over and
given to their male counterparts. Uchendu stresses that among the Igbo ethnic group,
women owned their property and kept different account from their husbands; at times,
a woman could lend money to her husband with interest. 543 Generally, he observes
that, the economic and political roles of the traditional Nigerian woman were
considered very important because she shared the family's expenses with her husband
and in some families, unlike her European counterparts, was the family's breadwinner.544 Unfortunately, with the coming of the colonial masters, the nature of the
economy changed to an exportation oriented economy. This invariably affected the
usual traditional economy in which Nigerian mothers participated effectively. Mothers
were of course less economically active income earners in this period. They depend on
their husbands for the economic well-being of the house. Their role became reduced to
basically mere house wives. In present era, they participate greatly in the economic and
financial up keep of their family.
3.3.1.6 Further Roles of Mothers in the Cultures and Society of Nigeria
Since mothers are involved in the making of the family, considered the nucleus of
society; it equally implies that they are in no small measure involved in the building of
the society. A glance in the society reveals that mothers play significant roles in the
building of the nation. Henc the affairmation of the famous saying that, train one woman
you have trained a nation. Their contributions are felt in other areas of life in the society
540

541

Onwurah, C. Polycarp, Marriage: Christian and Traditional: A Social and Theological study of the Interaction of
Ethical values in Igbo society of Nigeria, Columbia University Teachers College, 1982, p- 144.
Musau, P. Mwania,op. Cit., p.104.

542

Cooper, M. Barbara, Gender and Religion in Hausaland: variations in Islamic practice in Niger and Nigeria in
Women in Muslim Societies: diversity within unity, edit, by, Bodman L. Herbert and Tohidi Nayereh, United States
of America, 1998, pp.23-24.
543
544

Uchendu, K. Peter, op. cit., p. 60.


Uchendu, K. Peter, ibid, p. 23.

167

apart in the family. One of these other areas is politics. Just as they contributed in the
economic and financial well-being of their families in the pre-colonial period so it was
with politice before the colonialism. In its wider context, scholars emphasized that
Nigerian as well as African women participated in the politice before the era of the
colonial masters. Despite disparities in Nigerian and African societies, women had
played important roles in traditional political sector. OBarr argues, that, In pre-colonial
era, African women occupy defined and respected position in politics. Their prerogatives
were never equal to those of men, nor were there many women in leadership as the
men.545 In her work, Agara-Housessou-Adin affirms that Igbo women were at the
forefront of political issues in Igboland prior to the incursion of the Europeans. 546
Accordingly, women in Igbo traditional setting were given some respectable titles of
honour like, Lolo, Princess, and queen in different villages and communities. As queens
or Lolo they assist their husbands in executing the onerous task of leading and looking
after the community. In this way women participate to some extent in certain political
activities of the local community. Thus, with the power given to them, they look into
cases that affect women and children, help in reconciliation in order to bring peace in
homes and communities. Among the Yorubas before the era of colonialism, it was
identified that the Oba ruled his kingdom in collaboration with eight titled ladies of the
highest rank known as the ladies of the palace. 547 In the North we encounter the
person of queen Amina of Zaria. She became:
famous due to her military skills and thus was celebrated in a song
as Amina daughter of Nikatau. According to Sultan Muhammad Bello
of Sokoto, Amina made war against kingdoms and states like Kastina,
Kano, Bauchi, and far as Nupe. Those she conquered paid tribute to her.
For instance, the Sarkin Nupe sent her 40 eunuchs and 10,000 kola nuts.
She was the first in Hausaland to own eunuchs and kola nuts. 548
Notwithstanding the fact that queen Amina was a political leader, she performed the
function of a medium in the cult of the local deity as an intermediary between the
physical and spirit worlds. She built cities that won her recognition from some chiefs. 549
It is clear to argue that Nigerian women in the pre-colonial period were involved in all
the spheres of the socio-cultural, socio-economic, religious and socio-political activities
in their various regions. As we have seen, the traditional cultures of the Nigerian people
in the pre-colonial, pre-Christianity and pre-Islamic religions allow men and women
equal opportunity of participation in the different speres of the social, religious and
political activities. At certain point in history the story turned. The agents of this turning
545

OBarr, Jean, African Women in Politics, in: African Women of Southern Sahara edit, by Sharon Stichesi
Magareth J. Hay, London, 1984, vol. 4, p.140ff.
546

Agara-Housessou-Adin, T., The Concept of sitting on a man: Igbo women and political strategies (Nigeria),
Temple University, 1998, p. iv.

547

http://www.onlinenigera.com/Nigerianwomen/?blurb=150. Visited on 13.07.2011.

548

http://blackhistorypages.net/pages/amina.php.Visited on 8.07.2011.

549

www.Jahworks.org/travel/queens_of-africa.htm. Visited on 15.04.2011.

168

point in history and position assigned to women have been identified and testified by
some Nigerian and European scholars as: Christianity, Islam and the British Colonizers.
Be it as it may be, in the post-colonial era, political awareness among the Nigerian
women gradually increased. Before now, women see politics as men occupation. In the
present dispensation, they have realized that, they can also participate in the national
politics. Although, the number of women involved in Nigerian politics is insufficient. It is
a positive sign that the future will be better.550 From what we have seen Nigerian
mothers have contributed immensely and are still contributing to the growth of human
persons from the family to the national level.
3.4 The Religious Roles of Mothers in Nigerian Cultures
Human beings yearn for self-actualization and religious fulfillment. They do these with
the aim of finding lasting solutions to the many unresolved issues about human
existence in this world. In this sub-section, we are going to discuss the religious role of
mothers in Nigeria. We investigate this from two perspective with regard to the place of
mothers in the Traditional Religion and Christianity in the nation. The existence of
religion in various human society in the world signify need for religious personnel men
and women. These persons are entrusted with the performing of special duties in
matters of religion for and on behalf of the others.
3.4.1 The role of Mothers in Nigerian Traditional Religion as priestesses
In Nigerian cultures priests or priestesses as spiritual personnel entrusted with religious
needs of the people. These group of people discharge sacred ministry in their
communities. The title of priesthood applies to those who exercise religious duties given
to them, either in the temple, shrines, sacred quarters, sanctuary and some other
designated areas. In some world religions like Christianity and Islam, priesthood and
Imam is designated for men alone. However in certain cultures in Africa the situation is
different. Priesthood in some of the African Traditional Religion is open for both male
and female. Musau argues that in these cultures as there were priests, there were
priestesses with ritual powers to mediate between God or particular deity and human
beings.551 Thus, in the cult of these divinities, abound priests and priestesses who are
at the service of the divine spirits and deities for the good of the community. These
divinities belong to the categories of the spiritual forces in Nigerian and African world
view alike. In affirmation to the above position, Parrinder speaking about the traditional
religions of the West African cultures maintains that priesthood and medium were
respected. They were accessible to men and women.552 He goes on and maintains that
among the Ewe people women are priests in accordance to their belief, chosen by god,
trained by the community, ordained and entrusted with the act of performing religious
550

Many of the women who are into politice serve as ministers and commissioners. At the federal level, they are
found in the lower and upper houses; that is, House of Representatives and House of Senate.The Fourth Republic
election 1999 witnessed more participation of women in the Houses of Assembly, Senate, and Representative, and
also as Deputy Governors.
551

Musa, op. cit., p. 108.

552

Parrinder, E. Geoffrey, West African Religions, London, 1961, p. 75.

169

duties on behalf of the community to the gods. 553 Every priestess is chosen by the
gods among her fellows to work for the gods and the people. She never chooses
herself. And the religious services she renders are not hers. They are respected and
understood as sacred human beings. This understanding originates from the fact that,
the work they are called to do is sacred in itself. They represent the diety, divinity and
the spiritual forces they serve.
The different ethnic groups in Nigeria have different names for the priestess. In Yoruba,
the priestess is called Erelu. Her presence is paramount in the ritual services of the
Ogboni cult. Among the Yoruba ethnic group of Nigeria exists a female divinity cult
known as risa-Oko. The institution of priesthood in this cult is different because, it is
open to both male and female. And the cult of this divinity has more priestesses than
priests. His priestesses form a secret society of their own, and no man dare injure or
offend any of them.554 Among the people of Isarun Yorubaland, the priestess is
referred as Aya Olua (Oluas spouse). The priestess brings messages from the divinity
to the community or to individuals within and outside the community. 555 This aspect of
the traditional religious practices among the Igbos of Nigeria is much dominated by
male section. The Igbo people address these women considered priestess as
Ezenwanyi, or Agbaranwanyi. In Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe we observe a
female priestess among the Igbos in the person of Chinelo, the priestess of Agbala
been possessed by the spirit of the god. As priestess and healer Chinelo was able to
control space in the night the fearless Okonkwo could not attempt. She does not only
play the role of priestess in this situation. To her, Ezinma is a daughter and a child. That
is while she always calls her my daughter. Carrying Ezinma on her back portrays
another motherly role of protection and assurance 556 Among the Hausas of Nigeria, one
finds a traditional religious cult known as Bori. This traditional religion is widely spread in
the entire region of West African coast. In this cult are priestesses and their helpers.
They are led by a royal priestess called Inna, that is, mother of us all. She is
responsible for the priestesses. Through their activities, they protect the society from
wicked forces, provide healing and divination throughout the kingdom. 557 The Bori cult
belongs to the women before the introduction of Islam in West African nations. With the
advent of Islamic religion, the cult was relegated to background in the major cities, but
thrives in rural areas among Hausa ethnic group of Nigeria.
The priestesses are the representatives of the gods, goddess, and deities in the midst
of traditional religious adherents. It is not an office one just enters on her own accord.
No one chooses herself. There is always a call to this by the gods or goddess. One of
the major signs of being chosen is always the possession of the person by the spirit of
the gods, or goddess, or deity. After the choice has been made, the person chosen
553

Parrinder, E. Geoffrey, loc. cit., p.75.

554

Joseph, Akinyle, myajowo, op.cit., p. 75.

555

Joseph, Akinyele, Omoyajowo ibid, p. 76.

556
557

Achebe, Chinua, op. cit., pp. 100-101.


http://rainqueensofafrica.com/2011/03/bori-religion-and-bori-priestess/. Visited on 5.08.2011.

170

undergoes some periods of training under renowned instructors in this profession.


Throughout the course of her training, she learns the rubrics of her new vocation which
include, the songs, dancing steps, laws of the deities or gods, or goddess. This will
enable her ensure harmony and peace in the community, and between human persons
and the spirits. Furthermore, the priestess to be does not only learn how to conduct
the cultic worship and rituals in the shrine; she is exposed to other areas of service that
are of great importance to the community. These other areas include the knowledge of
different herbs and roots with medicinal and healing values, the ability to cast out evil
spirits which disturb individuals and peace of the land. Priestesses in Nigerian cultures
therefore, are persons with multiple responsibilities. They serve their communities at
different capacities. Apart from the religious functions, like offering prayers, ritual
services of sacrifice at both private and public levels, they participate in community
ceremonies either for joy or sorrow. They also function as advisers to the kings and
rulers of the community. Their services and presence are needed at funeral ceremonies
of some distinguished members of the community. In view of their involvement in the
political life of their various communities, there abound numerous instances of the
intervention of priestesses in the political scene. For instance:
priestesses like Veleda (seeress) led a liberation movement against
the Roman empire, Boudicca of Iceni presided over divinations of battle
by appealing to the goddess Andraste for victory. 7 th century saw the
like of priestess Dahia al-Kahina mobilize Tunisia to resist the Arab
conquest of North Africa. Of recent century was the diviner Nehanda
Nyakaikana roused the shone to fight back against the Rhodesian
takeover of Zimbabwe.558
3.4.1.1 Mothers as diviners
The act of divination is a phenomenon that is common in many cultures in Africa. In fact
it is a universal phenomenon in both ancient and modern Nigerian and African society.
There is possibility that the methods of practice differ from one culture to another. The
term divination has both Greek and Latin words. Its Greek word is mantis relates to
prophet. The Latin equivalent is divinatio. The Latin etymology of divinatio has to do with
deus, gods. In its original sense therefore, divination among the Greek appeared first in
their traditional religion. The same is of the Greeks who believe that inspirations come
to the mantis from gods or spirits. 559 Due to development with time, the term divination
finds its way in the Christian context. In this development, divinity deals with God who is
the Divine One. In the Pentateuch, diviners were ranked among the groups like the
judge, prophet, elder, captain, dignitary, soothsayer (cf. Isa. 3:2f). In Nigerian worldview for example, people are aware of the dual nature of human existence, the material
and the non-material, or the physical and the metaphysical worlds. There exist in these
two worlds two different types of spirits, the good and the bad. The good spirits are
responsible for good fortunes we enjoy here on earth such as good health, children,
558

http://www.suppressedhistories.net/articles/priestesses.html. Visited on 5.08.2011.

559

www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbedivination-html. Visited on 14.10.2013.

171

wealth, and peace at homes and in the community. While the bad spirit causes
sickness, barrenness, untimely death and other unimaginable misfortunes in ones life
and in the life of the community as well.
The need to maintain harmony and good relationship with these spirits led to the
emergence of diviners in the community. A Diviner hence is a person who goes between
the two worlds (of humanity and that of the spirits) and brings about good relationship
between the two. Just as in the Greek and Latin cultures, the act of divination in Igbo
culture of Nigeria means, igba afa. In Yoruba it is called ifa. A diviner in Nigerian cultures
could be a man or a woman. He or she is known as onye n agba afa among the Igbo.
The introduction of Islam in northern Nigerian brought about some changes as regard
the role of Hausa women sa diviners. Cooper discussing this effect says, the activities
of women as diviners, doctors, and dancers were forced underground. Womens
recognized role in the health and spiritual well-being of the region was called into
question.560 However, in the context of this work, she is one who consults the spirits or
deities on behalf of the community or anybody that seek such service. Her sacred
function could be needed at public or private based on request. The diviners are gifted
with the power to understand and to reveal some past secrets through the process of
divination. As she does this, the diviner asks crucial questions of what happened. How
did such started. And what is to be done. Through the act of her divination she engages
in asking fundamental questions of what, how and why beneath the human experiences
in life.
As messengers of the spirit, they relay information received from the spirit world to the
people, and communicate those of the humans to the spirits. Therefore, a diviner serves
as an effective mediator between the material and spiritual worlds, between human
beings and the spirits.561 The diviners play other crucial roles as, counselors comforters,
560

Cooper, M. Barbara, Gender and Religion in Hausaland: variations in Islamic practice in Niger and Nigeria, in
Women in Muslim societies: diversity within unity, edit, by Herbert L Bodman and Nayereh Tohidi, United States of
America, 1998, p. 26.
561

The duties of diviners are very delicate and demand extra carefulness. This is because, any sign of
misrepresentation can cause serious damage in the community, to the individual person and the diviner herself. In
consultation with the spirits, or gods, a diviner is able to discover and recover missing articles. Not only that the
missing item is found, often the culprit is also discovered. There is always an element of connectedness in functions
among the diviner and the priestess. Also, the diviners perform other religious sacred functions as seer, soothsayer
and fortuneteller in bringing information from the spirit or ancestral world. There are those who are specically
soothsayers attached to diviners found in the shrines. Functionally, they work for the good of the people and
harmonious relationship between the spiritual forces and humanity. This does not imply that their work is the same
as such. No, there is always difference as they are differently chosen for unique religious needs of the community.
These representatives of the gods are often consulted, for example, when one wants to embark on serious projects
like the building of house, or when one wants to know the cause of the outbreak of sickness and sudden death of
people in the community, or when one wants to have a foreknowledge of the future business trip. They are equally
consulted on issues like the proper time to perform religious ritual be it private or public, and choice of ones carrier.
All these point to the fact that human beings are often inquisitive and worried about future events. Hence, they want
to know the mind of the gods, spirits, deities, and ancestors about their life activities. When they are in crisis and in
plenty, they consult diviners for they believe that whatsoever happens in human life in the form of birth, death,
wealth, poverty, sickness and health, success and misfortune have their origin in the supernatural or spiritual world.

172

suppliers of assurance and confidence during peoples crises, pastors and priests, seers, and
solvers of problems, and revealers of secrets like thefts, imminent danger or coming events. 562
Hence, they are seen as the friends of their community, and they play the role of
judges, advisors, and fortune-teller..563 From the foregoing one can infer that, women
featured strongly and actively in the social and religious life of the communities prior to
the advent of Christianity, Islam, and colonialism in Nigeria.
3.4.2 Mothers as traditional medical personnel
It is common that everybody aspires for good health and well-being since sickness has
become part and parcel of our existence in the world. Among the people of Nigeria,
sickness results as a breach in harmony exists in the nature. It is an unexpected
situation that harasses human life. In order to wage war against sicknesses and the
menaces of evil spirits come the need of traditional doctors in the society. For some it is
a vocation, while some learn it from those who are both gifted and called. In the
Nigerian traditional medical sector women are not left out. They train hard to become
useful and valuable just like their male counterparts. Among the Igbos of Nigeria, the
traditional medicine person male or female is known as Dibia or Dibie. Due to the nature
of their jobs and their seemingly awkward mode of dress, many have wrongly
understood and describe them as witch doctor. This is derogatory, and has negative
meaning. With this name associated with this proffession, the practicioners are seen as
those who perpetuate evil and cause misfortunes in the spirit world against their fellows
in the community. The doctors that restore these groups of people with such nefarious
spirits to normalcy are referred as witch doctors. It is good to note that mothers are well
versed in the traditional medical practice ranging from treatment of sicknesses. They
serve as local mid-wives and nurse for pregnant women in the community. They treat
those with barreness and psychiatric problems in the community. Those possessed by
evil spirit or under the spell of either the water spirit or witch are among their patients.
During the period of their training, they are thoroughly trained on how to diagnose
sickness, trace its causes and apply the appropriate treatment. If the sickness is an
individual case, or that of the community that concerns the spirit, they carry-out the
sacrificial ritual to appease the spirits. They use both spiritual and physical means to
ensure optimal wellness of their patients and the community. The presence and
participation of traditional female medical practitioners in any given culture or society is
of great value to the members. Because of their tremendous importance, they are seen
as symbols of hopes of good health, protection and security from evil forces, prosperity
and good fortune.564 They defend the communities from external attacks especially
those from the mystical evil forces. The services they render extend to individual
families and persons who are in need of such service. The above idea synchronizes

562

Mbiti, John Mbiti, op. cit., p.177.

563

http://www.mamiwata.com/women.html. Visited on 26.07.2011.

564

Mbiti, John, op. cit., p. 170.

173

with the notion that the traditional doctors symbolize the hopes of their society; hopes
of good health ... and ritual cleansing when harm or impurities have been contracted. 565
Intrinsically, the value of priestess, diviners and traditional doctors in the existence of
any given community and individuals in Nigerian and African cultures is inevitable. They:
priestesses, diviners and traditional doctors, work together for the spiritual common
good of the community and the individual persons. They also, contribute in keeping the
spiritual and material world in a good harmony that benefits the human beings. They are
very effective in the cosmological experiences of the people.
3.4.3 Mothers as agents of social critics
On religious festivals and major celebrations of the community like the new yam
festivals, we experiences the other roles of the mothers which include singing and
dancing. These add colour to the worship and celebration of the community's festivals.
However, they use critical songs to appeal to the conscience of some members of the
community who thrive on doing evil. They move from one home to another, call the
culprits by names and condemn their bad behaviours through satirical songs. In Yoruba
this group is called Oluasarun of Isarun whose songs are effect to curbing recalcitrant
and criminally minded members of the community, who during the year had broken the
norms, conventions, and customs prevalent in that community. 566 This mother's group
is also common among the Igbos as the: Umuada or Umuokpu567 and the otu Ndiomala, or, Iyomudi, or Iyomuola. 568 Serious matter that concerns women is first and
foremost presented to them. Thus, women exercise the most effective sanction against
misrule. When a king becomes intolerable to his subjects, a procession of grandmothers
will march naked to his palace. No ruler survives this final and dramatic repudiation by
the mothers.569 There is also another group of women among the Nsukka region of
Igbos known as: the obolokos and the adaogus. The obolokos represents female
spiritual workers and the adaogus the female warriors.570
Traditionally, mothers are known for their united force in confronting evils. This is
evident in her book entitled, The Aba womens riot November-December 1929,
Margery Perham demonstrated this very clear. The women of this period revolted
against the British colonial administrators in the then Southeastern province of Nigeria.
565

http://www.mamiwata.com/women.html. Visited on 26.07.2011. Cf. also John Mbiti, p. 170.

566

Omoyajowo, J. Akinyele,op. Cit., p. 76.

567

Umuada or Umuokpu, are Igbo terms used to designate the traditional council of the assembly of daughters in
this culture. They are very powerful and influential in the culture.
568

Otu Ndiom-ala or Iyomudi or iyomola belong to the traditional council of the assembly of wives in Igbo culture.
Just as the council of the daughters, they have influence on certain decisions in the traditional Igbo community. Both
groups are being respected in Igbo society of Nigeria.
569

Chinweizu, op. cit., p. 70.

570

Nwando, Achebe, Farmers, Traders, Warriors and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland,
1900-1960, Portsmouth, Heinemann, 2005, reviewed by Felicia and Onyedika Michael Nwalutu, in www.hnet.org/reviews/showrer.php?id=11848. Visited on 13.10.2013.

174

The major issues that led to this historic revolt, was the imposition of indirect rule in
1914 through warrant chiefs as against the normal use of traditional chiefs of the
communities. The next point was the plan of the British to impose the system of paying
taxes by the local Igbo market women. The women thus organized themselves as a
united force against the move. This led to the cancellation of the idea of the tax and
curbed the excessive and oppressive power of the warrant chiefs. After seventeen
years, the same event took place in Egbaland in the present day Abeokuta Western
Nigeria. Just like their counterparts from Igbo region, the Egba women organized
themselves to fight against the idea of tax imposition on the local business women. 571
3.5 The Role of Women in the Church in Nigeria
Nigeria is a nation with multiple religions, and having investigated the role of mothers in
the family, society and Traditional Religion, it is necessary to look at their roles in
Catholic church in Nigeria; a religion that professes faith in the Incarnate Word, Jesus
Christ as the Saviour of the world. His birth and ministry brought changes in human
cultures and society. The great mandate of Christ to his Disciples shows the salvation
message is for every men and women in the world. Nobody is excluded in participating
in the salvific mission. Hence, we all are addressee and apostles of the message of
salvation. The church through her mission makes Christ known to many who have
never, or barely, heard the Gospel message. The Church is to be incarnated among the
groups as Christ did to the particular social and culture of his people. 572 In the process
of spreading the Good-News of Christ, Nigerians like other Africans received the
message of God from the church through the missionaries.
Hence, it has been observed that women in Africa helped in the development, evolution
and growth of Christianity.573 They were active preachers of the faith and its strong
defenders. In the cause of preaching and defending the faith, some of these women met
their death as martyrs. For instance in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia
in Africa, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the efforts of some of the African women
towards the growth of the church. Among such women acknowledged in the writings of
the Pope are, Blessed Clementine Anwarite, virgin and Martyr of Zaire beatified on
1985, Blessed Victoria Rasoamanarivo of Madagascar, Blessed Josephine Bakhita of
Sudan, and Blessed Isidore Bakanja, Martyr of Zaire.574
The Pope through this medium emphasizes and appreciates the roles women played in
sowing the seed of the faith in the African soil. He encourages the present women in the
church to emulate these women as models in Christian faith and contribute to the
growth of the church. The church in Nigeria experiences such efforts of women in the
sowing of the seed of the Christian faith in the nation. Within the context of Pentecostal
571

www.rainqueensofafrica.com/2012/11/aba-womens-riots-november-december-1929. Visited on 14.10.2013. cf.


also, www.blackpast.org/gah/aba-womens-riots-november-december-1929. Visited on 14.10.2013.
572
573
574

The Document of the Second Vatican, Ad Gentes, No. 10.


Kalu, edit, African Christianity, p. 360.
Pope John Paul 11, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, Kenya, 1995, No. 34, p. 28.

175

churches in the nation, some women have reached the level of founding churches.
While some are pastors, evangelists, deaconesses, leaders and prophetess. Therefore,
the roles they lost in the traditional religion via the encounter with Christianity, they
regain in these new African generation churches. Equally in the world today, women are
more and highly represented in all the Christian denominations. Not only that they have
numerical strength, they are more active than men. The active involvement of women in
catholic church is attributed to the decree of the Second Vatican Council Apostolicam
Actuositatem: (The Apostolate of Lay People). The dawn of this document, led to a
more development of different organizations of the lay people in the church. This was to
give people the opportunity to use their different God given gifts for the growth and
development of the church in the human society. The word laity, means the members of
the church who are not either ordained or consecrated. It is a collective word of the
adjective, lay.
The Greek concept laikos which means lay people is not found in the Bible. Rather, the
commonly word in use in the biblical environment was laos which means people. In its
applications in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the word laos refers to the
people of God. Therefore, laos implies people consecrated to God. Here there is no
clear distinction of the word usage within the community of the believers. All are one. As
one, they have a single unique identity as a consecrated people of God, the ordained
and non-ordained alike. This understanding speaks of the fundamental equality of the
people of God irrespective of gender and functional differences in the church. In ancient
Greco-Roman usage, the term lay, laikos, laos entails those who are different from
the leaders and rulers.575 In Greco-Roman context, the term was used to differentiate
the rulers from the ruled in a political setting. The appearance of the word lay or laity, a
derivation from the Greek word, laikos, in the Christian setting goes far back to the
period of the ancient fathers of the Church. In this tradition the word laity means, the
people of God. If understood so, it presupposes that the term laity is an inclusive term.
With time, the meaning and usage of the word laity underwent some changes to mean
exclusively the people of God as distinct from the gentiles. A later change in application,
the term became restricted to that part of the Church subject to leadership of the
hierarchy of the Church.576
With the publication of the Apostolicam Actuositatem, the church tries to harness the
various gifts of her sons and daughters. Women in Nigerian church operate within two
different capacities: as Catholic women organization and as the Consecrated Religious
Women. However, there are other series of lay apostolate groups, associations and
organizations in the church. In all, it is clear that the women organizations or groups in
the church are much. They have the numerical strength, strong in organization, the
most financial and other material support in Nigerian church. Thus, the enormous
contributions and achievements of women are glaring in the church. Despite all the
positive input of the women in the Nigerian church, they are often victims of one
575

Chukwuma, F.C., Canon 781 and Missionary Apostlate of the Laity in Nigeria, M. Th. Thesis, Port Harcourt,
1999, p. 9.
576

Oraegbunam Ikenga, The Role of Catholic Laity in Nigerian Nation Building, in The Nigerian Journal of
Theology, vol. 20 2006, p. 124.

176

circumstance or the other in the society, cultures, and religions. In other to encourage
them, it becomes one of the many duties of the church in Nigeria to support the women.
They are to be encouraged in their struggle to overcome some of the challenges in the
cultures, society and religions that subjugates them in the nation and the world at large.
3.5.1 The Role of the Women Religious Congregations in the Nigerian Church
In the history of Christianity the first group of women that were actively in-cooperated in
the process of transmitting the catholic faith in Nigeria was the religious sisters. These
women religious came on an invitation from the male religious missionaries. They were
to help in some of the areas the male missionaries cannot meet up with the demand. In
the face of so many things to be done, the missionaries in the eastern Nigeria, through
their superior, Father Lutz C.S.sp invited the female religious missionaries. Father Lutz
C.S.sp, gave special status and recognition to womanhood teach the beauty of virginity
and invited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny who arrived on November 15, 1889. The
sisters were to take up the education of girls and young women-the future mothers and
pillars of the nascent Catholic Church.577 They are to care as the author observes for
the future mothers and pillars of Catholic Church in the nation. It presupposes that the
education of the girls and women covers the teaching of practices and principles of
Christian living. This will enable them become good wives and mothers; and also
assume leadership role, in the church, family and society. The education is in a way
structured to form the future female agents of evangelization.
The religious sister of the Medical Missionaries of Mary is another foreign female
congregation that worked in Nigeria. They engaged in medical apostolate in the nation.
They took up the caring of the poor, sick, care for mothers and infants and abandoned
medically.578 They contributed in the training of many indigenous nurses and medical
technicians to work in Nigerian hospitals. 579 Their apostolate is an expression of the
pastoral maternal role of the church that medically cares for human beings. The third
female congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary was founded by bishop
Shanahan, an Irish spiritan who worked in Nigeria. The Missionary Sisters of the Holy
Rosary was founded in Ireland 1924. They came to Nigeria and established schools,
training colleges, social centres and hospitals to give the women of Nigeria an
opportunity to play their rightful role in the society and become the Christian wives and
mothers of a new generation.580 From what these foreign women religious
congregations did among the people, some indigenous women of Nigeria became
attracted and thus developed the zeal to embrace the religious life. This is considered a
great positive sign, as it means that in future that Nigerian women will take the lead and
become first and foremost missionaries onto themselves in mission ad intra. They shall
577

Obi A. Celestine, the French Pioneers, 1885-1905, in A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria
1885-1985, Onitsha, 1985, p. 30.
578

Eke I. Casimir CSSp. Priestly and Religious Vocations, in A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern
Nigeria 1885-1985, 1985, p. 319.
579

Eke, I. Casmir, ibid, p. 320.

580

Eke, I. Casmir, ibid, p. 318.

177

later spread to other parts of the African continent and the world at large, thus
participating in the mission ad extra of the church. Evidently, many Nigerian religious
sisters are found working all over the world with their fellow women from other religious
congregations of the world.
Undoubtedly, the vocation to the Catholic priesthood and to male and female religious
life is considered abnormal in Nigerian cultures. This is because, in the cultures, it is an
abnormality to find healthy young men and women remain single without marriage,
family and children. It was seen by the people as a bad omen that hinders the process
of procreation. For them, it obstructs the continuity of human existence in the culture.
Therefore, one notices that the idea of women embracing religious life and
consequently remaining single is quite new to the people. Initially, it was not welcome by
the people. With change in time and understanding, parents and families at present
allow their children who happily embrace religious life in the Church. At initial stage, the
Nigerian girls joined the foreign female congregations until the dawn of indigenous
ones. Even with the indigenous female congregations establishment at present, some
do join foreign ones. There are good numbers of female religious congregations
founded by indigenous Nigerians in furtherance of spreading the Gospel. Just as
mothers, they educate people, protect and nurture lives exposed to danger more
especially the most vulnerable in the society. They save the lives of the unborn babies in
orphanage homes. Through their works one can emphatically argue that, what they do
under the umbrella stand of women religious congregations delineates the fact that
through them the church expresses and actualizes her motherhood.
3.5.1.1 The Role of the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) in the Nigerian
Church
By its name, Catholic women organization implies a group of women that exists and
works as lay organization in Nigerian church in response to the invitation of the fathers
of the Second Vatican Council. It is another channel through which women promote the
growth and support of the church in the nation. Only duly married and wedded women
are members of the Catholic Women Organization. Through this organization, catholic
mothers in Nigeria are encouraged to participate actively in building up the church of
Christ on earth by using their Gods given gifts. This organization exists in all the
parishes in the Catholic dioceses in Nigeria. The early stage of the formation of this
body in some dioceses was not an easy task. The history of its beginning in the eastern
part of Nigeria has it that in the sixties Archbishop Heerey of Onitsha Archdiocese took
vital steps to unite all Catholic women and womens societies into one organization. The
formal name was Onitsha Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, and was later
changed to Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O).581 In the diocese of Owerri the first
name of the organization was, Catholic Mothers Solidarity Front. The aim of the
association was to protect their rights as Catholic Mothers in the education of their
children in Catholic schools of their choice. Its headquarter was later moved to
581

Nwosu A. Vincent, The Laity and Church Growth in A Hundred Years of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria
1885-1985, Onitsha, 1985, pp. 350ff.

178

Emekuku. Its name was changed from Solidarity to organization. 582


Acknowledging the efforts of these Christian mothers in Nigerian Church, the Catholic
Bishops Conference of Nigeria in one of their Pastoral exhortations entitled, the
Church in Nigeria Family of God on Mission says:
women form the greater percentage of the Nigerian Church and are
active contributors to the Churchs spiritual, moral and material progress.
They are also active in the social, political and economic progress of the
society. They have continued to demonstrate their influence and presence
in the life and mission of the Church. Evidences abound of their contributions
in the area of the Churchs use of the school in the service of evangelization.
They have built schools, Nursery and Primary, secondary and vocational
centers. In the Churchs health program, they build and run health centers,
maternity homes, and orphanages. In all these projects, many of which are
executed by the Organizations (like the C.W.O), women have manifested
the collaborative dimension of ministry in the Church.583
The observation of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria shows that women are
actively involved in the various spheres of life in the church. Nigerian women are not
just passive observers, rather, very active members in the church. Their active
participation either as Religious Women or as lay women under the canopy of Catholic
Women Organization has made great impart in the life and mission of the church in the
country. They work effortlessly for both material and spiritual sustenance of the church
in Nigeria. In a further enumeration of what the Catholic Women Organization does,
Nwosu says:
they give gifts to priests and their mothers, run pre-marriage and marriage
courses, conduct adult education classes for women and girls. They embark
on self-help projects like poultry, establishment of bread and garri-making
plants after the civil war. Recently, the women have built modern leadership
training center and womens hostel (Bethany House) in Onitsha. In pursuit of
civil rights for all, the C.W.O joined women societies in other parts of Nigeria
to successfully oppose the attempt to legalize abortion in Nigeria in 1981. 584
An organization like this has thus helped the mothers in the church to reflect on the
word of God. The outcome of such reflection challenges them to define and take up
their position first as human persons capable of making positive contributions in the
church. This will help them to unlock the diverse potentials in them for the common
good of the church, family, society and their fellow human beings. With some of the
roles of the Catholic Women Organization in Nigeria exposed, it becomes easier and
582

Nwosu, A. Vincent, ibid, p.351.

583

The Church in Nigeria: Family of God on Mission, Lineamenta for the First National Pastoral Congress, Lagos,
1999, p. 51f.
584

Nwosu, A. Vincent, op. cit., p. 352.

179

simple to abstract the likely objectives and goals this group of mothers set out to
achieve.
3.5.1.2 The objectives of the Catholic Women Organization in Nigerian Church
Any human group or organization, be it religious, political, social and economic, and
cultural in the world does not just exist in the society. For such organization to exist and
be of immense help to the community or people, it must have objectives or goals it sets
out to achieve, if not, it becomes of less value. So it is with the Catholic Women
Organization in Nigeria. The organization has objectives she is out to pursue and
actualize. It is the objectives that motivates her members and sustains the spirit of the
body despite all odds.
1. The organization unites the married wedded women in the Church, who are of
different works of life to form one body. This unity begins from the grass-root in the
mother church. That is, from the zones to the parish level, and from parish to the denary
level, to diocesan level, and to the Ecclesiastical Province. At present in the nation, the
organization has crossed the border of dioceses and Provinces to the formation of one
national body of Catholic Women Organization. In this case one observes that ethnic
and tribal idiocyncracy play no role here. They see themselves as people pursuing one
aim and objective for the betterment of the Church, family, and the Nigerian cultures and
society.
2. Another objective of the organization in the church, is to help them pull their
resources both material and intellectual together for the progress of the church and
betterment of Nigerians. They provide material food items for the maintenance of the
parish priests, the parish car, cleaning of the church building and organize lunching to
raise money to support gaigantic projects in the parishes and dioceses. It has also been
observed, that the mothers provide food items for the future priests of the dioceses in
the junior seminaries in the nation. During priestly ordination and religious profession of
their children like every other members of the church, they contribute financially and
otherwise in the preparation of these celebrations.
3. Through the organization they engage in spiritual and liturgical activities in the
church. Often they organize with the help of the parish priests a one week spiritual
program like retreat, recollection for their personal and group spiritual growth. In this
manner, they participate actively in the church, as they proclaim the wonders of God
through words and actions in the society. Moreover, they organize intellectual seminars
and workshops by inviting people of different professions to educate them more about
their roles as wives and mothers in the families, church and the society. Most often in
such programs, they learn about health care, childrens management, business
organization and leadership role. These are possible as majority of them are nurses and
doctors, teachers, business women and active politicians.
4. Furthermore, the Catholic Women through this organization are empowered in
various ways. Empowerment in this context implies that, the organization serves as a
medium through which the women air their views as a group regarding issues that
180

concern the local church. From the same organization, they have their representatives
in the politics of the church from zone to parish, denary to diocese, Ecclesiastical
Province and the nation, a leadership empowerment. Another type of empowerment
comes through the workshops they conduct. Through such workshops women acquire
new skills that help them to become self-reliant, a socio-economic empowerment. As
they go about their works in the church and the family, women define and realize their
true vocation as mothers. They use such powerful slogans as: nne bu ife which means
that they are light in the family, in the church and in the society. Naturally, light is of
great importance in the world. It dispels the darkness of the night, contributes to the
process of photosynthesis that facilitates production of food to serve man and animals,
and source of solar energy which we use in the world today. Symbolically as the
mothers see themselves as nne bu ife, so also is the church in Nigeria and the world.
She is the symbol of Gods radiating light in human history. Her rays of light are to
permeate every fabric of the social, cultural and religious institutions in the land. By this
she illuminates those practices that are positive and worth living with and abandon
those that are threat to human life.
What we have seen present us with the roles of mothers in Nigerian church. According
to a Ghanaian proverb, a woman is a flower in a garden. 585 Flowers normally beautify
our environments. When likened to women, it signifies that women add beauty to
human society. The garden in the proverb could be taken to mean any of the followings:
family, the culture, the society, and the Church. In which case, it is important to
accentuate that mothers bloom and add beauty to creation through the various ways
they engage themselves in the service of God and mankind. From the foregoing, we
have seen the marvelous roles and contributions of mothers in both traditional, social
and religious Nigeria setting. These functions never in anyway ended within the cultural
and social institutions, rather it finds its way into the Traditional Religions of the people
and the Christian churches in Nigeria.
3.6 Women as Victims of Violence in Nigerian Cultures and Society
The word violence connotes negativity. It has to do with taking something from another
with force, denial of ones right, respect, share maltreatment of the other, undue
advantage over the other, subjection, subjugation and suppression of the other. The
other could be any body. But in the context of this work it represents women.This
attitude breeds unhealthy environment where functional inequality thrives and inferiority
complex bloom. All these give birth to discrimination and class problem.
The issue of violence against women in Nigeria is cultural and socially rooted. It is a fact
that speaks loud for itself, as well heard every day through the various mass media
outlets. The victims also do testify to these obnoxious treatments against womanhood.
In the situation their rights, dignity and personhood are every day by seconds, minutes
and hours violated at families and places of work. In most cases when such issue is
reported at appropriate security quarter available, delay system and hasty judgment are
given. According to Effah-Chukwuma, Josephine and Osarenren, Ngozi, in their work
585

Mbiti, John, Flowers in the Garden, the role of Women in African Religion,op. cit., p. 59.

181

entitled Beyond Boundaries: Violences against Women in Nigeria cited by Odoem


Paul:
in most cases of domestic violence, police right from the counter the
case is reported determine provocation. They start asking the victim
ridiculous and embarrassing questions such as: did you deny your
husband sex? Did you serve him food on time? Were you rude to your
husband or in-laws? Did you keep the house tidy? By so doing already
the victim is being blamed for acts of violence perpetrated against her.
She becomes the villain and as such is doubly abused and violated. 586
In many of the Nigerian family problems mothers are always at fault. They bear the
blames even when it is obvious they are innocent and guilt free. When children do
wrong, they belong to their mothers. But when they achieve success they become the
children of their fathers. In most of the Nigerian cultures, mothers do not have any say
in their parents and husband's property. As a result of this, male children are more
preferable in every Nigerian family over the female ones. And only the male children
have the right and benefit to inherit the parents property. Thus, the preference of male
children over the female in the homes expose mothers to life problems such as
pressure and in security of her stay in the family. The quest to have male children lead
some husbands and wives to life of infidelity.
The practice and moment of widowhood is another hard moment for the mothers in
Nigerian cultures and society. At husbands death, the wife passes through series of
socio-cultural humiliating rites. The rites vary from one culture to another in Nigeria. We
can say that the death of a husband exposes the wife to some repressive traditional
conditions. There are always fear, pains and inhuman subjection under the cover of
keeping to tradition (and supremecy of the male folk) that accompany the period. In
some cultures of Nigeria, widows are subjected to various rites at husbands death such
as Isa ahu purification587, shaving of hair, sitting and sleeping on raffia mat on the floor,
wearing of either black or white cloth, white earring, necklace and slippers shoe. In
some parts on the burial day, the widows do not shake hands with those that have come
to condole them. As a sign of saying goodbye, the widow is expected to pure sand in
the grave of her husband on the actual day of burial, but in some part, they are not
allowed to do so. The duration of widowhood vary from place to place. Before, wives
morn their dead husbands for one year. In present era some still maintain the period of
one year. This is not even better with the dawn of Christianity and Islam in some
cultures in the nation. However, the little change in this regard was as a result of the
586

Effah-Chukwuma, Josephine and Osarenren, Ngozi, Beyond Boundaries: Violences against women in Nigeria,
Project Alert on Violence against Women, Lagos, 2001, p. 123. Also, cf. Odoeme, Paul, Human Rights and the
Mission of the Church in Nigeria, Mnster, LIT Verlag, 2013, p. 83.
587

The Isa ahu purification is a common widowhood rite among some communities in Igbo culture of Nigeria.
The involved widow is taken to river where she baths herself. The woman is examined to determine her periodic
circle. If she is found to be mensurating at the time, she is declared a persona non grata, and is sent back to her
fathers home with a strict prohibition of setting her feet in her husbands home. Cf. Odoeme, Paul, Isa ahu rite of
purification in Uturu; an unpublished paper at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, 1995, p. 21.

182

church's involvement. The murning period in some places have been reduced to six
months and pouring of sand in the grave of one's husband.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that Nigerian women play significant and diverse roles
in the cultures, society and Church. A womans role in the family exposes her to two
poles. First, in relation to her husband the woman is a wife. To her children, she is a
mother. In the person of woman therefore, are double images that demand special
attention from her. As wives, they actualize their responsibilities as helpmates and
companions towards their husbands. And as mothers they own their children undivided
attention within the family. At times this goes beyond the family frontier. They discharge
their domestic works in the families such as childbearing, education of their children,
caring of their husbands and that of the entire family.
In the families, mothers in Nigerian and African cultures are the first that bring about the
socialization and nurturing of children. These functions and roles in the family are thus
difficult and delicate. They deal directly with the preservation of the life of the newly born
and the old members of the house. Despite these unavoidably and inherent tasks
associated with the state of being mother, motherhood is the dream and fulfillment of
every woman among the Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas of Nigeria. With their place and
roles in the family, mothers are one of the most precious members of every family. At
the center of every household among the Igbo, the Yoruba and the Hausa people of
Nigeria and other African societies is the mother. Thus, women through the process of
childbearing and nurturing, work in Gods plan enveloped in the mystery of giving life in
the form of new born child. Mothers help as they participate and respond positively to
Gods vocation for them. Therefore, no matter what you read or hear, no matter what
the differences of circumstances you observe in the lives of women about you, it is
important... to understand that the Lord holds motherhood and mothers sacred and in
the highest esteem. He has entrusted to his daughters the great responsibility of
bearing and nurturing children.588
In this modern society they have been active participants in the nations politics as
leaders at various levels. Although, the number of women involved in Nigerian politics is
not much when compared to those of their male counterparts. They also engage in
other activities in the society such as education, health sector and so on. At homes they
contribute immersely in the financial upkeep of family. In the traditional setting, they
occupied important positions and discharged crucial roles for their communities. Thus,
the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa women participate actively in the Traditional religious
activities in the communities. Their involvement in this category of activities in the
community is of great significant. The significance of this lies in the fact that, by their
participation in the traditional religious service, they help in bequeathing human beings
the needed spiritual orientation in life. And this is to guide human beings in their daily
existential experiences. On the part of the Christian churches, their presence is evident
as expressed in the life and mission of the mother church in the human history.
588

Spencer, W. Kimball, Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters, Ensign, November 1978, as cited by, John
Hilton III and Lani Hilton in Motherhood in the Old Testament, cf. www.rsc.byu.edu/archied/gospel-jesus-christold-testament/3-motherhood-old-testament. Visited on 3.08.2013.

183

However, their presence is strongly felt in Nigerian church as religious women and as
members of the Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O) or Catholic Mothers Association
(C.M.A). They are good agents of evangelization in Nigerian church. Some work as
catechists, teachers of faith and Christian doctrine at homes, schools, and in the church.
They equally participate in the liturgical celebrations and spiritual activities of the church
as in choir and in the association of lay readers. Their contributions in building the
family, development of the Church and the society589 is glaring.
What we have seen elaborates the fact that women in Nigerian cultures and society are
not limited only as mothers in the family. They have other identities made manifest
through religious and social roles they undertake. It is clear that mothers make
enormous sacrifices in the process of discharging their noble vocation for God and
towards humanity. Yet, women are often treated with low respect and dignity. In most
cultures of Nigeria, they have no inheritance right in their fathers house. The same is
their fate with regard to their husbands property like: land, economic trees, buildings
and so on. The possibility of mothers inheriting property is only when she has children,
especially, male child or children. In this case only the male children inherit their fathers
property and not their mother or their sisters. The mothers need the intervention of the
mother church of Nigeria in this aspect of culture that deprives them right of inheritance
of their fathers and husbands property. They have right to contribute in the accquisition
of those property. In the church also, mothers role as we have earlier pointed out is
obvious. But mothers have never been elected or appointed as either the first or second
vice chairperson in the zones, parishes, and the Diocesan levels of the churchs
organizational structures. Structurally, in the Nigeria mother church, they are
disadvantaged.
The mothers in Nigerian cultures and society play relevant but dynamic roles. Their
experiences in the cosmological world view help them function positively in Nigerian
society and cultures on one hand. On the other hand, their knowledge and awareness
of God and the spiritual forces helps them perform effectively within the traditional and
Christian religious context. Mothers through these various functions, testify to the need
and value of posterity of human beings. Therefore, mothers play vital roles in the
shaping and forming of the future. They achieve this through good upbringing of
children, who are the future of human society, cultures and other institutions. However,
the clergy, bishops, priests, and also, the religious men and women in Nigeria are to be
more careful and watchful to encourage women in their plight for better understanding
of who they are, who God is for them, and their mission in Gods plan of human
salvation. They are to be helped in a positive and proper articulation of their identity,
encouraged to develop individual and collective will to lead them to success, ability to
make change and take responsibilities. They should not be useful in the family only
when they are able to produce children. Thus, a mother is not to be measured only by
the number of children she has. In the community, cultures and society not to be valued
only when they are obedient and quite even in issues that dirctly concerns them; and in
the church only when the parish needs finacial support from them.
589

John, Paul 11, Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, no.121.

184

On a general note, the church in Nigeria is to stand out in the mist of other social and
traditional groups as a strong agent of positive social critic. The Nigerian social context
provides her ample situations to bear witness for her bridegroom Jesus Christ. In real
sense of it therefore, the church in Nigeria is to follow after those practical examples of
Jesus who challenged the world of his era openly. Such confrontational method are still
meaningful and of great value in our present generation. She can take a leap from what
the church did in North America that gave birth to liberation theology. Hence, as a
mother she is to confront her children and every other operative systems in the nation.
This confrontation is to lead to mental and attitude revolution that brings about positive
change, that leads to proper development and realization of the women's hidden
potentials individually and collectively.

CHAPTER FOUR: THE MOTHER CHURCH AND THE SOCIAL


SITUATIONS IN NIGERIA: THE IMPLICATIONS

4.0 Introduction
Every human culture and society in the world has its own peculiar problems. These
problems contribute to the challenges the peoples of such cultures and society
encounter. Some of these are existential; while some are the outcome of humans
actions and events in the environment they live. The negative effects of these existential
problems are often beyond single individual human beings to handle. This necessitates
joint actions toward finding some lasting solution(s) to human problems. So it is with the
nation Nigeria. The citizens are daily confronted with numerous challenges affecting the
the people. Negatively, many are severely traumatized, disoriented and have lost hope
and meaning in life. It is a situation where our communal sense of living, justice, peace,
love and unity are gradually given way to disorderliness, violence, as injustice, bribery
and corruption etc have eaten deep into the nation. This is the situation the mother
church is called to bear witness to her divine bridegroom Jesus Christ. It is the context
she is called to incarnate the Good News of peace, justice, reconciliation and
consolation to the people traumatized with hardship and the likes. In this section of the
work therefore, we are not going to delve into the numerous social problems of the
nation Nigeria. The main concern here will be on those social issues considered to be
pertinently challenging to Nigerian people. For us to achieve the aim therefore, we are
to carry out the investigation in three section of looking at the social issues especially in
the areas of socio-economic, education, healthcare, socio-politics and religion. And
what implication these are for the church understood as Mother. The section begins by
exposing some of the challenging life social situations in the nation then, follows the
implications of all these to the mother church in Nigeria.
4.1 Exposition of Social Situations in Nigeria
Since the church's mission is a continuation of what God through Jesus Christ, she is to
be understood as the church of or for the poor especially in Nigeria. What does it
185

mean to regard the church as that of or for the poor? If this claim is to be followed
literally, it raises question of the place of the rich in the church. The church will
eventually become an agent of discrimination and division in the world that will lead to
the questioning of her motherhood. This is because, mothers are known for their
unifying qualities. The mother church works for the unity of humanity as one family of
God on earth. The poor in this context are not only those without material riches. It
implies all those who are in one way or the other victims of injustice in the society which
includes the rich, poor, men and women alike. It means that the priority and concern of
the mother church is to be directed towards those at the edge of the society, cultures,
family and religions. Moreover, we assert that the effect of sin has made the entire
humanity poor, and have fallen below the expected state of glory in existence. From this
perspective then, all human beings are poor and thus recipients of the actions of Gods
option for the poor. The option for the poor we can argue is universal and not restricted
to those who are materially and institutionally poor. With this background, the concern of
this section of the work will be on the exposition of some of the social situations of life in
Nigeria.
4.1.1 Socio-Economic Situation
Nigeria as a nation is well if not over blessed with natural and human resources. The
natural endowments in the country ranges from crude oil, zinc, lead, cement, timber,
iron ore, salt, agricultural products and lots of others. The nation is blessed with good
weather and climatic conditions that can enable her engage in all year round agricultural
production. Humanly Nigeria is blessed with population of about 140-150 million people.
This makes her the most populous country in Africa and considered as one of the
largest black nations in the world. The nation is a multicultural one with over 250
languages, assorted dishes and numerous outfit designs. In the aspect of religion
Nigeria is pluralistic with: Traditional, Islam and Christian religions. Simply put, the
nation is endowed with large human and various material resources. Recapitulating the
abundance of resources available in the nation, Ehusani says:
it is endowed by the Creator with enormous natural resources,
blessed with vast arable land, abundant water resources, mild
climate favorable to an all-year production of food and cash crops.
Forest resources are abundant. In terms of mineral resources,
Nigeria could be said to have more than its fair share of natures
endowment. Abundantly, Nigeria is blessed with human resources
and rich cultural heritage.590
Since Nigeria is identified as one of the supper endowed country by the Creator in the
world, a crucial question often raised within and outside the country, becomes, why the
excruciating effect of poverty in the land? Why is it that the socio-economic life in the
nation is so poor that people suffer to earn their daily bread. The Nigerian economy is
nothing to right home as many families struggle to survive despite the rich natural and
590

Ehusani,George, Omaku, A Prophetic Church, Ibadan, Kraft Books Limited, Sango, pp. 17-18.

186

human resources in the nation. It is important to recall that during and shortly after the
colonial eras that the economy of the nation was built on agriculture. It produced the
garmoult of the nation's economy. With vast arable land, abundant water resources and
good weather condition Nigeria produces palm oil and cashew in the east, groundnuts
in the north, cotton, cocoa, rubber in the west and in the south, west and east timber
Hence, in these eras, the nation earn about 63.4% of her G.D.P through agriculture.
While over 80% of the population were engaged in agricultural sector. Over 80% of her
foregin ex-change income was from the exportation of different agricultural products. 591
As the nation grows and develops, new discoveries were made down to the Niger-Delta
region of the nation where crude oil and gas was discovered. This new founding led to
the abandonment of the goose that laid the gold egg (agriculture) for Nigeria to the
exploration and drilling oil and gas. The direct effect of the quick switch over has
brought about wide spread of hunger and untold poverty in the land. The economy in
the land is one sided. It is not a diversified type. There is over dependent on oil and any
problem in this sector manifests its effect directly in the economy of the nation. This is
evident with regard to the recent fall in oil price in the world. The fall in oil price leads to
inflection on prices of goods and services. This negatively affects the life standard of the
people. Even, when oil market experienced boom (the famous oil wind fall in history)
during the war in Iraq and Iran, the money Nigeria made during the military regime of
Babbangida ended up in the hands of few individuals, while nation like Dubahi
translates her gain in development of the nation. Now, Dubahi has become one of the
attracting nations in the world. Thus, has the discovering of oil paid the nation Nigeria
and her citizens?
4.1.1.1 Poverty
The word poverty is a multidimensional concept, which can be defined both in income
and more directly, in non-income terms. Underlying the concept of poverty is the notion
that individuals or households whose incomes or consumption lie below some socially
predetermined level are poor or living in poverty.592 World Development Report sees
poverty as the inability to attain a minimum standard of living measured in terms of
basic consumption needs or income required to satisfy them. 593 In another context
poverty is defined as inability to afford a defined basket of consumption items (food and
non-food), which are necessary to sustain life. 594 Three possible conclusions arise from
the given definitions of poverty: as low income, lack of basic needs and the capability.
Poverty from these perspectives means state of insufficiency of of one possessing the
591

Sunday, O., Government and Politics of Nigeria: The Struggle for Power in African State, Onitsha, 2003, p. 250.

592

Banjo, Adewale, A Preview of poverty Studies, Drivers and Redressive Strategies in Southern Kalamazoo
College Press, Kalamazoo 2009, p. 3.
593

The World Bank Report, 1990.

594

Chimugira, G. Link Between Regional Integration and poverty Alleviation Efforts in the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) Region, in Trade and Development, no. 2, Trade and Development Studies
Centre, Harare 2003.

187

purchasing power. So, poverty in this context is seen as lack of money. This
accentuates the general meaning most people hold about poverty. The definitions
centered much on economics and as such limited in scope. Poverty however appears in
different degrees and forms. The two obvious types of poverty are: the material and
spiritual poverty. Material poverty could be in the form of abject or extreme. However,
scholars have identified numerous types of poverty. These include, absolute, relative,
cyclical, collective, capability, rural, urban, institutional and inherited (cultural)
poverty.595
In recent times, researches carried out show that the issue of poverty goes beyond the
question of lack of money and secarcity of food or property. Therefore, in a more
elaborate form, poverty is seen as the extent to which an individual does without
resources such as financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, role
models and knowledge of hidden rules. 596 The picture of poverty presented in the
citation above is hollistic in nature. It is all-encompassing. It is clear that poverty has
economic, social, political, spiritual, psychological, manifestations and so on. It means
lack, deficiency, absence of those things that can enable individual or group to positively
function within the cultural or social or political and religious institutions. The definition
shows that poverty is deprivation that hinders one from proper mental development and
growth. This in turn affects the dignity and the realization of life fulfilment of the
person.The nature of this deprivation affects the determination of one towards making
positive changes in life. In fact, Poverty cripples human person and affects personal
conception of oneself. This consequently influences the person's perception and attitude
towards others, participation in the social, economic, political and religious activities of
his or her time. It makes one aggressive in some situations of life and dormant in
another areas. Poverty devastates human society. In his work entitled Development as
Freedom, Amartya Sen defines poverty as a deprivation of basic capabilities rather
than merely as lowness of income.597 Poverty renders the person or the persons
incapable of doing things in most cases on their own. Not that the people do not want to
achieve some positive goals to change their socio-economic state of life. Rather they
were made so by systems that surrounds them. In Nigerian traditional context, poverty
and richness are measured by the type and quantity of food one normally consumes,
and the amount of agricultural property he possesses, such as land, grains, tubers,
livestock, and other farm products.598
Despite the many types of poverty, it can be narrowly grouped into two as generalized
and particular. This means that poverty is experienced either as individual or as
collective group. Those affected are always referred as poor ones who knocks on
595

Ejim, Chukwuma, Romanus, Unjust Deprivations: Obstacles to Economic Growth and Transformation to Peace
in Africa, Madonna University Press Enugu, 2011, p.174-175.
596

Payne, K. Ruby, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, aha! Process, Inc., Highlands-Texas 8.

597

Amartya, Sen, Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, p. 87-110.

598

Akukwe, Francis, Nnalue, Community Development Cooperatives and Democracy: A Guide for Social Workers,
Onitsha, Veritas Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd, 1996, p. 5.

188

the door asking for alms. It means a collective poor, the popular classes. 599 They are
found in the rural and urban areas in our society. They are the marginalized, the
exploited and oppressed, and those discriminated against in various forms. There is no
sense of honor as regard to their human dignity, as humiliation and dehumanization has
become part and parcel of their existence. In this precarious socio-economic situation of
life they try to figure out who God is for them. How do they see their fellow humans who
perpetrate this evil in the society? What has the church in Nigeria to offer this category
of people as she preaches the message of hope? However, from collective perspective
poverty is a socio-economic phenomenon that hampers development, growth, and
brings about hardship on the given society. Leonardo explains further that poverty is
empirical, functional, dialectical explanations.600
The effect of the riches the nation Nigeria is blessed with is scarcely noticed among
large population of her citizens. What people experience in the God blessed nation is
better described as the irony of wealth. Millions of Nigerians live in abject poverty.
Ironically, the land is rich with intelligent people, and material goods still they leave in
penury. Many Nigerians have been humiliated, pauperized and reduced to a state of
destitution.601 The land is among the largest oil producing nations. Yet, the quality of life
lived in the nation is nothing but misery for over 85% of the population. Despite the fact
that the nation is richly blessed with huge human and natural wealth, it ranks as among
the poorest countries in the world. Thus, a look around and within the socio-economic
life in Nigeria, confirms the reality of poverty, They are hungry, they are poor, they are
expoited, and they die young. This is the reality confronting over half of the world's
population. It is the reality facing over 70% Nigerians who live in the rural areas or in the
urban ghettos of Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Ibadan; ete. 602 The basic necessities of life that
should be at the disposal of all are found wanting. Many Nigerians have no access to
clean and safe pipe born drinking water. Other social infrastructures like good roads
network, steady electricity, health centres with modern medical equipment, recreational
parks and effective security system are limited. The available road networks have
become places people meet with their untimely and unprepared death. So it is with the
health care facilities in the nation. And this is one of the major reasons why rich
Nigerians frequents America, Europe, and recently India and Dubahi for medical health
treatment because; most of the hospitals are empty. Hence, in these situation death
rates of children, women at birth pang and the aged increases at a very high geometric
599

Leonardo Boff et al, Introducing Liberation Theology, transl, by Paul Burns, Great Britain, Burns and Oates,
1987, p. 3.
600

Leonardo Boff et al, ibid, p. 26. The empirical explanation sees poverty as vice. This vice is caused by laziness,
ignorance, or simply human wickedness. This is on the level of the individual. The understanding of poverty from
this perspective is limited and direct on the individual persons and not a general understanding of the concept as
experienced by the society. The functional description sees poverty as backwardness. This is attributed to economic
and social condition of any nation. The idea under this is that poverty is more of a collective phenomenon. The
dialectical explanation understands poverty as oppression. Poverty as a product of oppression shows that it exists
between more than two persons. In this situation, one exploits the other. In all these explanations, the poor ones are
always at the margin.
601
602

Ehusani George Omaku, op. cit., p. 19.


Ike, F. Obiora, op. cit., p. 50.

189

rate. The country suffers from collapsing infrastructures and weak socio-economic
environment that make international business owners loose interest to establish in the
nation.
The painful aspect of it is that there is no social security of any form for our poor
people. Millions of Nigerians are living each day not knowing whence the next meal will
come.603 In most cases poverty in Nigeria is best described as structural. It is more of
man-made type. By this we mean that the operating system in the nation is responsible.
This includes the actions of groups, classes and agencies operative beginning from the
grass-root to the highest levels at work in the society. These groups are regarded as the
agents directly involved in planning and executing good ideas in the society. They
decide on behalf of the general masses as the voice and eye of the people. These
leaders from the wards, locals, states, regional and the national are to see that the type
of social, political and economic policies they develop and pursue are ones that lead to
the actualizing of the good of the citizens. They are to see that goods and services
(provision of social welfare) of the nation are evenly distributed to reach the expected
final destinations. It is the duty of the leaders to form policies that are capable to
enhance and lead to positive development, growth of the nation and the actualization of
the wellbeing of the general masses rather than few individuals.
On the side of the many poor people the only alternative occupation left for them in the
nation Nigeria is begging. This exposes them especially the tender children among
them to an undignified childs labor, human trafficking and other degrading menial jobs.
In most cases the after effect has always been an exposure of the involved ones among
them to diseases and untimely death and victims of circumstances. With her numerous
natural and human resources, Nigeria is expected to contribute immensely in the project
of helping her citizens in need. But ours is different as hunger and starvation has taken
strong hold in many families of the nation. Hence, we can argue that the socio-econic
situation in Nigeria that manifests itself through poverty is not only an academic,
intellectual and abstract concept. It is a reality that exists in various nooks and crannies
in the nation604 and in other nations of the world. The nature of the socio-economic
condition in Nigeria in general therefore, could be best described as the sacndal of
poverty in a nation with plenty of natural and human resources and is only capable to
satisfy the demands and wants of the rich on one hand. But scandalously on the other
hand for its inability to provide basic needs of the majority of her population
impoverished by poverty - what a scandal indeed.
4.1.2 Socio-Political Situation
The concept politics is concerned with issues affecting humans in social order. This
involves the pursuit of public interest, the operation of the state, the formulation and
execution of public policy.605 Politics deals with the general social good of the people
except the spiritual aspect of the human persons. This is where religion comes in to
603

Ehusani, George, Omaku, ibid, p. 20.

604

The reality of poverty in Nigeria is clearly highlighted in a film documentary conducted by Rev. Fr. Chinedu
Nwadike C.S.Sp in his mission experience in Odomomoh. It is experience many people of Nigeria live with.

190

work in collaboration with every other human institution to achieve the total good of
mankind. But, when politics lacks however its basic quality of providing for the social
goods and services it becomes repressive and oppressive. In this circumstance politics
becomes painful and less helpful for the society. The human beings begin to fight for
liberation and revolution which if not properly handled leads to a sudden return to the
nature of lawlessness as argued by the philosopher Thomas Hobbs (1588-1679). The
immediate effect of the return is that mans activity becomes more a threat onto his
fellow human beings. The word politics has its origin from the Greek terms polis which
means city state and techne meaning skill or art. Politics deals with the art or skill of
ruling a state. According to Okere, politics is the work, the effort, the struggle to achieve
the common good of the individuals who have formed the polis. 606 Though an abstract
concept, politics is practised today throughout the world. Thus, anytime the issue of
politics is raised, the idea of government comes into focus. Although, there are many
theories of state from both political philosophers and theologians. Interestingly, both
theories assert that the role of government is the provision of common good and
services. The state exists to support individuals realize that which they cannot either
alone or as a group achieve. Hence, the dawn of politics to asure good policy-making,
leaders with good vision, workable organization, good governance, security and other
good projects the state can embark for the welbeing of the citizens. In political context
therefore, we deal with issues like political ideology, public opinion and national
character. Hence, politics is one of the means through which individuals and groups
participate in the realization of the common good and services to effect change in their
society.
When it comes with politics in the nation Nigeria questions are asked. One of such
questions is: what is wrong with the nation Nigeria? The story of politics in Nigeria has
been an unfortunate one. Nigeria became a political nation as far back as 1914 through
the unification of the then protectorates mainly, the Northern and Southern, and the
colony of Lagos under the leadershp of Lord Lugard as the Governor-General.
However, the country gained her political independence on 1 st October 1960.607
Beginning from the moment of her independent till date Nigeria has experienced
different political regimes: military and civilian, each with its problems and gains.
Immediatelly after her independence the first Republic followed from 1960-1966. From
1966-1979 the nation Nigeria witnessed her first ever Military regim. This ushers in the
second Republic from 1979-1983. The Military took over power the second time. But
between 1983-1999 the nation had her third Republic. In the year 1999 Nigeria
605

Dike Victor, Leadership, Politics, and Social change: Nigeria and the Struggle for Survival
http://www.africaeconomicanalysis.org/articles/20/1/leadership-politics-and-social-change-Nigeria-and-the-strugglefor-survival/pagel.html. Visited on 17.2.2012.
606

Okere, T., The Pointer, Vol.V111, No. 1, December, 1997/98, p. 20. cf, also, Paul, O. Azuakor and Thaddeus
Onumaegbu, Politics in the Third Millennium, in: Enwisdomization Journal: Human Transition from Primitivity
to the Third Millennium (The Impact of Culture, Christianity and Science/Computer on Man, Vol. 1, No. 2,
Owerri, 2000, p. 92.

607

See also, Leonard, Lemchukwu, The Pastoral Responsibility of the Catholic Church for Justice and Peace in
Igboland Nigeria, Germany, LIT Verlag Fresnostr. 2, D-48159 Mnster, 2015, p. 50.

191

witnessed the dawn of the fourth Republic, 608 and that is where we are till present.The
military often came to power through coups and counter coups, and over throw
democratically elected political leaders. They see themselves as political messiais to
redemdy the social situations of the nation. Unfortunatelly, this regime turned out to be
worse thing that ever happened in the entire history of Nigeria's socio-political
existence. The rule of law was never followed, utter disregard for human rights and
freedom, corruption, crime and poverty, social development and so on were sacrificed at
the altar of dictectorship.
Presently, the nation Nigeria practicses democracy as her political ideology. This
political ideology encourages the policy of rule of law and separation of powers. It is a
government of the people, for the people and by the people. Simply put, it is a
government system where all are equal before the law of the land. Election in this
system of government is expected to be free and fair, and respect of the choice of the
people. The revice is the case as the political leaders are often selected and aclaimed
winners through rigging of the people's votes. With this one can argue that politics in
Nigeria is the opposite of what democracy should be. There are factors responsibile in
destroying politics in Nigeria. The factors include: godfatherism, tribalism, ethnicity and
sectionalism. These fall with the analytical link between political violence manifested in
Nigeria's politics. Political godfatherism, election manipulation, tribalism, ethnicity and
sectionalism are both negative symptoms that permeate political process in Nigeria. It is
evident that not all candidates aspiring for one political office or the other have the
sufficient funds to compete in the countrys corrupt and violent political system.
Consequent to this financial inability, candidates are often sponsored by wealthy and
powerful individuals known as political godfathers. Those elected under the mighty
financial and connection supports of the so-called political godfathers owe unflinching
loyalty to those who helped them occupy their exalted political positions. One is
deceived in thinking that what the political godfathers do is just to help the candidates.
That is an illusive idea. Rather, it is a lucrative investment to be paid with huge interest
of money. The political leaders in Nigeria incur huge debt they endlessly keep servcing
throughout their tenure in office.The godfathers took these candidates to swear in
different shrines and initiate them in the ocultic groups they belong. Failure to bring the
return as agreed on percentage attracts spiritual and physical attacks of various degree.
This phenomenon has become an instrument of mobilizing political violence that
characterizes the present political space since May 1999 in Nigeria.
The political autmosphare in Nigeria is often characterized with bloody coup and
counter coups, killings of opposition members, use of unemployed youths to intemidate
opponents and the masses, series of clash between opposition parties during
electioneering champaings that have caused the life of many Nigerians. Politics is no
longer seen as a game. It is a do or die business, with I and my party must win
mentality. Because of this, people do everything humanly possible and beyond to
occupy the position. The reason is not far, as it is obvious that politics is one of the
608

Anyanwu, S. O., Christian Ethics of Political Life in African Context, Okigwe, Whythem Prints Nigeria, 2006,
p. 49.

192

fastest means to fame and unquetionable riches. This is what the past military leaders
of the nation left for Nigeria and Nigerians. So, people are doing everything to be there
not for the love they have for the nation and her citizenry, but for their own selfish desire
to enrich themselves alone and impoverish the masses. So, politics in Nigeria could be
best described as a story of dictatorship, misrule and mismanagement that gave birth to
an intractable monster of a cabal culture of powerful elite. The members of this group
cut across tribal, ethnic, professional and religious boundaries. They are being held
together by greed, use of unrestrained power to acquire vast wealth and resources of
the country for themselves alone. The masses are left with no other option than that of
seeking for themselves mean ways of just surviving. In this case their best have always
being that of serving and singing the praises of the same ihuman and insensitive cabal
group whose members have, in typical Nigeria language, made it. 609 We consider
some of other factors that have contributed negatively to corrupting the political situation
in Nigeria.
4.1.2.1 Bad Leadership
For any orgnization, group, institution, association or nation to succeed in whatever
objectives or goals it sets out to achieve, calls for good leadership. This affects to a
large extent the success or failure of the nation in question. Responding to the question
of what is the problem with Nigeria, Achebe argues that the trouble with Nigeria is
simply and squarely a failure of leadership. 610 Next question follows, does it then mean
that those who have ascended the political leadership in the nation are not experienced
enough for such position? In its simplest form:
leadership is the ability to inspire, direct, motivate and encourage others
positively to a targeted end. Leadership has to do with organizing and
adequately coordinating the resources of time, relationship, skills,
expertise amd finances to achieve a goal for the common good of all. 611
The above definition and illustrations show that Leaders in general are those entrusted
with the capacity to harness both the human and material resources in the society to
achieve great and positive results. This has to do with decision making and getting right
people to pursue the set out objectives. Leadership implies also leaders doing it with the
people. Thus, good leadership goes beyond mere control to positively influence the
activities of the others. If properly understood, then, leadership is more of serving by
609

610
611

Chudi, Peter, Akaenyi, The Church and the Evangelization of the Political Culture of Nigeria, in: The Nature
and Identity of the Church: Nigerian Theological Perspectives, edt, by, Valerian, M. Okeke, Nsukka, Fulladu,
Publishing Company, 2001, p. 134.
Achebe, Chinua, The Trouble with Nigeria, Enugu, Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1983, p. 1.
Alamu, A. G., Leadership Qualities needed in the Contemporary Nigerian Society as quoted by Aworom
Annang, The Problem of Leadership and Development in Nigeria: Religious Lessons from the Old Testament as
a Panacea in: African Journal of Culture, Philosophy and Society in www.aworomannang.com/new/?
q=content/problem-leadership-and-development-nigeria-religious-lessons-old-testament-panacea. Visited on
08.01.2016.

193

examples than dictating and controlling. Therefore, leadership means ability to lead, to
show the way, conduct, guide and direct the course of others by going before or along
with them.612 This is expected of the political leaders in Nigeria and else where in the
world. Effective leadership needs team-work spirit, coorparation and collaboration to link
and harness the work of the different sections for integral development of the nation.The
political leaders are entrusted with the power and authority of the nation not to destroy,
but to build, develop and see that citizens have access to justice, security, equality and
respect due to his or her right. On this background, polotical leaders in any sociopolitical system are the souls and eyes of those who elected them into the political
offices. They are the magic bullets to make good things happen in the society. But in
Nigeria they are not. This is obvious in the way they go about with the affirs from the
local, state and at the national level that is all about their pockets and those of the cabal
elite and godfathers. In reality, the votes of the masses do not count for their being
political posts, rather, the party leaders in collaboration with the political cabals and
godfathers imposed majority of the political leaders in Nigeria on the citizens. But where
the votes of the masses count, they elected will that in trust they are to plan, execute,
and mobilize both the human and natural resources to the general wellbeing of the
people. It must be emphasis that these leaders are choosen and elected to help
societies to understand the problems, aid in setting of goals and priorities, work with
others in finding paths to those goals chosen, maintain public moral, motivation and
nurturing a workable level of public unity. 613
The issue of bad leadership and what it has caused Nigeria is obvious. Even the past
and current political leaders are aware of it. According to the former president, Olusegun
Obasanjo, selfish leaders have hindered the growth and progress of the country. 614
There is no doubt that his statement would not generate reaction in the nation and if
possible beyond. This is because, he is one of the selfish leaders the nation Nigeria has
ever produced. He ruled as military for four years. From prison God gave him a second
chance to be the first civilian in the fouth Republic 1999. As civilian president he ruled
Nigeria for eight years. During his regime a wooping amount of 16 billion US dollars was
claimed to have been spent on power projects, yet, the nation still suffers lack of steady
power supply. As a matter of breakdown: since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999,
the countrys leadership has spent $29.63 billion on power with little progress to show
for it. Jonathan's administration spent $8.26 billion on the sector. YarAdua who died in
2010 spent $5.375 billion. Their predecessor Obasanjo spent $16 billion, Vanguard
612

Iwuchukwu, R.C., A Comparative Analysis of Gideon's Leadership and Contemporary Nigerian Leaders in
National Development by Aworom Annang, The Problem of Leadership and Development in Nigeria:
Religious Lessons from the Old Testament as a Panacea in: African Journal of Culture, Philosophy and Society
in www.aworomannang.com/new/?q=content/problem-leadership-and-development-nigeria-religious-lessonsold-testament-panacea. Visited on 08.01.2016.

613

Victor, Dike, Leadership, politics, and social change: Nigeria and the struggle for survival.
http://www.africaeconomicanalysis.org/articles/20/1/leadership-politics-and-social-change-Nigeria-and-the-strugglefor-survival/pagel.html. Visited on 17. 2. 2012. cf. also, Gardner John. W. Morale, W.W Norton and company, New,
York, 1978, pp. 135ff.
614

Daud, Olatunji, How selfish leaders hinder Nigeria's growth. In Vanguard Newspaper, January 9, 2016. see
also, Samuel, Awoyinfa, Selfish leaders hinder nation's growth. In Punch Newspaper, January 9, 2016.

194

Newspapers reported.615 Where has this billions of dollars gone. This is a typical aspect
of the many examples of the manifestation of bad leadership in Nigeria. It is regrettable
that the calibar of political leaders who can transform the nation have eluded the country
Nigeria. Thus, we can say that right from her independence to this present time, the
nation has not been blessed with good leaders. Unlike the founding fathers like Sir
Abubaka Tafawa Belewa, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo who were
leaders of vision and courage than the present leaders.
Lack of leaders with vision, inspiration and selfless service has led the nation to other
serious social problems like wide spread of hunger and poverty, unemployment,
violence, increase in crimes, 419, bribery and corruption, devastation, improverishment
etc. What Nigeria as a nation has suffered for years and is still suffering is the problem
of poor leadership. The issue of bad leadership in Nigeria is obvious, that even the past
and current political leaders are aware of it. A close investigation into Nigerian politics
from 1960 up to this moment testifies to this. From the military regimes to democratic
period the nation Nigeria has witnessed series of leaders from local to the national
levels who lack political enlightenment, dynamism, transparent honesty and charisma.
Leaders who have refused to break ethnic barriers, selfishness, corruption and
incomprehensible ideologies.616 This will continue if nothing is properly done to stamp
out bad leadership in the nation. However, it is quite obvious that poor leadership in the
present day Nigeria is not just a matter of social and political problem. It is a religious
and moral one too. It is unfortunate that corrupt practices have permeated the depth
and breath of the socio-political structure of Nigeria. Hence, the problem in our sociopolitical system has link to corruption.
4.1.2.2 Bribery and Corruption
It is a clear fact that bribery and corruption have done more harm than good in Nigeria.
The practise of corruption and bribery are fact every Nigerian man and women are
aware that they go on in the nation. Bribe and corrupt practices have become part of
existence for most of the people in the nation. Thus, for such Nigerians one is to bribe
his or her way through. Having observed the rate of bribery in Nigeria, Cardinal Arize
says:
The way to get appointments and promotions, the way to pass interviews
and win tenders for a government or organization building or provision of
contract, the way to get proper attention in hospitals and even justice in courts,
the way to avoid paying custom duties and dodge income tax..., in short the
way to get on in our society is to give bribe.617
615

Morgan, Winsor, Nigerian Senate to probe Goodluck Jonathan, Previous Administrations for Mismanaged
Funds in Power Sector. In International Business Times, January 09, 2016, www.ibtimes.com/nigerian-senateprobe-goodluck-jonathan-previous-administrations-mismanaged-funds-2053823. Visited on 09.01.2016.

616

Leonard, Lemchukwu, op. cit., p. 43.

617

Arinze, F. A., More Justice to the Poor, Lenten Pastoral, Onitsha, Tabansi Press, 1972, p. 12

195

This goes on in both lower and higher offices in the nation in different ways. The honest
ones in most cases are seen as fools because, they do not know and speak the
language of the game. The managers in offices see it as an opportunity to get richer.
The junior workers in such offices are not free from bribery either they have been
informed of this and one is sort them for easy access to the chief. Thus, some work in
collaboration with the managers. Even in the field of employment, majority of those who
seek for jobs bribe their way through. For some who want to pass either examinations
or interviews bribery is the shortest way to achieve this either in cash or in kind. It is
evidence that corruption though an abstract term, has become a practical reality in
human society. Among those entrusted with the security of human life and property in
the nation it is even worse. The rate at which bribery goes on in government
establishments makes one to ask if these people are been payed at all for the services
they render for the nation or not. In order to win contract one has to bribe the person at
the top,618 if not, consider the contract dead. In most cases, people are given contract
not based on merit, but on how fast and long one's hands and legs can go through
bribery.
The same is with corruption. In a bid to x-ray the genesis of corruption in the sociopolitical situation in Nigeria, Odey goes back to the early stage of the national
independence and presentes us with different reigns of the past political leaders that
turned Nigeria the most corrupt nation in the world. 619 In two successive years, 1996
and 1997 the nation Nigeria ranked first as one of the most corrupt countries in the
world, and second behind Carmeroon in 1999. 620 According to the Transperency
Internation Survey (T.I.S) conducted in various years show the stand of Nigeria in the
corrupt lists. For instances: in 1998, Nigeria was 5 th,1st in 2001 and 2nd in 2003
respectively. In 2004 survey carried out among 146 nations in the world Nigeria was
third and 11th in 2006 out of the fifty selected nations of the world. 621 Most of the past
political leaders and those in the corporate establishments of loot the nations coffer and
go free. Corrupt practice have eaten deep in the political and corporate life, too deep
and too wide. And this corruption in high and low places has almost become part and
parcel of her culture and way of life. 622 A local media outlet in Nigeria one time said
that, keeping an average Nigeria from being corrupt is like keeping a goat from eating a
yam. corruption in Nigeria has reached a fatal stage. 623 In his maiden speech as the
618

Okochi, A. U., Religion Bias in Nigerian Politics in: Toch Magazine, No. 94, 1990.

619

Odey, John, Okwoeze, The Anti-Corruption Crusade, The Saga of a Crippled Giant, Snaap Press Ltd., Enugu,
2001, pp. 8-9.
620

Pointer Magazine News, Vol. 02, No. 358, January 29, 1997.

621

Samson Adesote and John Ojo Abimbola, Corruption and National Development in Nigeria's Fourth Republic: A
Historical Discourse: Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, Vol. 14, No. 7, Clarion, Pennsyluania, 2012,
p. 92. see also, https://africacheck.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/corruprion%2520and%2520National
%2520Development.Adesote%2520Samson/.pdf. Visited on 04.01.2016.

622
623

Udoekpo, Michael, Corruption in Nigeria. The Liberation Mission of the Church, Enugu, 1994, p.9.
The Weekly Star Newspaper, May 15, 1983.

196

head of the state, General Buharia identified that:


corruption and indiscipline have been associated with our state of underdevelopment, these two evils in our body politic have attained unprecedented
height in the past few years. The corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership in the
last four years has been the source of immorality and impropriety in our society.
Since what happens in any society is largely a reflection of the leadership of that
society, we deplore corruption in all its facets. The government will not tolerate kickbacks, inflation of contracts and over-invoicing of imports etc. Nor will it condone
forgery, fraud, embezzlement, misuse and abuse of office and illegal dealings in
foreign exchange and smuggling. 624
It is evidence that corruption in Nigeria thrives more within the circle of those with power
and authority. Apart from the different manifestations of corruption as outlined above,
there are other ways it shows itself as: diversion of public fund, misappropriation, and
mismanagement of fund, theft from the national money, extortation, misuse of power
and authority, lack of transparency and accountability, denial of justice, examination
malpractices and so on. In his birthday anniversary speech Okezie compared what it
means to serve the nation in the past and what is obtainable in the present dispensation
in Nigeria. For him, those who served the nation in the past were poor. But presently,
the revice is the case. Serving the nation open avenues for enomous wealth and in
some cases the people serving become richer than the nation itself. 625 Many of the
Nigerian politicians and those working in the corporate establishments do not thinking
for the general progress of the nation. They are concerned for their personal interest.
An important fact about corruption and bribrey is that, nobody corrupts or bribes himself
or herself. This takes place between group of people who end up corrupting the system
for their benefits. When the system is corrupted, things begin to go wrong and those at
the lower margin of the nation feel the negative effect. Therefore, corruption means:
an abuse of position of trust in order to gain an undue advantage.
This involves the conduct of both sides: that of the person who
abuses his position of trust as well as that of the person who seeks
to gain an undue advantage by this abuse. It can occur in relation to
officials as well as between private persons. It is particularly prevalent
in certain kinds of transactions ... in certain economic sectors
corrupt practices can range from small favours in anticipation of a future
advantage to the payment of large sums of money to senior members
of governments.626
624

General Buhari's Maiden Speech- January1, 1984, in: www.nairaland.com/859122/buhari-nigerias-head-state1983-1985. Visited on 04.01.2016.

625

Okezie, J.O.J., 70th Birthday Anniversary Speach, Novermber 26, 1994.

626

What is corruption http://www.seco.admin.ch/themen/00645/00657/00659/01387/index.html?lang=en. Visited


on 15.2.2012.

197

It is evident that corruption though an abstract term, has become a practical reality in
human society. Speaking of the nature and effects of corruption on Nigerians, John
Odey said:
Corruption has become a structural sin so contagious that it hardly
leaves anybody without a smear. the guilty and the innocent have
been paying costly to it. Nigerians are generally feared like mad dogs,
dreaded like criminals, approached like dangerous snakes and avoided
like lepers.627
The citizens are stigmatized, traumatized and discriminated against due to corrupt
activities of their leaders and some greedy individual citizens. The issue of corruption is
overall. As it exists in the socio-political sector, it rears its head in the socio-cultural,
socio-economic and religious sectors in Nigeria. It is also found in the churchs politics
when it comes to election into one post or the other. During this period, the one house is
divided against itself and the language changes from we to our own and so forth. In
most cases there has been serious outbreak of quarrel and fight which results that
some stopped or left the church to join any other Christian denominations. The election
of one into an office is no longer an issue of merit. Thus, should tribe, or community, or
group one comes from be considered first, or the credibility of the person(s)? What
should count first, the capability, potential or where one comes from? Bribery and
corruption are twin evils that have caused Nigeria so much with regard to her reputation
as a nation, threaten the freedom and security of the people. The two are heavy clogg in
the wheel of development and progress in the socio-economic, socio-political, religious
and socio-cultural sectors of the nation internally and externally. Internally, bribrey and
corruption cripple any given government and make its policies inefficient. The effects of
bribrey and corruption therefore, circumvents the smooth running of democrarcy in the
nation. Externally, fear of both prevents foreign investors to engage in any meaningful
and lasting business establishments in the nation. Corruption and bribrey in no small
measure contribute to the problem of poverty and keep huge population of the youth
under the claws of unemployment. In order to attain the desired change in the nation,
the effectiveness of her social justice is indispensible.
4.1.2.3 Social Justice

The meaning and understanding of the concept Justice in English is the same with its
Latin term Justitia and German word Gerechtigkeit. The word social justice has divers
meanings and complex theories. Generally, social justice deals with equality and equal
chance in the society. According to John Rawls, social Justice is about assuring the
protection of equal access to liberties, rights and opportunities, as well as taking care of
the least advantaged members of the society. It promotes equality of access to civil
liberties, as well as rights, opportunities for healthy and fulfilling lives, as well as whether
it allocates a fair share of benefits to the least advantaged members of the society. The
theories culminate to one idea of trying to give everyone what is his or her due. In order
words, justice means giving each one what he or she rightly deserves. Speaking of
627

Odey, John, Okwoeze, op. cit., 2001, p. 42.

198

social justice implies the existence of its opposite, injustice. The presence of the latter
leads to lack of peace understands as one of the fruits of justice in the world. Injustice
therefore truncates the growth of any given human community. It breeds discrimination
among the various groups of human beings. When people could not endure any longer
its lack leads to revolution and some times to war. The upholding of the principle of
justice thus, is of great value in any given human society or organizations. Because of
the value of it in human society, Augustine of Hippo accentuates that, without justice
states become nothing but a band of robbers. 628
In Nigeria there are words used to designate Justice. The Igbos of Nigeria speak of
Justice in a more concrete form, the Ofo and Ogu are religious symbols for Justice and
fairness.629 However, for one to come to the knowledge and understanding of justice by
the Igbo people of Nigeria, he or she has to pay attention to their daily conversations in
proverbs and prayers such as: Nke ony diri ya! (Let every man's due be given to him)
Onye iro m diri ma m diri! (May my enemy live but may I live too) Ya bara onye bara
onye! ( Let the good things of this world reach all) Onye anwuna m' ibe ya efula! ( May
co-existance be realized by all) Ogburu onye n' onye g' ala! (He who kills another must
be killed) Ome nma na nma zukwara! (May the just man be rewarded with good); Ome
njo na njo zukwara! (May the doers of evil be punished with evil) Egbe bere, Ugo bere!
(Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch); Nke si ibe ya ebela nke kwaa ya! (if one
refuses the other the right to perch let his wing break) ehaa! (Amen).630 In the worldview of the Nigeria people as demonstrated in the above prayers and proverbs, justice
is intimately connected with fairness. It teaches and insists that one is to get only what
is he or she right, respect for people's right and belongings. From the above also, we
deduce the people's idea of social justice, principles of retribution, impartiality and so
on. When justice becomes non functional in any society things automatically go wrong,
and other social vices increase in the nation.
The high rate of corruption and bribery in the nation is as a result of breakdown of social
justice. Maintaining that justice is to give one what he or she deserves exposes us to a
very serious question. How can we determine what one deserves or want? What criteria
are at our disposal to actually and accurately determine the exert quantity of thing that is
due to this or that person? Is it an act of justice to see one with something that will
expose him or her to danger and left him or her with such? These bring us to ask, what
do people really deserve? Firstly, people are to love and honor God. Secondly, they
deserved to be loved, experience peace, be respected, treated like human beings and
live in harmony with one another.They deserve to have jobs, security and other
necessities of life in order to live good quality life through the availability of the basic
common goods and services. These are what Nigerians desire from their nation. The
provision of social amenities should be the primary obligation of the government.
Availability and access to these social amenities are inallienable right of the citizens.
Effective social justice brings positive change and leads to new vision. Principle of
628

Augustine City of God, 1v, iv

629
630

Cf Leonard Lemchukwu, op. cit., p. 111.


Ike, F. Obiora, op. cit., p. 16.

199

social justice when properly implemented, transforms the old existing human socioeconomic, socio-cultural socio-political and religious structures that directly or indirectly
militate against the actualization of human potentials. Again, if the social justice system
of Nigeria becomes properly applied the wind of process that liberates and leads to
development, growth and well-being of Nigerians will be asured. The group mostly
victimized in the socio-cultural context in Nigeria are women, orphan and the poor.
It is observed that most of the affluent people appropriate what belong to the poor ones
and get away with it. The law exist for the poor while the rich are above the law. They
are the people who have access to justice. The implication is that, the poor are always
repremainded even on offenses they never committted. And those who are highly
placed in the society move freely even when it is obvious that they have committed
serious offenses. Action of this nature is not in any way just. It is rather negation of
justice. Many innocent ones languish in prisons without their case been treated. Even
when some of such cases are tried, the rich always win. Those who are in possession
of power (the political leaders in Nigeria) are seen and considered as the untouchables.
Majority of them loot public funds at the expense and detriment of the national wellbeing
without questions and interrogation by the law of the land. Even when an investigating
panel is set, like the EFCC, ICPC nobody hear anything about the penalty given to the
victims. They buy their way out. These are clear signs of ineffectiveness of justice in the
nation. To attain the desired change in the nation, effectiveness of her social justice is
indispensible; as development, peace, democracy, equality and equity, love and unity
can never in anyway be actualized on a corrupt foundation of injustice. Thus, where this
is found ineffective citizens become engrossed with bottled neck anger. This leads to
corrosive social violence in the various quarters of the nation, and things begin to fall
apart.
4.1.2.4 Social Violence
Violence is a social phenomenon which occurrs in human society of the world at various
levels that varies in frequency and intensity. Violent occurr in the family. There are also
political violence when the led struggle to liberate themselves from the oppression of the
political leaders, that often leads to revolution or war. However, for an action to be
violent implies that there are victim or group of victims. Nigeria is a nation one cannot
predict. It is a nation where violent activities in the family, cultures, society in general etc
go on. Statistically, from January 1998 to December 2014 record has it that about 32,
943 died from different forms of social violence in the nation Nigeria. Beginning from the
year 1998-2008 history has it that most social violence in the nation took place in the
central, southwestern and northwestern states. While from 2009-2014 most violence
occurred in the northeast region of Nigeria. This is the region dominated increasingly by
the boko haram. In its percentage by region we have: Northeast, 14%, Northwest, 18%,
Northcentral we have 27%. In the south-south is 22%, southeast, 6% and southwest,
13%. However, from 2009-2014 the percentage is as follows: southwest, 1%, southeast,

200

1%, south-south, 5%, northcentral 17%, northwest 12% and northeast 64%. 631
At one time arose this social problem in different quarters in Nigeria. There are factors
responsible for this ugly social situation such as political rivalry between different
political parties especially during electionary period. Communal clashes as result of
disput over portion of land or boundary issue have contributed to social violence. The
militancy in Niger Delta and boko haram in the north. There is also violence that arise as
result of clash between Hausa/Fulani farmers who go about destroying the farms of
their host communities in the midle belt region of Nigeria and other places in the east,
west and south. The most obvious in all these are the Niger Delta militancy and recent
Boko Haram violences in the nation. Niger Delta is known as the home of oil and gas
production in Nigeria accounting for about 80% of total Government Revenue, 95% of
Foregin Exchange and over 80% of National wealth. 632 The so much news in the
nation, continental and international about Nigerian crude oil deposite is found in Niger
Delta. This area covers: Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta. There is tendency that other areas
as Edo and Ondo States are classified as belonging to the Niger Delta area because oil
is discovered in these areas. But in its actual sense they do not belong to this region by
location. Instead of the Niger Delta region to witness the effect of the abundant wealth it
is blessed with, the opposite is the case. Thus, the blessing (oil) in this region has
become a great source of night mare and curse to the people. 633
It is as the result of not getting due dividend accrue from oil by the peope that gave birth
to different militant group activities that cause tension between the people and the
631

Cf, www.connectsaisafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Nigeria-social-violence-project-summary_v126.pdf.
Visited on 22.12.2015. the information represented here is from the research based at the African Studies
Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Internationa Studies (SAIS).

632

Fidelis, A.E. Paki and Kimiebi Imomotimi Ebienfa: Militant Oil Agitations in Nigeria's Niger Delta and the
Economy, in: International Journal of Humanisties and Socia Science, Vo. 1, No. 5; May 2011 :
www.ijhssnet.com/journals/vol._1_No._5;May_2011/17.pdf. Visited on 18.12.2015. see also, Tell, 50 years of
Oil in Nigeria, February 18, 2008, p. 33.

633

That the discovering of oil and gas in this region has become source of curse or night mare to the people is a fact.
The exploration and drilling of oil and gas exposed the Niger Deltans to serious, ecological, socio-economical
situations that lead to abject poverty, backwardness in development and misrey. With the activities of the militant
groups, the people are denied of peaceful life experience and justice. The people live in fear of the militants. The
work of the drilling companies leads to dispacement of people from one area to another. There is also, the problem
of environmental destruction that add to the hard situation of Life the people experiences. This is obvious through
oil spillage that renders both farmlands, fishponds and rivers in turn worsen the socio-economic life of the people
who live on agricultural production. The ecosystem (vegetation, water, land, air, human beings, trees a,d animals) in
this area is affected. The clearing of the vegetations and forests exposes the area to the fear of deforestation. There is
a great act of exploitation of the area by the foregin companies to enrich their own cuntries of origin in the western
world. There is corruption from both sides, the foregin companies, Nigerian government and the forum of elders of
the Niger Delta who go between their people, government and the companies. The breakdown of social justice in the
nation does not help situation either. Hence, there is a total failure in issue of corporate social responsibility that
encourages injustice, corruption and violation of human right and dignity. cf. The followings: Okonta, I., Nigeria:
Chronic of Dying State; Current History May 2005. Inokoba, P., and Imbua, D., Vexation and Militancy in the Niger
Delta; Conference Proceeding, Internationa Conference on the Nigerian State, Oil and the Niger Delta, Niger Delta
University, Wilberforce Island, 2008, pp. 11-13, 647. see again, Okonta, I., and Oronto, D., Where Ventures Feast,
Fourty Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, Ibadan, Kraft Books Limited, 2001, p. 108.

201

companies.They people longed for justice from the government of the nation and the
foregin companies that engage in the exploration and drilling of oil and gas in their
place. Since this was not forth coming the youths resort to vandalization of oil pipelines
known also as bunkering in the area. This gave rise to militancy a manifestation of
social violence in the nation. The first of this militancy groups is known as the Movement
for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend). 634 The name signifies what the group
and others are out to achieve. As this goes on, the militants engage in other aspects of
social violence of kidnapping foregin workers and request for huge sum of money
before they can set their victims free. In the south-eastern Nigeria the people face a
social problem of massive kidnapping and killings. 635 There are lots of social mess of
kidnapping in the nation. Both the rich, poor, priests, pastors, religious men and women
have become victims. Just of recent a ten armed gunmen stormed a church and
kidnapped the pastor right in the middle of Sunday service in Kabba junction in Lokoja.
Many were injured as they struggled to escape the vicinity for their life. The abducters
request for the sum of 50 million naira before the pastor could be released. 636
Presently, the nation is experiencing the insugent of Boko Haram movement. Boko
Haram is a radical Islamist movement. The phrase Boko Haram is understood as a
nickname in Hausa Language. But in Arabic it means Jamaatu Ahlis Sunna Lidda awati
Wal-Jihad. The people propagate the prophets teaching and Jihad. Its second meaning
stems from a loose context. In this context it means, western education is forbidden. 637
The movement in the past and present period holds strong aversion against werstern
culture, western education and modern science. One of the major problems with this
group is the propaganda against education. It is obvious that education considered as
one of the major means to development and growth of the human persons and the
society is greatly discouraged by them. The question becomes, how is the rejection of
modernity and education in this contemporary world by some group of people possible?
634

There are many of such militant groups in Niger Delta such as: Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF)
is one of the largest of the other groups founded in 2004. the leader of this group is the well known Alhaji Mujahid
Asari-Dokubo shortly called Asari. This group is made of more Ijaw people. Ijaw is one of the largest ethnic group
of Niger Delta. There is another one called Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) created in the year 2003 in Port harcourt.
The Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF) came to birth in the year 2005 and was led by John Toge who was
believed to have been killed during bomb strick by the Nigerian Air Force. Thus, within the region there are many
militant group in purseue of liberation of the people from the unjust socio-economic condition they found themseves
which is a prevailing fact in the area that leads to agitations. cf. http://www.ibtimes.cu.uk/nigerias-oil-war-who-areniger-delta-militants-1520580. Visited on 18.12.2015.
635

This has become a serious social problem. People in this part of the nation live in fear. The youths who have no
job found kidnapping of their fellow human beings as one of the lucrative means of making money. At the beginning
it was the rich people especially politicians that suffers it. However, politicians use them to get-out-of-way
opponents. This has gotten-out-of-hand as both poor, rich, old and young people are being kidnapped. The
perpetrators require huge amount of money from the families of their victims. Even priests, religious men and
women, pastors have fallen victims to this ugly social problem. Another sign of kidnapping that goes on in the
nation is for ritual sacrifices. These work in connection with the rituaists operating in the nation.
636

Gbenga, Odogun, Gunmen Kidnap Redeem Pastor during service, in: Punch January 19, 2016.

637

cf. Bavier, Joe, who are the Boko Haram and why are they terrorizing Nigerian Christians
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archiv. Visited on 16. 5.2012.

202

The possibility is far reached because; the guns, what they wear and the information
gadgets at their disposals are products of modernity from science and technology
through education. Hence, the ability to execute their plan and achieve their target
depend to a great percentage on what education and modernity has bequeathed
humanity.
There are different information about the history of origin of Boko Haram. One of such
historical theories dates the origin as far back as the era of the colonial period. While
another holds the opinion that it is of recent times of 2000s. 638 From the different
sources of origin it is clear that the movement started in Nigeria and both affirm that its
mission is to lunch attack against western ways of life which include education, science,
democracy, modernity etc. The group has link to its equivalent groups spread in the
continent. Speaking on this, the head of the U.S militarys Africa command in August
2011 holds that Boko Haram has link with Algeria-based Al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb. In November 2011, the U.S House of Representatives Subcommittee on
Counter terrorism and Intelligence maintains that Boko Haram has link to Somalias Alshababa.639 However, there are claims by inside source, that the group is also
sponsored from within.640 It is seen as a reaction to the change and shift of power from
the Muslims to the Christians. Recent activities of this group in northern Nigeria have
shown that the Boko Harams target is not only on the members of the Christian religion.
It has also some political undertone to destabilize the socio-economic activities in the
nation
The feature of the group is unique. It combines sectarian and radical Islamic agenda
with violence. The movement historically has caused the nation the lost of her citizens
and destruction of properties. In 1982 in Bulumkutu 3,300 persons lost their life.
Gongola state in 1984 witnessed such attack and about 1,000 human beings were
killed. A year later Bauchi state was attacked. The recent menaces of this group
638

At its earlier stage it was led by Mohammed Marwa born in 1927. On turning eighteenth year he moved to Kano
where he was known as Maitatsine, meaning, the one who damns. He sees reading other books outside the Koran as
something sinful and a sign of paganism. He became an extreme Muslem preacher. He was against western cuture
and wanted to stop its spread in Nigeria. One of the arguments against the political leaders of the then period was its
inability to pay attention to this man and what he was doing. However, in late 1970s it received its first ever reaction
from the government to creack it down. The effect of the crackdown led to an uprising in 1980 against the
government.Despite the fact that he is dead, the movement lives on. cf. www.nationalinterest.org/feature/theorigins-boko-haram-10609. Visited on 20.10.2015. Another theory has it that the movement was founded in
2002 in Maiduguri under the leadership of Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf. In 2004 it spreads to Kanamma in Yobe State
where it has a base called Afghanistan. There in Yobe State the Boko haram group lunched attack on the police
station that led to the killing of police officers. The leader and the members were hostile to democracy and secular
education
system.
cf.
Www.naijagists.com/how-boko-haram-started-sponsors-history-of-thejamaatul-ahlus-sunna-lid-daawahs-jihad/. Visited on. 19.12.2015.
639

Bavaier Joe,Who are the Boko Haram and why are they terrorizing Nigerian Christians
cf.http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archiv. Visited on 16.5.2012.

640

One of such inside sources holds that the, ... northern elite under the pretext of sponsoring youngsters to study
in the Middle East, sent them to terrorist training camps. It maintains that top government officials are the
sponsor of Boko Haram in Nigeria. cf. Www.naijagists.com/how-boko-haram-started-sponsors-history-of-thejamaatul-ahlus-sunna-lid-daawahs-jihad/. Visited on. 19.12.2015.

203

includes: killing, kidnapping of innocent people especially girls that serve them as
cooks, sex slaves, who are forcefully converted to Islamic religion.This is the case with
the over two hundred kidnapped young school girls of Chibok in Borno state in
northeastern Nigeria in April 2014. They engage also in series of bombing attacks of
cities, markets, public view square during 2014 world cup, christian churches,
government structures in northern nation. Imparetively, something that have never
heard off in the nation has through boko haram activities come to stay, the culture of
suicide bombing. We can say therefore, that boko haram activity in the nation is a
hydraheaded type. This means that it has both political and religious undertone. This
leads the nation into untold hardship and prolonged underdevelopment thereby adding
to already existing socio-economic problem in Nigeria. In recent times its mayhem,
extends to Nigeria's neighbouring nations like Carmaroon, Chad, etc.
The religious and socio-economic activities in the nation are exposed to danger as there
is no assured security. Families are either displaced or rendered homeless. People
suffer lost of jobs and source of livelihood, thus, adding to the number of the
unemployed. Thousands of children are affected and become unexpectedly orphans.
This expose the people to more hardship of poverty. In fact, the people of Nigeria live in
fear and not knowing what will happen or whom the victims of these agents of social
violents of militancy, kiddnappers and boko haram will be. Since Christian churches are
part of their taget, Christians in northern Nigeria are affected as it concerns living out
their faith. In such tensed environment of fear and uncertainty some Christians may
decied to stay back home and less active in the church's activities for security sake.
4.1.2.5 Kidnapping Activities in Nigeria

It is clear that kidnapping activies in the nation increases on a daily basis. People no
longer live in peace due to fear of the unknown time the perpetrators of kidnapping may
storm a home, schools, churches or along the roads. They operate in any place and at
any time. Granted that act of kidnapping is a global issue affecting people in the world.
By its name, kidnapping means, abducting people and holding them captive or hostage
to obtain some monetary benefit from the immediate relatives or friends of their victims.
Hence, the social vice of kidnapping has become one of the means to make money.
Thus, people kidnap others to be paid. It is gradually becoming a professional business
in the world. There are factors that lead people into the act of kidnapping. Among these
factors include what we have already discussed under this sub-section of this work like
poverty, corruption and bribery, social violence. To be included is the issue of
unemployment, unnecessary quest for prosperity by all means, illiteracy, greed, jealous
etc. The activities of the militants in Niger Delta and the recent insurgence of Boko
Haram in the north excalated the kidnapping activities in the nation. The militants in
Niger Delta region engage in kidnapping foregin workers and request for huge sum of
money before they can set their victims free. In the south-eastern Nigeria the people
face a massive problem of kidnapping and killings. 641 There are lots of kidnapping in the
641

This has become a serious social problem. People in this part of the nation live in fear. The youths who have no
job found kidnapping of their fellow human beings as one of the lucrative means of making money. At the beginning
it was the rich people especially politicians that suffers it. However, politicians use them to get-out-of-way

204

nation. Both the rich, poor, priests, pastors, religious men and women, children have
become victims. Just of recent a ten armed gunmen stormed a church and kidnapped
the pastor right in the middle of Sunday service in Kabba junction in Lokoja. Many were
injured as they struggled to escape the vicinity for their life. The abducters request for
the sum of 50 million naira before the pastor could be released. 642
The Boko Haram group not only bomb cities, social structures, churches and causes
social violence, they engage also in kidnapping people especially the school children.
One of such evidence is the 276 Chibok school girls they kidnapped in April 14, 2014.
There is another group of kidnappers that exist in the nation. The members of this group
are mainly the ordinary citizens. They turn to kidnapping to make money for survival in
life. These were made kidnappers by some rich men, women and politicians who are
into it as a modern business in the society. They kidnap children, wives, husbands,
parents and relatives of the rich ones in the society and families their relatives are living
abroad. They engage the unemployed youths to perpetrate the crime and go the extent
to protect them even when they are caught. These rich men and women have
connections in both low and high levels in the nation.The state of unemployment in the
world and in Nigeria makes the youths ever available for the act of kidnapping their
fellow human beings. So, since the government is not concerned with their predicament
situation of no job, they create one for themselves in order to make both ends meet.
Politicians do pay political youth thugs against their opponents to intemidate and
instigate fears in the other to step down for him or her. In most serious cases people
have lost their life through the act of political kidnapping. Some are kidnapped for ritual
sacrifices. This is the reason why every now-and-then we hear of missing school
children and adults too.
The negative effects of kidnapping on the kidnapped,the family of the kidnapped and
the society at large is ernemous. On the side of the kidnapped ones they suffer a lot of
psychological trauma and pains as result of shock the experienced at the hands of
those who kidnapped them. The remembrance of the incident is always horrible and
outrageous. The family, relatives and friends are exploited of their financial resources.
As both the life of the kidnapped and their family members are exposed to threat of
death. The unfortunate women who have fallen victims suffer the pains and worse that
of mass rape by the gang kidnappers. There is fear of insecurity by the citizens because
they are not safe. This prevent people from moving around freely, as fear has set in and
lack of trust on fellow human beings. Thus, everyone is afraid of the other person out
there. This gives negative image to the nation. It affects the socio-economic activities as
both national and international business men and women would not like to risk their life
and business in such porous society like Nigeria. Thus, kidnapping has nothing good to
offer, rather it leads to unrest, fear, lack of trust and cannot contribute meaningfully to
the socio-economic development and growth of the nation. It places the perpetrators
opponents. This has gotten-out-of-hand as both poor, rich, old and young people are being kidnapped. The
perpetrators require huge amount of money from the families of their victims. Even priests, religious men and
women, pastors have fallen victims to this ugly social problem. Another sign of kidnapping that goes on in the
nation is for ritual sacrifices. These work in connection with the rituaists operating in the nation.
642

Gbenga, Odogun, Gunmen Kidnap Pastor during service, in: Punch January 19, 2016.

205

and the nation in a negative picture in the continent and the wider world.
4.1.3 The Educational situation
From ab nitio, the human beings of the different societies of the world, have shown
interest in the education of the old and young members of the human cultures and
society. Hence, we cannot deny the obvious awarness that education has become a
very common phenomenon in the world. Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the
world of ours, education takes place anywhere people live together in all parts of the
glob both as traditional and formal. The word educate comes from Latin past participle,
educare meaning to bring-up, to rear and to educate. But the term education was
formulated by adding the suffix, ion to its verb form, educate. This suffix ion, comes from
Latin word ionem forming the noun education.643 Education therefore means the
followings: 1. a process of leading out, 2. an act of rearing and 3. bringing-up human
persons to maturity. As a process education leads one out of the darkness of ignorance
to a knowledge of the self and the environment. In all its form, education is dialogical in
process, between the teacher or educator, and the recipients the pupils or students. In
the context of the family at the early stage of the childs development, this takes place
between the mother and her child. Through this means, the child acquires new skills
and develops the inherent traits in him or her necessary for positive spiritual, social,
cultural, and integral development, growth and character formation in life. All these put
together see to the proper psychosocial development of the individual persons involved
in this process from tender, to youthful and to adult stage in life. Hence, education is a
life-long process in ones existence. One of the major values of education in the life of
every human person is to prepare him or her on how to face, overcome and manage
the challenges that abound in human life. That is, to make the persons masters of their
life. In other words, education makes the educated develop his potentialities and
powers satisfactorily to himself and to the community he lives, with the socially desirable
knowledge, attitudes and skills.644
Thus, education is concerned on how to help people realize the most three basic things
in life, 1. attainment of livelihood, 2. parenthood and 3. selfhood. As a child one is totally
dependent on his or her parent for survival. Parents also take decission for their children
till certain age in life. As the child grows to adult he or she is expected to earn a living,
and become less dependent on the family. As the child moves to the next stage in life
with occupation he or she thinks of establishing a family of his or her own, hence, the
parenthood. What we have said with livelihood and parenthood lends credence to the
third, the actualization of selfhood which implies one having realized his or her
ambitions, aspirations, independence, autonomy 645 and fulfilment. The above
explanations are some of the reasons why education is very crucial in the life of every
643

http://www.seek2know.net/word.html visited on 12.07.2011.

644

Jowitt, Harold, Principles of Education for African Teachers, London, 1958, p. 48.

645

Gerard, A. Bennaars, Ethics, Education and Development: An Introductory Text for Students in Colleges and
Universities, Nairobi, East African Educational Publshers, 1993, p. 42-43.

206

human being. But in Nigeria the situation of education should be a thing of serious
concern for any well meaning citizen of the nation.
Prior to her Independence, education in Nigeria is of two sides. In northern was Quranic
educational system. While in the south one finds the Christian missionary schools.
During this period, education was chiefly under the control of the Christian missionaries.
By this, it means that each Christian missionaries: Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists to
named but a few, personally managed education in the nation; before government
stepped into what seems like the missionaries' business. 646 At first instance, education
in Nigeria was not a planed one, as each missionary group has its own system and
methods. There is no doubt that the standard of eduction then, was high when
compared to what is presently obtainable in the nation. Intrinsically, there is a necessary
link between education, moral and religion that leads to good character formation.
Understanding the value of education in the developing nation and her citizens, the then
British government in Nigeria initiated campaign against illiteracy. Education is and still
remains a must project government of a nation is to pursue to eliminate illiteracy in the
life of the individual and the society. The end product of educational process is the
preparation of the youth for the present and the future to actively and positively
contribute to the common good. Those opportuned to pass through educational process
possess therefore, the essential key to unlock, develop the natural resources and
potentials available in the society. Because of the value of education in the life of the
individual persons and that of the society, every nation of the world invests in this sector
for better tomorrow. In other to achieve this has led to several international and national
declarations on education such as the: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948),
the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights 1966, the African
Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1981 and world Summit of 1990 states that all
children should have access to basic education by the year 2000. 647
The years in the above citation have come and gone. The question still remains how far
has education been made available to all in some parts of the world. In the
understanding of the world, Nigeria is among one of the nations with high rate of
illiterates. Not all have equal access and opportunity to attend school in the nation.
Children and women in the rural areas are more disadvantaged than their counterparts
in the cities. The rural children in some parts of Nigeria have to travel miles and
kilometers to schools. Children who cover such a long distance are exposed to the
danger of kidnap, rape, victims to the ritualist and could be drown by flood during raining
season. In some of these rural places there is no guarantee of security of lives. These
category of people suffer the problem of farness of schools. Majority of the educational
institutions in both rural and urban areas are not well equipped with modern learning
structures and facilities like those of their counterparts in America and Europe. There is
big shortage and lack of necessary learning facilities, infrastructures, inadequecy of
646

647

Amiel, M. Fagbulu, Dr., Nigerian's foremost Educattionist Endorses Aregbesola School Reforms, Enlightens on
History of School Take-Over in Nigeria, cf, https://www.facebook.com/notes/office-of-the-special-adviser-tothe-state-governor-of-osun-on-environment/nigerias-foremost-educationist-endorses-aregbesol. Visited on
14.02.2016
Otive Igbuzor, The State of Education in Nigeria, http://www.dawodu.com/igbuzor14.htm.Visited on 20.4.2012.

207

resources and well trained teachers with the modern learning facilities witnessed at the
various levels: Nursery, Primary, Secondary and University schools in the nation. It is in
Nigeria that one still discovers some areas in this century of modernity where children
study under trees, non-conducive learning environments and dilapidated buildings.
What could be the quality of education one receives under the aforementioned learning
conditions. This is an additional problem as it concerns education in Nigeria and Africa
in general.
Speaking on this Gerard, A. Bennaars observes that Education systems in Africa, from
primary to tertiary level, operate in apparent isolation from technological advances in the
world today, such as the area of communication technologies, of biotechnology, of
computerization.648 The available private schools (missions schools) are exorbitant
when compared with the government schools. This makes it hard for many families to
send their children in such schools. The evidence is clear that the rich individuals and
government officials always go for the best. While the lest oppurtuned ones are left with
no other option than the poor public schools. In recent times there have been efforts by
the government to reduce coast of education. This is to encourage children and adults
to have access to basic education that will enable them to read, to write, to express, and
become prepared for employment to contribute meaningfully in the economic activities
in the families and the society at large. Education understands as a catalyst that leads
nation to a redical socio-economic change, development and expansion is still to be felt
in Nigeria as teeming population of uneducated still abound, and large number of
graduates roam the streets unemployed. Interestingly enough, it seems that education
has failed many of the youths of Nigeria to find their foot in the society in the aspects of
intellectual, moral and functional education in its full meaning.
With the above observations it is clear that the educational situation in Nigeria is not
only in problematic situation. It is besieged and characterized with crisis of poor policy
formulation, bad management, bribery and corruption, greed, examination malpractices,
poor funding from the government (poor budget), mismanagement of the available fund
alocated for the development of the sector, less qualified teachers, low academic
standard, poor curriculum that do not reflect the need of the nation, incessant industrial
action, cultism and lack of discipline on both sides of the teachers, pupils and students,
poor maintenance of the teachers and lack of maintenance culture of the available
structures (the buildings). The aforementioned woes play strong part in the sorry
situation of education in Nigeria of today. However, to some, especially the Christians
the current problem facing education in the nation began the moment government takeover schools from the church. While for another group like Dr. Amiel, M. Fagbulu,
Lawrence O. Obibuaku to mention but a few, other factors as we have above
contributed greatly with regard to the condition of education in Nigeria. However, there
are facts common in both sides which include, qualitative education, high standard in
morals, and mutual cooperation between the church and the government of those early
years existed. Thus, the then government played role in encouraging Christian missions
engaged in educational projects. According to Dr. Amiel M. Fagbulu:
648

Gerard, A. Bennaars, op. cit., p. 58.

208

Concerned and interested missionary and other groups took the initiatives to
establish schools and government's concern was that the purpose for which
they were established should be fulfilledthis development implied that sufficient
assistance needed was given to the schools to ensure that they survive to fulfill
their dual role... government became the major sources of funds without which
the missionaries would have to go begging at home or abroad. That was how the
government got dragged into the business of assisting schools. 649
The government of the then period offered guidelines, regulations for the proper
organization, administration of the schools and grant-in-aids. 650 The reason for the
grant-in-aids was to ensure the survival of the schools, attain the setout standard
objectives while the schools were established, to enable expansion of the already
existing ones, and to help in the establishment of new ones. There were some
fundamental reasons why government took over schools from the missions in Nigeria.
One of such factors is what we have seen, the finacial problem to run schools. In his
own opinion, Lawrence O. Obibuake speaking from the East Central State made of five
states in the Eastern present Nigeria sees from the perspective of after Nigerian-Biafran
war effect. This project was carried out in this region under the Administration of Mr.
Ukpabi Asika in 1970. According to him, at the end of the war most schools in this
region and other war-affected areas was badly destroyed. Most of these schools are
mission schools. It became a problem of the future management and survival of the
schools after reconstruction owing to the fact that the communities that run the missions
schools were victims of the war. And handling the schools back to the original owners
implies a return to state of total improverished people. 651 The issue here still falls back
to the problem of financial capabilities of the communities stricken by war to manage
these mission schools. In the northern Nigeria, some Islamic schools were taken over
by the government. Speaking of the northern region of Nigeria, in 1970s the government
took control of the Islamic schools, but in the 1990s, the schools were allowed to
operate independently again.652
4.1.4 The Healthcare Service
In recent century one cannot deny the landmark science and technology has made in
the aspects of information and technology, and medicine to better the quality of human
life. One fact about this success is that some parts of the world are better equipped with
the technical know-how, while other parts are less exposed to it. At global scene, the
649

See, Amiel, M. Fagbulu, Dr., Nigerian's foremost Educattionist Endorses Aregbesola School Reforms,
Enlightens on History of School Take-Over in Nigeria, cf, https://www.facebook.com/notes/office-of-thespecial-adviser-to-the-state-governor-of-osun-on-environment/nigerias-foremost-educationist-endorsesaregbesol. Visited on 14.02.2016

650

Leonard, Lemchukwu, op. cit., p. 178.

651

Lawrence, O. Obibuaku, Qualitative Education: The Role of Government Take-Over Schools, in


https://www.nigeriaworld.com/articles/2005/sep/061.html. Visited on 14.02.2016.

652

Cf, Nigerian-History Background-Students, Education, Schools, and Primary-StateUniversity.com


http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1100/Nigeria-HISTORY-BACKGROUND.html#ixzz40AxtoXbW.
Visited on 14.02.2016.

209

developed societies are more and better equipped with the benefits accruing from
modern science and technology in healthcare sector than the undeveloped ones. Health
is wealth, just as a healthy nation is a wealthy one. In other words, a healthy person
contributes to his or her economic situation, that of his or her family and the nation.
Thus, health of the nation remains the fundamental source and pillar of a nation's
economy.653This popular axiom implies that the issue of health is to be of great priority
to any given society, institutions, organizations and individual persons as it concerns
human life. It is a major indicator of development in all the nations of the world. Hence,
health sector is to be given adequate attention by the government of every human
nations in the world especially, Nigeria.
The issue of human health has attracted global concern. This inspired the formation of
the World Health Organization (WHO). Equally, health issue was seriously highlighted in
the Millennium Development Goals of 2000 in anticipation that by 2015 the aim will be
realized. The Millennium goals on health centres on the availability and accessibility of
good health-care services for all. Yet, the year 2015 has come and gone still, the rate of
mortality increases in the world. Women die at childs birth. Children under the age of
one to five years die in hundreds and thousands in developing countries of the world
including Nigeria. A health service background in Nigeria shows how high is the rate of
maternal and child morality. The hospital based maternal mortality ratios (MMR) ranges
from 166 to 1,549 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. 654 The nature of the problem
in the nation Nigeria is alarming. There are many factors that contribute to this. The
major issue is the poor condition of most of the health-care centres with out-dated
facilities.The available primary health centres often are not open to render round clock
service to the people as result of shortage of medical personnel. The constraint of far
distance of the available health centres for the rural and the riverine people is another
issue. In the case of emergency attention it is always difficult for people in these places.
The most affected set of people are the poor. The rich have access to good and
qualitative health-care services in the nation and abroad. Naturally, those who have the
financial capacity are more advantaged than the poor. As the rich have access to good
and qualitative health-care services in the nation and abroad; the poor ones resort to
traditional way of treating ill-health and in delivering services. This approach is common
in the rural areas where there is lack of hospitals and poverty. It is the duty of the
government to see that this aspect of social amenity is made available for the citizens.
Positive response in the situation of health-care service is a matter of urgency.
In Nigeria as in many other countries in African continent, this sector has suffered so
much set-back like inadequate medical personnel as already pointed out. But every
year the schools and universities in Nigeria produce in hundreds and thousands
graduates of medicine and nurse. These groups desert the nation to work abroad where
there is facilities and good payment for their services. Moreover, the nature of power
supply in the country compound and worsen the situation. For hospitals to function as
653

Anthony, Okwudili, Achunonu, Poverty and the Church in Igboland, Nigeria, United States of America, 2012, p.
172.

654

Nigeria Catholic Procreative and Family Health Policy, A Publication of Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Lagos,
2007, p.16.

210

hospitals there must be constant power supply. The price of medical services of the few
available ones is always exorbitant, and out of the reach of the poor masses. Often
when a community health centres are built in the remote areas, it becomes difficult to
find medical personnel to be in such places. The principal cause of such attitude among
the medical personnel has been lack of basic social amenities like: good road, clean
water, house accommodation, electricity, enough medical facilities and security. In the
cities the experience is different. Some of the workers in the hospitals have allowed
corruption to lure them into an ugly practice of looting hospitals equipment to opening
personal ones. The provision of health facilities reduce the chance of frequent sickness,
stress, diseases, untimely death especially children who are the fresh bud of the nation,
the aged and the pregnant mothers. Since life is a precious gift from God, it is expected
that this gift be cared for with all seriousness and tenderness. Recent years the nation
lost several lives due to sub-standard medicine and medical equipment imported by
some selfish dealers who are only interested in monetary gain. Some engage in locally
manufacture of fake and low standard medicines, and by using such a sub-standard
and expired medicine citizens were exposed to various health problems.
4.1.5 The Religious situation
Nigeria is a nation of multi-religious groups: Traditional, Christianity and Islam nation.
Hence, the assumption that Nigerians are religious is not an overstatement. This
buttresses the notion that Nigerian as well as other African man is a deeply religious
man living in an intensely religious universe.655 This attitude of religiosity is evident in
their day-to-day activities, and attitudes expressed further through so many write-ups
one finds in the nation and the names they answer. Apart from the individuals, the
government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria attests to this. In the introduction of the
1999 constitution of the nation it reads, one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign
nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace,
international co-operation and understanding. 656 Nigerians are aware that God is the
only One who builds and involves himself through the citizens in activities and projects
to better human conditions in the nation, continent and the world in general. But religion
in Nigeria is continually departmentalized and fragmented. The Traditional religion is
indigenous while Islam and Christianity are foreign to the people. The present of the
two: Islam and Christianity exact pressure and threat on the indigenous religion since
the encounter. In any encounter, there is always moment of shock and resistance
between the host (the Traditional religion) and the visitors (Islam and Christianity).The
nature of religions divide that exists in Nigeria is glaring. It becomes a blurred myth and
great delusion for anyone to hold that Nigeria is an Islamic, or Christian, or Traditional
religious nation. Granted that the new religions (Islam and Christianity) make claim on
the people, however, none of the three religions is considered state or national religion.
Therefore, the citizens have the liberty and freedom of choice to worship in any of the
religions scattered here and there in the nation. Although, the Northern region is
dominated by Islamic religion, one discovers the presence of Christian churches. This
faulters the position of the outsiders that northern Nigeria is solely Islam. The nation is
655

Mbiti, John, op. cit., p. 108.

656

1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with Amendments, 2011, LL15.

211

often besieged with religious unrest in her course of development and growth since after
her independence. Christians and Muslims are always in a serious tensions of fear and
suspicion of one another.
Existentially for Nigerians, religion plays important and crucial roles in their living. It
forms part of their worldview and influences their approach to life. For Nigerians as well
as other people of African nations, religion is one of the important variables
indispensible in the society either as individual or as a group. Through its activities and
functions, religion directs human persons to the Supreme Being. This is one of the
reasons why religion is defined as belief-in the other-than-man which influences
peoples relationship with others. 657 The other-than-man in the definition refers to God
for the Christians and the Supreme Being by the Traditionalists. In this relationship, men
and women experience what they encounter.658 When we speak of Christianity, Islam
and Traditional religions, they are simply manifestations and expressions of religion.
However, religion capable of leading people to good, development and positive
inspiration has been hijacked by men and women to cause state of unrest in Nigeria
and other parts of the world. Religious bigotry between Christians and Muslims have
become an often recurring incident in the nation. Some controversal issues that have
led to serious religious riot in the nation include attempt made during the Military era of
President Babangida to make Nigeria a member of The Organization of Islamic
Conference (OIC) that will eventually make Nigeria an Islamic nation. Observation of
Bode Thomas is adreem to this move. In his statement he says that, the country
cannot be tied down to the apron strings of any religion. That there should be freedom
of religion in Nigeria is not a matter of choice, but of obligation. 659 United in effort, the
Nigerian Christians objected and asked for the withdrawal as it is a breach of the
consitution that upholds freedom of religious choice of her citizens. This led to series of
serious religious riots in different parts of the nation in the year 1986. 660 The religious
657

Ekpunobi, Emma, edit. Rational and Approaches to Comparative Study of Religion in: Essays in Comparative
Religion, Doxa Academic Productions, New York, 1993, p.9.
658

The encounter is known as religious experience. This leads to the transformation of the individual and the
community that had such knowledge. Thus, some of the roles of religion are, the realization of human salvation and
the enhancement of the human society. Whatever happened at this level of the relationship with God is to resonate in
our dealings with one another. This in turn affects our society positively. Religion contributes immensely to inform
and guide peoples response towards sociopolitical, cultural, and economic attitudes in the society and cultures. The
molding quality of religion are further seen in the areas of human's effort to see that justice, equity, peace and
respect of human rights and dignity; and care for the environment; also, the fear and honor of God, the object of the
Christians religious experience.
659

Schineller, P. SJ., ed, The Vioce of the Voiceless, Pastoral Letters and Communiques of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of Nigeria, 1960-2002, Ibadan, Daily Graphics Nigerian Limited, 2002, p. 165.

660

Leonard outlined four religious crises that arose from the attempt to make Nigeria an Islaamic religious nation
that led to lost of lives, many injuries and destruction of property. For instances in March 1986 eight people were
injured and two churches burnt in Ilorin. May 1986 witnessed Muslim students attack of their fellow Christians
students and burning down of the Vice-Chancellor's office at Usman Dan Fodio University far north Nigeria. Still in
May 1986 at University of Ibadan, the statue of the risen Christ was burnt down by arsonists believed to be Muslims
in the institution. In July the same year there was a demonstration carried out by the Muslim students with the writeup that Cross must give way to the Mosque, we do not worship idols. cf, Leonard, Lemchukwu, The Pastoral
Responsibility of the Catholic Church for Justice and Peace in Igboland Nigeria, Germany, LIT Verlag Fresnostr.

212

violence in the nation is never encouraging. Rather, it is a source of sorry, psychological


and emotional pains on the direct victims. On the nation it leads to state of economic
devastation, instability, insecurity, fear, lack of unity and peace in the land. Put in other
ways, religious riot is one of the major threat to national building, development and
progress that affects Nigerians as individual and collective.
Religious violence rears its head in Nigeria through the manner and method Christianity
and Islam scramble for members. The attitude and approach often lead to antagonizing
each other during worship and in any form of gathering. The missionaries of Christianity
and Islamic religions see the adherents of the Traditional religion as the must
converted over to enable them plant the new faith. Since then, both religions see the
Traditional religion as something to be defeated and its members taken over to theirs.
The observation made by Odoeme Paul is true to the nature of the situation. According
to him, Christian denominations apply every available means to convert the remaining
traditionalists. The African Traditionalists accuse Christianity for damages and harm to
their traditional values and ask for reparation. Islam is on the other end, working to
Islamize the nation.661 Where is then, the effectiveness of the freedom of worship and
choice of ones religion? Even as the missionaries have gone, the practice has remain
the same till this present time. When it is obvious that the Traditional religious
practitioners are almost converted to Christianity, the hunt for conversion has taken a
new dimension - convertion of Christians from one denomination to another.
It is very interesting to know that most of the Nigerian homes and families are
characterized in a way that one finds family members practicing different religions living
under one roof. In these families exist small religious strife of whose God or religious
doctrine is supper or best. This type of religious attitude affects the peace, unity and
harmony in families. Religion which is an agent of unity, oneness has become one of
the fastest means to divide and destroy unity, peace and love in some of the Nigerian
families. Another serious religious situation in Nigeria one cannot overlook is that
religion has been seen as one of the quickest means of making money. For many
modern Nigerians religion is an easy path to wealth and affluence. This has contributed
to the present up-spring of churches at every streets and corners of both the urban and
rural areas. One of the reasons why this thrives is that Nigerians are faced with poverty,
hardship and illiterate. Majority of the people live under emotion, sentiment and fear of
the unknown and even the known alike. In these conditions, the power of human
thinking and reasoning is gone. The victims end up going after the dictates of emotion
that seems to provide quick solutions than that of reason. They search for miraculous
solutions, liberation, consolation, and listening ear to their predicaments in life through
religious means. Some of the ministers succeed painting virtually everything in Nigeria
evil. Some of the so called men and women of God presently use the name of religion
to manipulate their fellow human beings for selfish satisfaction. This mentality leads to
various concept of religion formulated by people to sooth their intentions and whatever
2, D-48159 Mnster, 2015, p. 69-70. see also, Onuoha, S., The Church and Nigerian Social Problems; A Perspective,
Okigwe, Whytem Prints Nigeria, 2006, p. 49.
661

Odoeme, Paul, Human Rights and the Mission of the Church in Nigeria, Mnster, LIT Verlag, 2013, pp. 254-255.

213

they have to offer the society.


With this one begins to question if the regine of God has come to an end, and yet evil
triumph everywhere and in everything, and is blamed for whatever sickness and
misfortunes people encounter in life. In other words, has Nigeria become a land of evil
spirits, misfortune, hardship and likes. Has God abandoned us to the whips and
caprices of demons? Some pastors end up instilling fear in people that nurtures hatred
and lack of trust of oneself and his fellow human beings. Families are destroyed with the
prophecy of somebody is after your life. Or that this or that person has vowed that you
will never progress in life message. The gospel of victory through cross is over. In these
churches one pays consultation fees, fasting and prayers the pastor and his or her
group is to undergo on behalf of the client. If the prayer activity is to take the group to
the house of the client, the latter is to pay more money. Are prayers meant to be sold? Is
this not a skillful way of milking the poor, those who suffer and seek for solution to their
problems. Unfortunately some Catholic priests and lay faithful have joined the league.
Notwithstanding the reality on ground, there are honest ones who positively respond to
the vocation God has given them. They go about their work with dedication under the
guidance of God and the Holy Spirit without charging fees. Apart from this, they engage
also in charitable works towards the alleviation of the pains of the poor and less
privileged. But the fake ministers end up teaching false doctrines, preach gospel of
Jesus sharp sharp. It is unfortunate that people pay more regard to their teachings,
since the present age man and woman does not want to hear of suffering. Rather, he or
she prefers the gospel of prosperity, success and searches for where miracle happens
very sharp. All these become serious threat to orthodoxy as, authentic and true
religiosity seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of clever psychologists, dupes,
charlattans and non-performers.662 We live in the era of the theology of prosperity
preached these days by some ministers of God in the churches and through the various
media outlets. We can say that the faith of the people is at risk. From every indication
therefore, the religious situation in Nigeria is one characterized with religious bigotry and
playing of religious double morality.663 Among the Catholic church in Nigeria one
discovers abuse of the sacraments.There are cases where new born babies have
suffered what they do not know. When such children are presented for baptism, they are
refused the sacrament on the account that the parents have not wedded in the church,
or that the child was born out of wedlock. People are denied church burial on the ground
that the dead persons involved are not financially up to date. The sacraments are made
to help and strengthen the people in life.
The human person seen as the Imago Dei in Nigeria under the above religious and
other social situations lives an elusive life. These social situations present challenge to
the mother church in Nigeria. The question becomes, of what implication are these
situations to the Church identified as a Mother to the numerous Nigerians? This is very
crucial especially in this present era of human existence it seems that unity, justice,
662
663

Obiora, F. Ike, Church and Society in Dialogue, Novelty Industrial Enterprises Ltd, Enugu, 1990, p 144
Obiora, F. Ike, ibid.

214

equity and fairness; dignity of human being has been priced so low and drastically
affected. As it stands, many Nigerians are wounded as justice in most situations is
denied. Who is to heal the broken hearts? Who reconciles the individual person and
persons? And who is to lead in this urgently needed work of reconciling the divided
nation, families and regions. That is, who is to lead in ensuring lasting peace, unity,
equity fairness and justice? Majority of the Nigerian population has lost the meaning of
life or existence. For such group, there is no meaning to live and existence in a situation
social, cultural and religious injustice is the order of things.
The most vulnerable ones question even the existence of God. They have equally
asked important questions: like, where is God in all these dehumanizing man-made
events in Nigeria. And of what value is the society to them. There are several means to
achieve this. One of the most effective means through which the situations in Nigeria
could be addressed is religion. The mother church is the symbol of Gods kingdom in
Nigeria. As a symbol, she signifies what she represents, and upholds Gods justice, love
that leads to reconciliation, enthrones the sense of respect to human dignity and rights,
and equality of human persons. The hope of millions of Nigerians hang on the church
for survival to a very big consideration. Being so religious the citizens listen to the voice
of the mother church. Hence, is the church in Nigeria the voice, eyes, ear and
conscience of the masses. Having understood the ravages and harsh effects of the
above situations of existence in Nigeria, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria
encouraged the people to take solace in God. This led to the birth of prayer for Nigeria
in distress and prayer against bribery and corruption. The above social situations
introduces us to a very crucial aspect of this research project - the implication of all
these for the church in Nigeria. This answers the question of contextualization of the
motherhood of the church in the social situations of life in Nigeria.
There is difference between the state and the church. The two are product of human
beings with divine foundation. And both have purposes for existing in the world. These
functions are both spiritual and social for the good of the human person made of
material and spiritual natures. These entails caring for the human persons in two
aspects. This is very important as any neglect to either the material or the spiritual
needs is amount to doing injustice to the human person. It is for the satisfaction of these
needs of the human persons that comes the necessary role of the mother church in the
society. That is, to see to the liberation of people from any oppressive social, cultural
and religious systems. This brings us to the issue of how is the church in Nigeria to help
majority of the citizens entangled in different ways in the midst of joys and sorrows of
everyday life as shown in the various social situations above? What does the mother
church specifically mean for the citizens entrapped in the ugly social, cultural and
religious situations of existence between joys and sorrows in Nigeria? This introduces
us therefore to the issue of the mission of the church in relation to the social issues
already discussed in this work.
4.2 The Mission of the Church in Nigeria
The human person has been studied and understood variously. These studies succeed
in splitting the human being in different parts and departments either as social, or
215

religious, or cultural, or political being etc, who exists and thrives within a single context
called the society. It is in this context that the church also exists and carry out her
maternal mission for the sake of human begins here on earth towards the realization of
the final aim of their existence, salus animorum. Therefore, the church does not exist
and carry out her maternal mission in abstract or in a vacuum. She exists within the
different human cultures of the world and society as in Nigeria. In this context she
encounters other human institutions. So, there is no way she can preclude herself the
chance of contributing towards the betterment of the nation Nigeria and her citizens.
However, the, Second Vatican Council clarifies that, Christ gave His Church no proper
mission in the political, economic or social order. The purpose He set before her is a
religious one. But out of this religious mission came a function, a light, and an energy
which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the
divine law."664 There is a necessary link of the church to the social conditions of the
society she exists. Thus:
Between evangelization and human advancement... development and
liberation... there are in fact profound links. These include links of an
anthropological order, because the man who is not an abstract being
but is subject to social and economic questions. They also include links
in the theological order, since one cannot dissociate the plan of creation
from the plan of Redemption. The latter plan touches the very concrete
situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored. ...
how in fact can one proclaim the new commandment without promoting
in justice and in peace the true, authentic advancement of man?
it is impossible to accept that in evangelization one could or should
ignore the importance of the problems so much discussed today, concerning
justice, liberation, development and peace in the world. 665
The above illustration shows the need of the church's involvment in the society; more
important for the church that understood as a mother. This is because, a mother cannot
just seat and watch her children suffer under the excruciating social conditions that
militate against the joy, happiness, peace, etc of her children. The church's perticipation
in the social responsibility speaks of her as one of the agents of change in social,
cultural and religious situations as it concerns human beings. It is in these situations
that her maternal mission is much needed. For the church to overlook this means to
forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor
who is suffering and in need. 666 This will go a long way to rectify some arguments about
the participation or involvment of the church in social activities. Her mission is not
restricted to spiritual or theological issues alone. It has social dimensions for the sake of
the human person involved. So, whatever that will be discussed here affirms the
reasons why the church is to be involved in this aspect of human life.
664

The Document of Second Vatican Council, Gaudium es Spes. no. 42.

665

Pope, Paul V1, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 31.

666

Pope, Paul V1, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Ibid.

216

4.2.1 Biblical Foundation of Mission


The life of the Trinitarian God is that of mission full activities. The word mission is
derived from the classical Latin word missus, a past participle of the verb mittere
meaning to send. In Middle Latin the word mission meant task assigned. 667 In the
process of sending more than one party is involved. A task is waiting to be executed.
There is also a call followed by response of acceptance before the actual sending.
Scripturally, there are series of sending events recorded in both Testaments of the Bible.
Severally Yahweh in the Old Testament sent many prophets to the people of Israel. He
sends Moses to Egypt to lead his people Israel out of slavery and hard labor (cf.
Ex.3:10). In the New Testament bible, we encounter again series of mission sending.
Before the actual incarnation of the Son of God, an angel named Gabriel was sent by
God to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ to be (cf. Lk. 1:26). John the Baptist was sent to
prepare the way for the Messiah (cf. Jn. 1:6). Then, the sending of the only begotten
Son. As the Son completed his mission assignment on earth, and in collaboration with
the Father, the Holy Spirit was sent (cf. Jn.14:36) to always remind human beings what
God through his Son has done for us. So, we could argue that the Trinitarian God is a
God that sends. The Trinitarian God is a mission God.
Jesus coming into the world and specifically within the Jewish culture is not an
accident. It is an act of sending. He is to be born in this culture but above it. Through
this culture begins the historical mission of human salvation through the proclaiming of
the good news of joy. In the course of his mission, he consequently called group of
people that followed him as disciples and apostles and trained them for the continuity of
the mission. Hence, we encounter Jesus who sends forth his disciples (the Twelve) on
specific mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (cf. Mat.10:5-6). This first
mission assignment of Jesus to his disciples could be regarded as a restricted sending
meant only for the house of Israel. In another place he sends a bigger number of
seventy two (72) apostles in pairs to cities and towns he will later visit (cf. Lk. 10:1). In
Jesus we see a Liberator and a Messiah (the Saviour) of the people which is the
purpose of his sending into the world. During his public ministry on earth Jesus came
face to face with different confronting social, religious and cultural life situations of his
people either as individual or as collective. He was a confrontational Liberator and
Messiah. The Jewish situations of life at that time placed them under Romans political,
religious and economical domination. In these situations, the people lived in the hope of
fulfillment. The fulfilment of the prophecies of the old about the coming of the
Messiah.668
On this Messiah the Jews placed their hope of liberation, freedom from exploitation and
the reign of peace in the land. This was recevied and experienced with mixed feelings
for some it is a fulfillment while for others it was a failure. After his death and
Resurrection, the act of sending continued. The Resurrected Jesus Christ on the day of
his ascension told his disciples:
667

Porter, B. Lawrence, op. cit., p. 195.

668

Odoeme, Paul, Human Rights and the Mission of the Church in Nigeria, Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2013, p. 115.

217

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptize them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look,
I am with you always: yes, to the end of time (cf. Mat. 28:18-20).
We see a wider scope of mission for the disciples of Jesus Christ, the mission to the
whole world. Jesus has received all the authority and passed this onto the disciples he
sent on mission. The reason behind this probably was to authenticate the work he
entrusted the disciples one one hand. This this on the other hand he gave content to the
mission they are to do on his behalf. Some theologians and exegetes interpret this
section of the four Gospels as the basic foundation for the mother churchs mission.
With regard to ourselves we can say that, our being born in the world is paramount to
arguing of our sending as individual and collective to live and make the world better
than we met it. What we have seen shows that the Trinitarian God is all out to save
humanity demonstrated through the many sendings continued by the mother church
throughout the world.
4.2.1.1 Church and Mission
The fundamental maternal mission of the church stems from that of Christ, the missio
Dei. This mission focuses on the realization of God's reign for the salvation of men and
women. The church joins in the categories of those sent by God through Christ. Thus,
the church ... on earth is by its very nature missionary, since according to the plan of
the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 669 The mission
in question is not hers but belongs to God. The church is only a sign and an instrument
through which God realizes his salvific plan in the world. It is clear then that the church
is Gods coworker in the salvation of the world. Indeed, Christ dwells within the Church.
She is her bride. It is he who causes her to grow. He carries out his mission through
her.670 This mission of participation brings the church in closer relationship to consider
the material and spiritual wellbeing of the people she encounters. As the church exists
in the society, she is not alone. The mother church shares in the life and cultures of the
people by being open to observe, learn, ask questions based on the experiences of the
people; and analysis the situation in relation to the gospel message she carries. There
develops mutual act of give and take, an exchange of ideas between the church and the
host cultures of the people in the process known as inculturation process. As the
church continues in her participation in the work of God, she stands as a teacher and
moral guardian in the society to make humans disciples of God (cf. Mt 28: 19-20).
Through her mission the church teaches, makes disciples and sends them forth on a
mission of liberation through confrontation of the social situations discussed already in
this work. Thus:
Having been sent and evangelized, the Church herself sends
669

The Second Vatican Council Document: Ad Gentes, no. 2.

670

Pope, John, Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, no. 9.

218

out evangelizers. She puts on their lips the saving Word, she
explains to them the message of which she herself is the depositary,
she gives them the mandate which she herself has received and she
sends them out to preach. 671
Pope Paul V1 goes on to say that:
The purpose of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission
of the church...to bring the Good News into all the strata of humanity and
to change them by its influence from inside and to renew mankind itself....
It would thus be most correct to say; the Church evangelizes when it concerns
itself, through the divine power of the message which it preaches, at the same
time with the change of the personal and collective consciousness of mankind,
the activity in which they are involved, their real life and present environment. 672
The maternal mission of the church in the world is of dual aspects according to the
Second Vatican Council: ad intra and ad extra. Internally (the ad intra), the church has
the maternal mission of the proclamation of the Word kerygma. She is to celebrate
through liturgy, liturgia the sacraments and prayer. The mother church is to lead
kuberensis, guide, encourage and support the faithful. As a mother, the church is to be
at the service, Diakonia of her sons and daughters especially the most vulnerable in
Nigeria. Externally (ad extra), she continues in her mission of proclaiming the Kerygma
through the evangelization of all peoples and guide them in their search for answers to
many disturbing and challenging existential issues. Through her mission therefore, the
church as Lawrence B. Porter says is like its maker, is innately ex-centric, outward
bound, searching out, explorative, spreading itself abroad, so as to be as inclusive as
possible, in-gathering, collecting and saving everything and everyone. 673 Any aspects
of the social, cultural and religious situations that violates, denies and debases the
human person, calls for the churchs involvement and intervention. This places her at
the centre of any conditions and situations that militate against the humanness of the
human persons in the society. Hence, mother church spread across the nation is to
appropriate, and interpret the Gospel message of Christ according to the needs of the
people. This will enable them in turn to discover the place and what the Good News
meant for their wellbeing. This is what would make her truly a Mother to her children
and Nigerians in general.
4.3 Application of the Social teachings of the church in this project
It is clear that the church in Nigeria as in other parts of the world has responsible role

(mission) from God for the sake of the human beings. She is a living witness of Christ's
promise of being with his creation until the end of time (Mt. 28:20). Our main concern
here will centre on the role of the mother church in Nigeria with regard to the already
671

Pope, Paul V1, Evangelium Nuntiandi, no. 15.

672

Pope, Paul V1, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 29.

673

Porter, B. Lawrence, op. cit., p. 197.

219

discussed challenging social situations of life. It is clear that the origin and primary
scope of social life is the conservation, development, and perfection of the human
person, helping him to realize accurately the demands and values of religion and culture
set by the Creator for every man and for all mankind both as a whole. 674 It is on this
background that millions of Nigerians want active translation of the church's theoretical
ideas into more practical and effective actions. We are not to lose sight of the fact that
the primary mission of the church is evangelization. This is taken for granted because,
the age of the mother church in Nigeria has gone beyond the preaching of the word of
God to sow the seed of faith. That is, the era of preaching the good news to people who
are ignorant and as such have never heard of it for the first time. Rather, we are in the
stage of what to do to sustain the seed of faith sown by the missionaries years ago; and
has already germinated, growing and strongly spreading in the nation.
Certainly, Nigeria is no long an area of primary evangelization to establish the Christian
communities. Recently, some regions in the nation celebrated centenary existence of
Catholic church. but, when compared with the west and some other places in the world,
we can say that the church is still at her tender age in Nigeria. Evangelization is not only
a matter of persuading or bringing people to conversion of heart. It includes
encouraging people to contribute in the realization of the principles of Gods kingdom in
the immediate here and now, that leads to positive changes in those social issues that
challenge human existence in the nation. That is, more and effective integration or
incarnation of the message of God in the life of the people and socio-cultural, sociopolitical and socio-economic activities in the nation. Hence, the mission of the mother
church in Nigeria and the world is a call to solidarity that leads to human liberation.
4.3.1 The Mother Church and the Socio-Economic Situation in Nigeria
Humanly speaking, poverty is a painful situation nobody wishes himself or herself to
experience. It breeds division and leads to unhealthy class struggle among friends and
in families. It leads one to commit crimes in other to meet up with the financial demands
of life. Speaking about the poor, pope Leo XIII in His Encyclical letter maintained that,
... in God's sight poverty is no disgrace. 675 His notion was influenced by the scriptural
understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ; which supports and challenges the church
and individual christians to involve in the course of the poor. One of such biblical
inspirations says: You are well aware of the generosity, which our Lord Jesus Christ
had, that, although he was rich, he become poor for your sake, so that you should
become rich through his poverty (cf. 2Cor 9). So, humans are to learn from Jesus
Christ on how not to be ashamed of poverty. It provides us the opportunity to see with
reason why we are to participate in actions that alleviate the condition of the poor.
Presently, there is continuous widening gap between the rich and the poor in the world.
This, the universal Mother Church through various Encyclical letters decried. For
instance in Rerum Novarum the socio-economic conditions observed in the world was
674

Pope Pius X11, Christmas Message, 1942, http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/p12ch42.htm. Visited on


21.07.2012.
675

Pope, Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, no. 23.

220

highlighted and condemned. The pope identified that, despite that people are working,
they still fall under the category he described as the working poor, the needy and
helpless who live in miserable and wretched conditions. He challenged those who look
on the poor as burden on society. The contribution of mother church as the bearer of the
Gospel message of God in this aspect of the socio-economic situation of men and
women, is aim to help the poor rise above the effects of poverty, wretchedness and to
better their life. This is very important in the communities, nations and the world the
mother church exixts as it concerns human beings. In view of this essential maternal
role towards the poor in human society, pope Leo XIII said, by degree, came into
existence the patrimony which the church has guarded with religious care as the
inheritance of the poor. The common Mother of the rich and poor.... 676 Pope John XXIII
advocated that, The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common
family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger,
misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary
human rights.677 Through this medium he further condemned waste of goods that
would be of great help to those who live in poverty and destitute. To this he said:
Justice and humanity demand that those countries which produce consumer
goods, especially farm products, in excess of their own needs should come to
the assistance of those other countries where large sections of the population
are suffering from want and hunger. It is nothing less than an outrage to justice
and humanity to destroy or to squander goods that other people need for their
very lives.678
Just as with Jesus Christ, the poor have special place in the church. It is base on this
background therefore, that the church is to continue in her efforts fight against poverty,
because; as a mother she is concerned that each and every human person is to be able
to live fully in dignity as the human being he or she is; and as a special child of God.
Consequently, following in the footsteps of her divine bridgroom, the mother church
intervenes on behalf of the poor, and maintaining many associations she knows to
be efficient for the relief of poverty. 679 Certainingly, the church in Nigeria has been
responding and still responds in alleviating the effects of poverty in the nation. In the
parishes are different lay groups who are involved in caring for the poor such as the
legion of Mary, St. Vincent De Paul society, charismatic group, the catholic women
organization (CWO), the catholic men organization (CMO) and others. Externally, she
receives aids from other sister churches in the world in her project of helping the poor
through an organizations like Caritas, . We can say that this has not gone a long way
in alleviating the poverty situation of most of the people and families that have received
such help. The evident is clear when one sees the socio-economic life condition of
people living in the communities where the church is situated. The picture is that of the
676

Ibid, no. 30.

677

Pope, John XXIII, Mater Et Magistra, 1961, no. 157.

678

Ibid, no. 161.

679

Pope, Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, no. 29.

221

torture of abject poverty. We call for a review of most of the methods used by the church
in this direction as it is evident that some of them do not actually help the poor to rise up
and help themselves. Instead, it makes them more dependent on the church.
The practical application of one famous axiom that says give a man fish and you feed
him for a day. Teach him to catch fish and you feed him for a lifetime becomes
important here. This accentuates the word of Pope John Paul II to the poor in his
pastoral visit to Brazil thus, you must struggle for life; do everything to improve the
conditions in which you live; to do so is a sacred duty because it is also the will of God.
Do not say that it is Gods will that you remain in a condition of poverty, disease,
unhealthy housing, that is contrary in many ways to your dignity as human persons. 680
The same inspiring idea is to be inculcated in the minds of the poor ones in Nigeria by
the church. We are not saying that the church in Nigeria is not to render immediate help
to the poor, or to shot down all her outlets through which she helps the poor. No. It will
be her most motherly desire, love and happiness to see her children use their God's
given talents and strength to improve their socio-economic conditions in life. Naturally,
no matter how a mother loves, cares and supports her children, it gives her more joy
and honour seeing them making effort to better their living conditions. God is not to be
held responsible on what we can do for ourselves we failed to do. The mother church is
to inspire, encourage the healthy strong and young people to take up something that will
bring positive change to their situations, and not only seat out and expect help from
others that do not often come as one wishes in most cases.
A help like this from the mother church in Nigeria, is a positive challenge and a welcome
one. That is, a challenge that leads the poor to mental, physical, and spiritual revolution
with regard to their unhealthy socio-economic condition. This revolution helps them for
the action of self-liberation from the shackles of poverty. The church's commitment to
the poor is to enable them become active participants in the family, life of society; and
through this share in and contribute to the common good. What could be the necessary
practical means at the disposal of the church to help the poor achieve this? It could be
good if each diocese sees the need to engage in some lucrative short and long term
projects like transportation, small scale industries, bakery, sowing and hair saloon
centres, catering institutions, mechanized farm projects, establishment of machanic
workshops for motors and bikes and so on. With these, the church stands the chance to
empower majority of the poor in the communities she exists. The church is to
collaborate with the host community in the establishment of such projects. The church
through this, helps animate the host community to be more creative, and to set up
development projects that are productive. Such projects should reflect the real needs of
the people, needs which the people themselves express or are stimulated to realize. 681
It calls for team work as well warns of imposition of projects on the people in other to
avoid waste of the available resources and abandonment of project after its
establishment.
680

Dorr, Donal, Option for the Poor: A Hundred Years of Vatican Social Teaching, Revised Edition, Grill and
Macmillan, Dublin, 1992, p, 282.
681

Gregory Ikechukwu Olikenyi, African Hospitality: A Model for the Communication of the Gospel in the African
Cultural Context, Enugu, Snaap Press Ltd. 2001, p. 170.

222

The establishment of the above mentioned projects will eventually lead to some positive
results towards in her poverty alleviation programm. There will be provision of jobs to
some of the unemployed youths and healthy men and women who seek for jobs. Again,
some percentage of the gained profits will be used in caring for the aged, sick ones,
children who are out of school due to financial problem at homes and the maintenance
of the church. In this form, the church in Nigeria contributes effectively and practically in
reducing the problem and scourging effects of poverty within her hosting communities.
However, there is always difference between making profit from the establishment and
how the accrrued dividend is used. In other words, the church is to be careful about the
percentage of the monetary profit that is turned around to directly benefit the suffering
masses and to avoid the problem of rectory-oriented mentality. Rectory-oriented
mentality is a situation whereby a parish communities struggle to make money through
harvest and bazaar, lunching and so on just for renovation or upgrading the rectory,
church, car and so forth. The same is applicable to bishops with regard to building or
expansion of the cathedral church, car and residence furnishing. Sadly, under this
condition it is only little percentage of the accrued money that is directed towards the
plight of the poor in the form of almsgiving, paying of school fees, feeding, clothing and
possibly offsetting hospital bills of the poor ones. However, there is always a contrary
situation in this case. That is, a situation where large portion of the money is allocated
towards the helping of the poor and sick around the mother church in Nigeria as the left
over goes into rectory development. When we put both side by side, we discover that in
the later situation that it is more obvious that a mother would do just this since a good
mother would first make sure that her children are properly cared for before she eats,
goes off shopping for clothes, cars and jewelries.682
Another group of the poor in our society that needs maternal pastoral solidarity of the
church are those made poor by their fellow human beings. They include Christians and
non Christians alike who suffer silently the: oppression, intimidation and suppression
from the rich and strong in the families, villages and communities. These are those
whose voice are hardly heard and unnoticed especially, the widows and orphans. For
these group of people, access to their property are often denied. In most cases
confiscation of their landed property such as economic trees, land, house and so on.
For the help of the mother church to get to the real poor, requires her to initiate and
organize them in smaller units or groups in the communities.This approach is to help
her identify the actual poor ones around and within the communities she exists. It is
important for the church to help the poor but the question is to what extent. This is very
crucial to define base on the material resources available for every Christian
communities. There is need to teach them therefore how to solve their problems in the
spirit of solidarity through contributions no matter how small it may be to help each other
when such need arises. As they come closer, they learn more of the principle of give
and take, responsible sharing and reciprocity. The mother church is to render care to
them by giving immediate response to their needs. However, to teach them how to
682

Nwadike, Chinedu is a catholic priest. He belongs to the Holy Ghost Congregation Nigerian Province. Rev.
Father Chinedu Nwadike C.S.Sp had 12 years mission work experience in Odumomoh, Ibaji L.G.A of Kogi State
Nigeria. He is also, the director of the film titled Option for the Poor: Turning back for a Turning point.

223

catch the fish is a better and more rewarding option in helping the poor.
As the church engages in her option for the poor projects, she is not to loose sight of
what is going on in the wider society. That is, the church in Nigeria is to investigate
about the category of the poor pope Leo XIII called the working poor. We cannot deny
the fact that such category of workers exist in the nation and the establishments of the
church. For this group, therefore, the church in Nigeria is called to be their voice and
intermediary before the government. It is a maternal role of the church to educate
everybody, institutions, groups, society and government that all have special obligation
to the poor and the vulnerable. The need to provide for the poor have claim on the
conscience of the government of all levels in the nation. One of the major means
through which the government can quickly respond and come to the aid of the poor in
the nation is by job creation. This will help those who are able and willing to participate
in the economic life of the nation to do so. It is through employment can most peoples
become financially balanced to meet their material needs in homes, and extend God's
creative activity. As individuals and as collective Christians, we are all challenged and
called to make an urgent and positive respond to the needs of the poor. That is the
motherhood of the church in practical term.

4.3.2 The Mother Church and Education Situation in Nigeria


It is said that ignorance is a diesease. And half education is considered dangerous. If
life without education can be viewed as one of the worse thing that happens to the
victims, it means then, that education is essential in the life and development of the
individual persons, good for the community and the society at large. Pope Paul VI
captured it very well when he said that:
basic education is the first objective for any nation seeking to develop itself.
Lack of education is as serious as lack of food; the illiterate is a starved spirit.
When someone learns how to read and write, he is equipped... to develop
self-confidence and realize that he can progress along with others.... literacy
is the ...tool for personal enrichment and social integration and society's most
valuable tool for furhtering development and economic progrss. 683
Thus, one of the best gifts parents can give to their children is education. On the part of
government, embarking on educational project is one of the most valuable ideas for the
wellbeing of everybody in the nation. The Catholic Bishops's Conference of Nigeria
assert that, The good health of a nation is largely dependent on the quality of education
of her citizens.684 So, it is one of the social responsibilities the government owns the
citizens, to provide them with quality education at all levels. The same is of the churches
683
684

Pope, Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 1967, no. 35.


Church and State Partnership in the Provision of Quality Education : Communique at the end of the first
Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Abuja, March 8-14, 2014.

224

and individual private owners of schools in the nation. As it may be, the involvement of
the church in education could be traced back to the content of the great mandate
injunction to go into the world teach and make disciples. This has two implications for
the church. It shows that teaching and education are intrinsic functions of the church, for
the human persons cannot know God unless they are preached to as faith comes by
hearing. This is possible only through teaching and education. There must be people
entrusted with the responsibility of transmitting this. Hence, the church is to educate
humanity on the deeds of Jesus Christ which leads to the salvation of souls. Again, the
mandate suggests that Christ is telling his church in Nigeria and the world to build
schools and become involve in the education of his children. In these schools, the
church as moral educator finds another avenue outside the pulpits to teach and
evangelize the people about God, value of justice, need to respect fellow human
persons and the society. Hence, from her, Christians learn the example of holiness. 685
Notably enough, her educative role is in accordance to her vocation towards the good of
humanity. It is one of her obligations to promote the welfare of the whole life of men and
women through education. Accordingly, she has a part to play in the development and
extension of education.686
As educator the church in Nigeria remains one of the effective and veritable organs for
the formation of human conscience. Through her moral education, people learn how to
honor and respect God, realization of who we are and what is expected of us in relation
to God and to our fellow human beings. As a mother the church gives spiritual birth to
Christians; she educates and builds up the Christian family, by putting into effect in this
regard the saving mission which she has received from her Lord. 687 The church
teaches what she learns from God through Jesus Christ. But her most concern in the
above is on the Christian family understood as the basic foundation of every other
human institutions. However, parents in this case are firstly equipped with this
knowledge. In turn they bequeath the same to their children. Just as natural mothers
pass on knowledge of what they know to their sons and daughters for proper
development and growth of the latter. So it is with the church in her moral teaching role.
Through moral education, mother church accompanies parents and children in making
them better human beings and effective ambassadors of God.
The church involves also in the social education process in the nation. By this we mean,
church's participation in building and management of schools. This she did even before
independence. The early missionaries understood the value of education in the mission
work of the church in Nigeria as far back to late 18 th and early 19th centuries. Education
was considered fundamental to spreading Christs message. It facilitates effective
communication and interaction between the bearers of the Gospel of Christ (the
missionaries) and the recipients (the members of the host community). The educational
standard of that time was matched with character formation, discipline and morals as
against the present condition. Understanding the value of education in the national
building, the bishops of Nigeria unanimously said, moral and religious education is part
685

CCC 2030.

686

Introduction to Declaration on Christian Education: Gravissimum Educationis, p.643.

687

Pope, John Paul II; Familiaris Consortio, 1981, no, 49.

225

and parcel of education for all. They understand the need to restore morality, character
formation and involvement of religious bodies. 688 The type of education expected of the
mother church is the one that put into consideration the whole nature of the human
person. That is, education that involves the body, mind and spirit an all inclusive
education that affords integral development of the involved persons, beneficial to the
nation and humanity.
Before and short after the nation's independence, the church maintained her pioneering
role with regard to education. It was from 1970s; that the government of Nigeria took
over schools from the Christian churches. The paradigm shifted as religious education
and moral instructions of pupils and students in schools dwindled. Then, began the
woes in the standard of education till this present period. The education young
Nigerians receive at present is one-sided type. It offers humanities, and science courses
but lack greatly in impacting moral and religious guidance. Corruption and decadent set
in and weaken not only the quality of education at all levels, but also affected moral
standard of life. Discipline gave way for indiscipline. The youths in the schools are
exposed to danger. Examination malpractices, cultism and strike actions become order
of things in Nigerian schools. Parents and guidance live in fear of not knowing what will
happen to their children in the schools. But the church in Nigeria is not relented on her
educational apostolate as it speaks of her maternal nature. Illiteracy and ignorance
create favorable atmosphere that encourages structures of social injustices. And this
gives birth to corruption. This thrives most due to lack of proper and comprehensive
educational development of the majority of the people. Whatever the church does in this
situation gears towards the development of: self-confidence, self-trust, ability to ask
questions and ability to take personal decisions in life. This will help the individual
persons to team up as group or individual initiate process towards positive social
changes as radical change occurs first in the mind. 689
With quality education, individuals and the nation breaks the jinx and circle of poverty as
it enables one to be self-employed or get employed by others. In the context of this
work, quality education means meaningful, useful, transformative, responsive and
important to both the individual persons and the society in general. Therefore, quality
education is one that offer the youths the opportunity to develop, become supportive,
nurtures them to have confident, positive self-esteem and will power to face challenges,
ability to interact with their fellow human beings in the school, family and wider society.
It is an integral education. In other words, quality education aims at helping the person
in the process of humanization or personalization that leads to liberation and
emancipation. In relation to the society, quality education brings about socialization.
That is, it helps one become a member of a society; who functions or contributes
actively within his or her society. Accordingly, with integral education, the human person
is formed to be loving and caring, able to actualize his or her potential, and contribute to
688

Schineller Peter, S.J, Pastoral Letters and Communiques of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria 19602002: the Voice of the Voiceless, Ibadan, Daily Graphics Nigeria Limited, 2002, p 117.
689

Aylward, Shorter, Toward a Theology of Inculturation, New York, Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 1988, p. 47.

226

the attainment of the common good and fulfill his or her aspiration. 690 This is going to
be the key at the disposal of the destitute, neglected ones and the government for social
change, development and progress. Because of this urgency, the church is looked onto
once again by numerous Nigerians especially parents for positive respons. Some even
go to the extent of sending their children to other parts of Africa, Europe, America and
Asia which show how serious they are for their children to achieve quality education. At
present, Nigerian church has realized the need to involve in the university education.
With the permission of government presently, Nigeria can boost of private and Christian
High schools of learning and universities such as Madonna University Okija Ihiala,
Caritas University Amorji Nike Enugu, Bishop Okoye's Memorial University Emene
Enugu, Veritas University Abuja, CIWA in Portharcourt, OSISATECH Polytechnics and
College of Education Ogui Enugu, Spiritan University Nneochi Abia, and those of other
Christian denominations. Through her maternal persistence, some of her ceased
secondary schools by the government after independence are gradually been returned
to her.
As the church continues in her educational mission in the nation, care is to be taken not
to fall into the mistakes in the government schools. The price of her schools are to be
within the reach of the poor and the elites alike. There should be provision of modern
learning facilities and well qualified teachers. Teachers and lecturers are to be treated
with care and respect, and due payment of salary should be guaranteed. Again, there
should be guarantee of job security among the workers in her schools to avoid
indiscriminate termination of jobs. We are not saying that offenders should not be
punished. No. They are not above the law of the schools in which they work. Let this be
done with proper investigations of the situation surrounding the offense. To effectively
reach the most less privileged, there should be scholarship scheme in order to help the
real poor ones in the hosting communities. The church is to set pace through her
schools in the following aspects: academic excellence, morals, disciplines, hard work,
respect to human life and dignity, and care for the environment. The church is to ensure
transperency, avoid corruption and mismanagement of funds, and of course yearly
accountability.
Another main reason why it is important for the church in Nigeria to embark on
educational project once more is due to the fallen standard in morals. This is one of the
reasons behind the alarming increase in crimes in the nation. The position of the
Fathers of Second Vatican Council is to serve as the motivating factor in achieving this.
For them, true education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view
of his final end and the good of that society to which he belongs and in the duties of
which he will, as an adult, have share.691 In these schools, the church as moral
educator teaches and evangelizes the young generation about God, value of justice,
peace, love, unity, respect for fellow human persons and rule of law of the society. In her
educational programm, care is to be taken to help her children achieve proper self
690

691

Church and State Partnership in the Provision of Quality Education : Communique at the end of the first
Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Abuja, March 8-14, 2014.
The Document of Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis, no. 1.

227

development in the physical and the spiritual aspects of life. The two are to receive
renewed, strong and resolute attention of the government and church in her maternal
pastoral activities. Education without the involvment or due participation of the church is
incomplete. It is a known fact that, education with God is simply the future. While
education without God exposes human life and society to some serious developmental
and moral risk.
Important suggestions must be made in other to help the church in this direction.
Observation has shown that in most cases, her school establishments are understaffed. There is always the problem of employing unqualified, retired teachers who lack
exposure to the use of modern learning facilities like computer. The above are important
areas the church is to look into before embarking into the educational project.The
diocesan board responsible for education in collaboration with the state's board of
education, is to supervise the project to see that it is up to the required standard before
ever the opening and use of the facilities. There is need for the government to revisit the
formal method of grant-in-aid to help mission schools. The same is to be granted to the
private owners of schools in order to make quality education that imarts proper
intellectual, moral and professional competence affordable by the parents and guidance
for their children, and realizable in the nation.
4.3.3 The Mother Church and Political Situation in Nigeria
The political situation in the nation is such that throws one into asking a fundamental
question of if there is anything like Nigeria. Politics has brought more division and
hatred among the citizens of the nation. Families, kindred and friends have been kept
enemies as a result of creation of autonomous communities that never bring anything
good for the people. Instead, it keeps them more apart from each other. This division
mentality further signified the choice of political leaders at various levels in the nation.
Minor issues are politicized. This often leads to social unrest, loss of life and destruction
of property. The climax of it was that in most cases politicians select those of their
choice and impose them on Nigerians as leaders through rigging of votes casted. The
Nigerian political leaders forget that vocation to any of the political positions is a call to
service. Rather, majority of them see it as an opportunity to syphon the public coffer to
the detriment of the populace who struggles in abject and dehumanize situations of life.
They forget that politicians are human agents to pilot the political affairs of the nation
towards the realization of the common good; which is the main reason and purpose for
the existence of government and its leaders. Unfortunately, the revise is the case in
Nigerian political situation that favour few while large number of the population are
disadvantaged. However, it is has been observed that some of the world political
leaders support such political situation for invested economic and political interests. 692
The underneath objectives and purposes of politics are effective realization, distribution
and preservation of the common good including the human life. For in his plan of human
redemption, God has destined man for civil society. In the plan of the Creator, society is
692

Elochukwu, E. Uzukwu, A Listening Church: Autonomy and Communion in African Churches, New York,
MaryKnoll, 1996, p. 73.

228

a natural means which man can and must use to reach his destined end. 693 It is for the
government to provide the necessary conditions that will ensure the availability of the
common good for all. The common good are those goods and services citizens cannot
provide on their own. In accordance to this incapability, the Fathers of the Second
Vatican Council maintained that:
individuals, families, and the various groups which make up the civil
community are aware of their inability to achieve a truly human life by
their own unaided efforts.The political community then exists for the
common good; this is its full justification and meaning and the source of
its specific and basic right to exist. The common good embraces the
sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals,
families, and organizations to achieve complete and efficacious fulfillment. 694
The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria said, that the State exists primarily for their full life and
fulfillment: the common good is not simply provided by an omnipotent government but
comes from the united efforts of the whole citizenry, both governed and governors. 695
The common good and services are indispensible for descent living. But where there is
structural denial of these essential good and services affects seriously the standard of
living of the people. One of its crucial effects is that great numbers of the population
especially the youths turn to crimes that breed continuous increase of social violence. In
other to checkmate such situation the church becomes involve to speak out against the
unjust political situation. The objective of every political leader is to pursue for the good
of human persons, and not to be against the human's personhood. Therefore, any
action or policy of the government that fringes on the actualization of human beings end
in creation is not acceptable.
It is obvious that the church does not meddle in political parties or its equivalent groups.
Historically, it will be recalled that, after the Council of Trent in 1563 the separation of
the Church and state was defined. From then on, the Church has always been cautious
and careful to avoiding politics, as a rat avoids a cat. During the Industrial Revolution
and other civil or political uprising in Europe, the Church was attacked of being less
concern towards the plight of the people.696 But in her teaching, she holds that authority
of every government stems from God. And her children are to respect civil authorities
and participate in politics. However, the church has right and obligation to speak about
the political situations. How does she go about actualizing this? First, it is the
fundamental responsibility of the church in Nigeria to educate her sons and daughters
aimed at helping to liberate them from illiteracy and ignorance that deprive them to
understand the compatibility of religion and politics. With this, the Catholic Christians in
693

Pope, Pius X1, Encyclical on Atheistic Communism, 1937, no 29.

694

The Document of Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, no 74.

695

Schineller, Peter, S.J, op. cit., p 87.

696

Marinus, C. Iwuchukwu The Church and the Evangelization of the Political Culture of Nigeri: A Media
Perspective, in: The Nature and Identity of the Church: Nigerian Theological Perspectives, op. cit., p. 167.

229

particular will understand and know that political activities are essential parts of their
Christian calling. This is essential because, for some Catholics, Christianity and politics
have nothing in common. Politicians use such idea to enjoy the political monopoly. They
often argue that Jesus life and teachings are not about politics. Instead he is pictured
as friend of children. All these were to scare Christians from political scene. 697 This
group forgets the other portrait of Jesus as a political revolutionary of his time. Most of
the Nigerian Catholics pay often nonchalant attitude when it comes to politics. Hence,
they cannot ignore this aspect of their calling, as neglect to this is doing violence to their
vocations as Christians. They need to be re-oriented with basic knowledge of politics as
against the old idea that politics is a dirty game. By its very nature, politics is not dirty;
rather the human actors in this scene makes it appear dirty.
The active involvement of Christians in the national politics help to bring the expected
changes in this social sector. They are the people to evangelize our political sector. In
their political debates and discussions, therefore, Christian politicians are to bring to
fore, their wealth of Christian knowledge and wisdom positively and convincingly. The
life and actions of Jesus have insight to offer Nigerian christian politicians when
carefully studied. Thus, Jesus understands that getting to power is not the answer:
instead, unqualified submission to God is required to do anything good. The beginning,
middle, and end of politics is obedience to God. 698 What does this mean for Christian
politicians in Nigeria? It means that possession of political power is not the ultimate end
of politics. This power has to lead citizens to God, and bring transformation of the
human society and cultures. The church is not only to educate the Christian politicians.
She is to criticize abnormalities of election rigging, bad governance, bad condition of
workers and corrupt acts constructively and positively. Let her voice be heard through
the different mass media outlets. The church is to organize workshops and seminars on
leadership and specifically on political leadership. The leaders of Nigerian church are to
look into history to discover those who took this road previously and the enormous
effects they made in the life of their people. For instance during the apartheid regime in
South Africa, the Catholic clergy were there, numerous and powerful as one would
expect. But it was the Anglican clergy Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu who took the lead to
bear witness in a very practical terms against the oppressed political government in
favour of the oppressed people of God? In apartheid South Africa it was the whites that
subjugated the black who are also people of God. In Nigeria, it is the massively corrupt
government and system oppressing their own people.
Within the over-arching understanding of the church as mother, how many bishops,
priests, deacons, religious men and women are ready and willing to bear witness to the
gospel in very practical terms in favour of the oppressed Nigerians? Again, how many
are willing and bold to tell the oppressors in authority and those with political power to
stop oppressing the oppressed. This calls for firm commitment and active involvement
on the side of the church as she maintains that political authority and power are to be
697

Storkey, Alan, Jesus and Politics: confronting the powers published by Barker Academic, A division of Baker
Publishing Group, United States of America, 2005, p 9.
698

Storkey, Alan, ibid, p. 78.

230

used for the protection and good of the citizens. The mother church in Nigeria is to
expose her children, men and women more to the issue of politics in order to provide
the needed result of effective social change. This will motivate priests, religious men
and women and the laity to be able to analysis the socio-political situation events in the
nation in the light of theological reflection. This is very crucial because, priests, religious
men and women are looked onto by the citizens to provide answers to the many
questions concerning socio-political issues that disturbs them.

4.3.3.1 Bad Leadership and Church in Nigeria


In the early part of this chapter of the work we discovered that one of the major
problems that have kept Nigeria the way it is today is bad leadership. Even the past and
present political leaders in the country attest to this. Also, scholars especially Achebe
Chinua holds the same notion as he gave answer to an important question of the
problem with Nigeria. Some citizens think that foreign hands are at play with regard to
the happenings in the nation. They write the scripts, the leaders in Nigeria act them out.
In response to the problem of bad political leadership in Nigeria, the Bishops of Nigeria
say:
It is evident that despite allegations of foreign interests and interference.
Most of our problems are self-inflicted. For at the heart of our nation's distress
is the crass selfishness, unrestrained greed and lust for power of the Nigerian
military and civilian elite on one hand, and the complacent accquiescence and
naivety of the citizens on the other hand.... It can now be said that Nigeria would
have been better off if the military had never intervened in her political life. 699
The Bishops traced the origin of bad leadership in Nigeria to the eras of the military
regime, that has also infested the civilians. According to them, the leaders are selfish,
driven by uncontrolled desire ruled by greed, and quest to possess power at all cost;
while the ruled naivety played role in this regard. The issue of bad leadership is a hangover from the military involvment in the political life of the nation. However, one may
ask, now that the military reign is over since 1999, what has the civilian reign achieved
in the nation. It is the same story always. Thus, does it mean then, that, there is no
person or persons likely to deliever the nation of the problem of bad political leadership.
Shifting blames on the foreigners simplly shows how unprepared we are to rule
ourselves. What the nation Nigeria needs are people with leadership qualities such as
vision, inspiration, passionate sense of justice, respect for the rule of law, ready to work
for Nigeria and along with Nigerians with fear of God, and respect for the citizens with
the aim to transform the nation. The nation needs out spoken leaders who will be able
to say no to some of the national and international policies that do not favour the nation.
Unfortunatelly, what we have are rather those who came for what they will take from the
nation. Hence, it has been the case of recyling of the same group of people who ruled
as military in uniform but now as civilians with agbada, suits and ties. What then can
699

Catholic Bishps Conference, The Church in the Face of our Nation in Distress, Lagos, March 7-10, 1995, in:
The Voice of the Voicless, Peter Schineller, S.J. (ed), op. cit., pp. 314-315.

231

come from them except the old stories and the same act of looting, bribery and
corruption that can never bring any positive change in the socio-political, socio-cultural,
and socio-economic situations in Nigeria. We reinterate the position of the Bishops on
this once more as they argued that the:
key to Nigeria's future lies especially in the hands of her leaders.
To face the enormous challenges ahead we need leaders who will
seek the good of the nation as a whole and who will put it before the
good of a particular grouping or class or their own personal good, who
will not shrink from the right course even when for a time it ceases to be
applauded. We need leaders who are dedicated men. In national and
international affairs our leaders will command respect in the degree in
which they manifest integrity in their deeds.700
Therefore, it is glaring that the nation needs leaders who can harness the abundant
human and natural resources in the land for the good of the nation as against the good
of individual private pockets. That is, leaders who can see, plan, and execute beyond
party group, tribalism, ethnicity, sectionalism and religious affiliations if we believe that
we have one nation, Nigeria and that we are Nigerians. On one hand, the inability of the
leaders to tracend the afforementioned factors that militate against development and
growth is already a signal of bad leadership. While on the other hand, the ability to
overcome these social vices places the nation on a wheel of development and progress,
restoration of lost hope by many Nigerians especially the youths to whom both the
present and the future of this country belong to. In other to secure the present for better
future calls for joint actions from both sides of the ruler and the ruled since the problem
of bad leadership in the nation is much of self-inflected, meaning, that we all are
involved. Consequently therefore, since everyone is involved in creating the problem on
ground, it means then, that everyone has a part to play in the realization of the possible
and lasting solution to it. Hence,there is need for change of attitudes and a realization
that pursuing the commone good is in the ultimate best interest of the individual 701 and
the nation at large.
4.3.3.2 Nigerian Church: Bribery and Corruption

Just like bad leadership, bribery and corruption have contributed a lot in the myraid of
socio-economic and political problems in Nigeria. That the nation is stagnant in
development is as a result of the negative effects of bribe and corrupt practices of those
at the heelm of social services, and even among the ruled. This is evident before the
learned and the unlearned. As bribery and corruption take place in political, cooperate
and institutions offices; so it is in the daily life activities of the people in the markets and
streets. Commenting on this, the Nigerian Bishops said:
700

Peter, Schineller, S.J., op. cit., p. 12.

701

Catholic, Bishop's Conference of Nigeria, Memo to the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed
Forces of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, September 26, 1994., in Peter, Schineller, S.J. Ibid, p. 306.

232

We are painfully aware that corruption has eaten deep into the farbric of
the Nigerian Society. It has become so pervasive that many now accept
it as the Nigerian way of life or the Nigerian way of doing things. People
now speak about a so-called Nigerian factor, when they mean corruption.
The situation is so bad that corruption has been institutionalized to a point
where it almost passes for official policy in both the public and private sectors
of our national life. The socio-economic and political system itself appears to
be build on corruption and thrives on it.... Even the Church and other religious
organisations are themselves not completely free from corruption. 702
The above citation confirms the reality of corruption in Nigeria. It is no longer a social
issue. It takes place in the religious institutions in the nation. Corruption and bribery are
indeed general socio-economic, political, and religious problems in the nation Nigeria.
Bribery and corruption do not just happen. There are causes of bribery and corruption
which the Bishops clearly identified to include: The cultural expectations of the people to
meet up with certain demands like taking a title, building house, caring for the extended
family, performing elaborate burial ceremonies of a deceased member of the family. The
socio-economic dimension of the cause centres on the attitudes of people towards
riches. People respect wealth without questioning the source of it. And because of this,
people go on to acquire riches by fair, foul and crook means which encourages
corruption. Poverty, denial, lack of basic social amenities and people living beyond their
official or normal income lead to corrupt practices. However, the background cause of
corruption is lack of one been satisfy with what he or she has, or rather, the desire to
acquire more.703 Speaking further on bribery, the church in Nigeria identifies it as an
abuse that has pervades our society, in the sense that at all levels and in every
department bribes are given and taken. This disrupts the order of justice. It sins against
commutative justice by the wrongful appropriation of wealth. It sins against distrubtive
justice and unfair distrubtion of benefits. Bribery manifests in various forms ranging from
gifts given to receive some faviour, extortion 704 and so on.
Bribery and corruption have caused untold damage to Nigeria and Nigerians. Both have
led to the following negative effects: gross inefficiency of public institutions, diminished
productivity in both the public and private sectors, unemployment problem in the nation,
high rate of living, created acute degree of poverty in Nigeria and has led to an
unprecedented lowering of moral and ethical standards of life. 705 The effect of bribery
and corruption politically is such that we end up having wrong persons where they
supposed not to be. While the qualified ones for important political positions in the
society are been edged out because, they refused to dance to the tune of the music of
the day. It is clear that the socio-economic and political system suffer setback and the
702

Catholic, Bishop's Conference of Nigeria, Corruption in Nigeria Implications for Nation Building, Lagos,
February 22-26. 1999, in Peter, Schineller, S.J., op. cit., p. 394.

703

Ibid. pp. 394-395.

704

Peter, Schineller, S.J., ibid, p. 48.

705

Catholic, Bishop's Conference of Nigeria, Corruption in Nigeria Implications for Nation Building, Peter,
Schineller, S.J., op. cit., p. 397.

233

citizens feel the pains. Bribery and corruption disrupt justice and enthrown injustice that
breeds disorderliness in the nation.
4.3.3.3 The Church in the Promotion of Justice in Nigeria
It is in continuation of quest for change in human society that the issue of justice finds
its way into the social teachings of the mother church. The church is the voice and
harbinger of Gods justice in the country. She continues in her teaching and education in
other to encourage the people of Nigeria on the need of effective practical justice.
Globally, some of the social events in history that necessitated the churchs involvement
include the effects of first and second world war, and the industrial revolution of England
in the 1820s. Seventy one (71) years later came the first ever Encyclical of the mother
Church in response to unjust social problems in the world. 706 Since then till this present
times in most of her Encyclicals, the issue of social justice keeps coming up to address
social problems to achieve integral development, participation and involvment of the
human person. According to some of the encyclicals, the obligations of justice in human
society include bringing the rich and working class together, respect and dignity of the
workers by the employers and to give every worker what is just. And the obligations of
justice on the parts of the workers and the employers alike. The value of man as an
object in the field of work to make gain is described as shameful and inhuman. 707 In
field of work, justice bind both the workers and the employers together. The Encyclical
identifies two types of unjust conditions of the government against the church. The
taken over the property that belongs to the Church and heavy taxation on the side of the
citizens.708 Therefore, in providing some lasting working solutions to the material and
social needs of men and women, the church stresses on the social and spiritual
wellbeing of the human persons.
The fundamental base of Yahwehs action of justice for the sake of human beings
preached and taught by Jesus Christ and continued by the church is Love. This Love
according to pope Benedict XVI is God's greatest gift to humanity, his promise and our
hope.709 In 1971 the issue of Justice in the world became a thing of great concern for
the church. This gave birth to the church's document titled De Justitia in Mundo (Justice
In The World). The Bishops declared the high rate of injustices in the world that
develops into a network of domination, oppression and abuses that stifle freedom. They
observed that people suffer violence and oppressed by unjust systems and
structures.710 According to the Synod, the stifling oppressions in the world produce
large numbers of marginal people, who are ill-fed, inhumanly housed, illiterate and
rendered politically powerless and as well deprive of the suitable means of acquiring
706

Elsbernd Mary O S F and Bieringer Reimund, When Love is not Enough: A Theo-Ethic of Justice Liturgical
Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2002, p 91.
707

Pope Leo X111, Rerum Novarum, nos, 19-20.

708

Ibid, no, 53.

709

Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas Veritate, 2009, no. 2.

710

The Synod of Bishops, De Justitia in Mundo, 1971, nos. 3 and 5.

234

responsibility and moral dignity.711 In the faces of the observed social evils, it is
imparative on the part of the church to be involved for the sake of the victims of the
social strifling structures and systems. To this the Bishops asserted that, Action on
behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as
a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the
church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every
oppressive situation.712 The reason for the synod is clearly stated in the citation.They
hold that:
Unless the Christian message of love and justice shows its effectiveness
through action in the cause of justice in the world, This is the reason why the
Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national
and international level, and to denounce instances of injustice she has a proper
and specific responsibility which is identified with her mission of giving witness before
the world of the need for love and justice contained in the Gospel message... 713
It shows then, that the church's mission of evangelization has to do with justice. The two
are inseparable. The church is at the service of justice in human society.
Given the different faces of social situations of things in Nigeria as discussed, it seems
that the major cause of problems is breakdown of social justice that encourages and
leads to social injustices in the nation. This in turn gives birth to corruption and bribery,
bad leadership and other social disorders. The church has important role to play here to
ensure peace for the sake of Nigerians. The tenets of Jesus teachings and actions of
justice which the church stands for, when properly implemented in Nigerian society, will
go a long way to rectify the high rate of inequality, discrimination of various type and
other social injustices in the country. The effect of practical justice in the nation leads to
the availability of common good and services within the reach of the citizens to help
them live good life and directly reduce crimes. Hence, action of justice invites and
challenges our humanness as individual and as a group in the society we live for the
sake of the others who seek to be loved, cared for and given charity. This brings us to
understand the link between love, charity and justice. To this pope emeritus Benedict
XVI said:
Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is mine to
the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give to the other what is
his, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot give what
is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. If we
love others with charity, then first of all, we are just towards him. Justice is
inseparable from charity, and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity...
charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of
individuals and people. Charity gives theological and salfivic value to all
711

Ibid, no. 9.

712

Ibid, no. 6.

713

Ibid, nos. 35 and 36.

235

commitment for justice in the world. 714


As mother with compassionate and caring heart, the church is to seek justice for the
poor and the rich alike for she is mother to all. However, the effort of the church in
Nigeria with regard to justice is to be commended. This is seen through the
establishment of the office of Justice and Peace in the dioceses. What we have today
as the Commission for Justice and Peace was formerly known as Catholic welfare
commission. The birth of Justice and Peace Commission in the Church goes back to the
year 1967.715 Theologically, justice is one of the moral virtues that consists of people
giving their due to God and their fellow human beings. Because of the urgent need of
justice, peace and progessive development, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria
saw the need to develop the department of Justice, Development and Peace
Commission, to take care and work in relation to the society in promoting justice. Its
main role is to coordinate, facilitate and see that the members of the church participate
in the course of justice in the nation. The unit, ... organizes seminars, symposia and
workshops for the training of church functionaries at various levels in social analysis,
political awarness, civic education, prisoners welfare, conflict resolution and building of
a strong and virile civil society.716
In Enugu diocese the commission is known as Catholic Institute for Development
Justice and Peace (CIDJAP). Among every other apostolates and developmental
projects engaged by this department, the prison apostolate ranks first. Prisoners
wellbeing is her fundamental concern as it deals directly with the violation of human
right, disrespect of human dignity and denial of justice in Enugu State and Nigeria in
general. The Enugu diocese however, is not alone in this apostolate in Nigeria. Other
dioceses that engage in the same apostolate include the Justice and Peace committes
of the Archdiocese of Lagos and the diocese of Ijebu-ode. 717 Knowing fully well the
inhuman conditions of prisons, the church engages in the welfare of victims of injustice
provides for their material and spiritual needs. The setout objectives are clear. Through
the commission, the mother church in Enugu takes care of the education and
enlightenment of prisoners, cater for their health and financial needs, and make
provision for legal assistance. The church in this situation becomes the vioce of the
vioceless prisoners.The Enugu CIDJAP designed programmes such as rehabilitation
service to prison inmates, evangelization and spiritual care, vocational training and
apprenticeship; home visitation of victims' and offenders families', restoration and
rehabilitation of ex-inmates. 718 This signifies practical course for justice by the mother
church in the society.
Interestinglly enough, in her quest for lasting justice, the church sees the inseparable
714

Pope Benedict, XVI, Caritas Veritate, op. cit., no. 6.

715

Pope, Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, no. 5.

716

Leonard, Lemchukwu, op. cit., pp. 243-244.

717

Ehusani, Omaku George, op.cit., p. 108

718

Leonard, Lemchukwu, op. cit., pp. 252-253.

236

relationship between justice, peace and development. This is quite different from the
ancient Romans notion which holds that peace and war are together, Si vis Pacem,
para Bellum. Hence, if one needs peace he or she is to engage in war. 719 With might,
power or force one gains peace. The church understands and teaches that peace is
possible with justice. According to the church, peace is the fruit of justice. Consequently,
through the works and actions of justice can peace reign in human society. The
condition for peace is justice and this leads to respecting the dignity of other peoples
with fraternal love considered absolutely necessary for the achievement of peace. Thus,
peace is also the fruit of love for love goes beyond what justice can ensure. Peace is
not merely absence of war or balance of power between opposing forces neither is it a
product of despotic domination. It is rightly called the effect of righteousness. 720 In his
own way, Augustine defined peace as Tranquilitas ordinis- the tranquility of order. 721
As we experience wars and terrorist activities in various part of the world and Nigeria of
today as result of breakdown of justice, we need justice, peace and love for the
development of the human beings and their societies.
At the Catholic Prayer Ministry of the Holy Spirit Elele Portharcourt diocese one finds
another offshoot of the commission known as Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Centre.
The centre sees the necessary link between justice, peace and reconciliation to achieve
proper healing of the wound of enemity, war and hatred in Nigerian society and the
world. The JPRC is one of the many departments of Catholic Prayer Ministry of the Holy
Spirit, Eucharistic Adoration and special Marian Devotion founded 1984, by Very, Rev.
Fr. Dr. Prof. E.M.P. Edeh C.S.Sp. The Centre is well known for her fostering of justice,
peace and reconciliation that leads further to unity from grass root to the highest level.
Families, villages, business partners and the society at large have benefited from this
her maternal service. People with different kinds of dispute and quarrels are reconciled
and healed of the wound of hatred, fear and enemity. It is a centre for conflict resolution.
The founder of this centre opened it after seeing the nature of hatred that has gripped
the life of the people who no longer live in peace and harmony. Many families,
marriages, groups, organizations and institutions were seriously affected. There was
less trust between members of the same families, villages and communities. Majority of
the people were confronted with hardship, lack of peace and justice. The poor, widows
orphans and less privilege are dispossessed of their property. This excruciating malaise
led into seeking for practical solution guided by the Spirit of God in other to bring
harmony, trust, peace, justice and reconciliation preached by Christ to many Nigerians
through the Centre at Elele. The victims out of their own free will bring complains to the
office. After proper interrogations, an invitation letter is issued for the second stage
known as the act of hearing and listening. There is always documentation and
registration of every case that is handled for reference purpose. The practical nature of
the process lies in the manner in which issues are settled. There is always a motherly
sympathetic method of listening to each speaker attentively.
719

Ibid, p. 114.

720

The Document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium es Spes, no. 78.

721

Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 19, 13; Pl 41.640 in Leornard Lemchukwu, op. cit., p. 115.

237

At the end of the process, there is no victor as well as no vanquish. One of the most
outstanding qualities of this centre with regard to this department is that she renders her
service to humanity without any charge before and after. Again, the service is not
rendered to Catholics alone. It is open for all. This means that both Christians and nonChristians who seek for justice, peace and reconciliation have access to the centre. This
is an expression of the maternal role of the church who listens with compassion ear,
love with tender heart, and moved with charity and sympathy to the plight of her affected
children oppressed by unjust actions of others. The openness to people outside the
catholic denomination is another motherly quality of the church depicted here. Hence,
the church is a mother to all humanity. As a mother therefore, the church through this
means reach out to people to empower them. The mother church inspires the hope of
the people and helps the recipients to work for peace, justice and reconciliation in their
own little ways. Therefore, for us to speak and expect peace and reconciliation, we are
to work for justice through practical form as demonstrated above. For more
effectiveness in this aspect of the church's mission in Nigeria, it will be good if priest and
religious men and women are allowed to study civil law, and in collaboration with the
laity civil lawyers engage in this social department of the church, and share
correspondence. In turn, they are to work in further collaboration with the victims of
injustices at homes, towns, and those who are unjustly detained in different prisons in
the nation. They are to be in connection with their counterparts in the civil society to
share correspondence.
Again, there is need for the establishment of an effective link of networking with the
Christians in rural areas. These are to serve as the eyes, mouths, legs and reporters of
the church about unjust issues and cases from the remote parts. On another note, the
church in Nigeria is to continue in her effort to educate and encourage individual
Christians to develop the virtue of justice, and practice it in their day-to-day life activities
with one another. Through the impact of the virtue of justice, we learn how to effectively
respect the rights of others irrespective who and what they are, and establish harmony
that promotes equity and equality. This will lead to a better society and accalaration of
social crimes in the nation.
4.3.4 The Church and Health-care service in Nigeria
The struggle people engage in existence is always with regard and desire to have good
standard of living. Hence, life is of great importance as without it there will be nothing
like hope, dream and aspiration. Historically, it would be said that the earliest western
health care service in Nigeria was provided by the explorers and traders only for their
own medically care. This means that the medical service rendered at the initial stage of
the encounter was not available for the host indigenes. It was the Christian missionaries
who not only brought western education in Nigeria; but also, introduced western health
care services to cater for the natives. The first health care system they established in
Nigeria was the dispensary opened in 1880 by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in
Obosi Onitsha, and 1886 in Ibadan. When one speaks of hospital, the first of such in
Nigeria was the Sacred Heart Hospital situated in Abeokuta, built by the Roman

238

Catholic Mission in 1885.722


Throughout the colonial era, the Christian missionaries played major role in providing
health care services in Nigeria. The Roman Catholic missions predominanted,
accounting for about 40 percent of the total number of mission-based hospital beds by
1960. The mission hospitals out numbered the government owned hospitals.There were
118 mission hospitals as compared with 101 government hospitals. This essential social
amenity were not evenly distrubuted in the nation during this era depending on the
religious and other activities of the missions. In the southeastern and midwestern areas
Roman Catholic hospitals were concentrated in these places. By 1954 almost all the
hospitals in the midwestern part of the country were operated by Roman Catholic
missions. The next to Catholic mission was the Sudan United Mission worked in middle
belt areas, and the Sudan Interior Mission, that worked in the north. The christian
missions not only established hospitals in different parts of the nation, they contributed
in medical training and education of nurses and paramedical personnel within and
outside the shore of the nation. 723 This means that the maternal mission of the church is
not only that of the spiritual needs of human beings. Her mission extends to the area of
material needs that include the health concern of the people. Her involvement in this
aspect of human need is true to her nature as a caring mother.
In this regard, tribute must be paid to the Roman Catholic mission, the Church
Missionary Society (Anglican) and the American Baptist Mission. Statistically, in the
aspect of health care service Nigerian church has contributed immensely from the era of
the early Christian missionaries till this present period. The effect of taken over of her
schools by the government after independence was not extended to her health care
establishements. As the nation increases in population and develops, it becomes clear
that most of her hospitals are in the urban centres. Only few are found in the rural
areas. Also, the price of medical services in most of her hospitals, private owned ones
and even the government ones are exorbitant. Hence, the aspects of: nearness and
price of medical service is to be the concern of the church, private and government so
that this essential service can be available and affordable for all. The availability of
medical service only in the cities makes it very difficult for the poor masses in rural
areas. The question becomes, how can people especially women in remote areas have
access to maternity services and attention proper to their state and vocation as mothers
during the period of childbearing. It is only and when this is achieved, then, can the rate
of maternal and infant death be drastically reduced. If not, the rate will continue to
increase.
Since what the church built at early stage of her health-care mission are now in the
centres, it becomes necessary for the church to spread her health-care services
tentacles to the present remotest areas this essential service is found lacking. The
722

723

Ajovi, Scott-Emukpor , The Revolution of Health Care system in Nigeria: which way forword in the Twentyfirst century, in: Nigerian Medical Journal, Vol. 51, 2010, cf. Www.nijerianmedj.com/article.asp?issn=03001652;year=2010;volume=51;issue=2;spage=53;epage=65;aulast=scott-Emuakor. Visited on 13.01.2016.
Cf, www.countrystudies.us/nigeria/50.htm. Visited on 21.01.2016)

239

church is to assist in building more functional and accessible community health centres
no matter how small these may be. In other to help the people, the government could
give free medical treatment if it is possible. But this could be asking for much. How then
can the doctors and nurses be paid? How can medicines be bought and the hospitals
maintained? What could be done since it is obvious that free medical assistance to the
citizens seems unrealistic? The only option left could be subsidization of health-care
services.724 As one of the means to argument the effort of the government, the church in
Nigeria is to invest in the area of establishing effective nursing schools to ensures
training and re-training of personnel in area concerned with procreative and family
health, and strengthens the health management systems in the country. 725 The nation
needs well trained and qualified nurses, doctors and midwives for the available
hospitals. These are to be at the service of women, men, children, aged and the sick
ones. Pregnant, nursing mothers and all the people are to be informed with effective
primary knowledge of curative and preventive medications in maters of health
emergency. This primary medical know how would in no small neasure help in
preventing and handling of some minor health issues that confronts the people daily. In
this process of practical idea and knowledge imparting, people are to learn also about
proper nutrition. This will be of great assistance as it will enable them prepare the
available meal in a way that the body nutrients will be balanced and the human person
becomes less exposed to ill health. The only way this can be achieved is by organizing
medical seminars or worshops to the academic level of the people in the communities
her health care projects are established.
It is for the government of the nation to take care of the medical projects and its
personnel. This will help checkmate the exoduce of doctors and nurses out of the
country as result of poor and late payment of the salary. Effort should be make to stamp
out corruption that has weaken this essential sector in our society because, health
remains the basic source of any nation's economy. The government is to furnish the
existing hospitals with modern hospital facilities. Provision of good and functioning
health care systems should be among the priorities in the agenda of any government
that has the concern of the citizens. Just as we recommend that the church is to extend
her medical care projects in the remote areas in Nigeria, so, it is with the government to
establish befitting health care services in the rural areas. It is an obligation the
government owns the citizens. It is the social right of the citizens to have this social
amenity at their disposal and at an affordable price. Although, it is certain that healthcare project is a capital intentive one. Because of this, it is only government that can
afford its establishment from the national treasury. However, we argue that the healthcare management of the lives of Nigerians is not to be left, at the hands of the
government alone. Agencies, organizations and institutions and well meaning individual
Nigerians are to be involved. This corresponds to the invitation of the Catholic bishops
of Nigeria asking the people to help in this direction. They said:
724

Ejim Chukwuma Romanus, op. cit., p 328.

725

Nigerian Catholic Procreative and Family Health Policy.A Publication of Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Lagos,
2007, p 78.

240

We encourage our people to join hands together in seeking ways of


meeting their health needs where the government fails to meet the needs,
including keeping their environment clean, we call on our communities
medical officers and other health workers to offer free or at least affordable
services to the poor in critical times.726
There should be change in attitude of those who work both in the government, private
and church's hospitals.The motherly attitude needed from the workers include
gentleness, tenderness, kind, love, humane, sympathy and empathy, having time and
listening ear for the sick and suffering patients. The sick ones are to be treated and
handled as human persons and not as things. The involvement of the church in Nigerian
health care services, is an expression and extension of her motherly hands towards the
sick, the aged, pregnant women and children who due to reasons bordering on poor
socio-economic condition have no one to turn to. This is very important because, the
human persons of the 21st century are harassed by so many kinds of diseases curable
and incurable. In Nigeria as in other African countries and other parts of the world the
HIV/AIDS and malaria are dealing a death blow to the population. Through the
establishment of hospitals and health centres the church in Nigeria reaches the citizens
in need of these medical treatments. This is more important than leaving them to the
whips and caprices of diseases. Already some are stigmatized due to one sickness or
the other. Out of pain of rejection associated with discrimination, these group of people
have become psychologically and emotionally traumatized. Because of this negative
attitude towards the victims, some consider committing suicide as the only best option
and choice. But the mother church in Nigeria through her health-care mission, saves
life, and thus remains faithful to her vocation as mother who preserves life.
The practical role of the church in this situation thus is that of a mother with open hands
to embrace and shelter those considered social outcasts due to ill-health. By this
attitude and approach, the church restores hope to the hopeless in our midst, and
makes them find reasons to live on the life God gave them. 727 However, what we have
seen is just one aspects of the church's mission with regard to human health in Nigeria
that only takes care of the sick materially. The church engages in a holistic system of
726

Catholic Conference of Nigeria, The Church in the Face of our Nation in Distres, in P. Schineller, ed, p. 316.

727

The effort of the mother church in Nigeria with regard to the issue of the sickness of HIV/AIDS cannot be over
emphasized. To ensure that the number of people infected with this virus reduces, the church has made it mandatory
for all couples preparing for marriage to undergo the HIV-test. At the beginning of this project it seemed difficult for
people to understand. Even some other Christian denominations directly or indirectly criticized the idea. Presently
all the Christian churches see the need and importance of this medical test before marriage. On one hand, this has
drastically reduced the problem of death of little children at birth due to one illness or the other like sickle cell
anaemia. People have medical knowledge that certain blood group cannot marry if they intend to procreate. On the
other hand, it has also reduced attacks directed always at the mother-in-laws and father-in-laws as witches and
wizards killing their grandchildren at birth. Hence peace is restored to many families through this medical exercise
initiated by the mother church in Nigeria. Government has also given support to this project by providing free
medical test or by subsidizing the cost of the test. In the nation Nigeria, the issue of health insurance scheme is still
an illusion. It could be wise if the mother church in Nigeria through her health institutions embark on this
programm. For this to become effective people are to be educated on the importance of having health insurance by
organizing seminars, creating awareness in the cities and rural areas.

241

health treatment that corresponds to the peoples understanding of illness treatment.


That is, a health programm that sees to the healing of both the physical (the body) and
the spirit of the sick ones. In Nigerian cultures when one is sick everything about him or
her is involved. The situation leads to disorder between the spiritual and material worlds
of the person(s). For them, any project on health that does not considered it from
holistic perspective fall short of their expectations. Health deals with all the dimensions
of the human life namely physical, psychological/mental, ethical, social and religious
dimensions are touched.728
Base on the peoples attitude informed by their religious world view, it is not a surprise
that one discovers that people after going to hospitals still visit healing centres for
spiritual healing. They seek total recovery from their ill-health. They do this because of
the necessary connection that exists between the two. Consequently, the people believe
that both the bodily and spiritual sickness have one cause. Hence, for them, it is either
an enemy had cast a spell on you, or you are being punished by divine powers for your
wrong deeds. This attitude highlights yet another important aspect of the mission of the
mother church in Nigeria. The mission of healing ministry. This is an expression of
mothers love and compassion towards the sick suffering ones evident in the mission of
Jesus Christ (cf. Is 61:1-3, Lk 4:18-19 ), who came for the sick and not for the healthy.
In other to achieve this holistic health concern of the people, the church has to
collaborate with experts to realize this goal. She needs the service of the pastors,
doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists 729, nurses and laboratory specialists.
It becomes important for the church to teach Nigerians how to believe God and hope on
his actions through the doctors, nurses, pyschologists and so on. This will help her
avoid the mistake of approching human sickness issues from one point of view that will
hamper the realization of complete healing of her sons and daughters.
4.3.5 The Church and Nigerian Religious Situation
It is a clear and indisputable argument that Christian religion contributed immensely in
the building and development of the world and of course the nation Nigeria. Religion
occupies central role in the world view of the people. By its nature also, religion is one of
the effective means of unity. But the same religion has been used by some people
especially the fundamentalists, fanatics and some politicians to ferment trouble. In her
history the nation Nigeria has witnessed series of religious violence. The advent of
religious bigotry is traced back to the moment Christianity and Islam encountered the
Traditional religions of the people. By its nature, the Traditional religions' is free of
unrest or conflict. As a matter of fact, everybody was naturally and culturally born into
one traditional religion or the other in Nigeria. Because of this, no effort was made to
win one over to the other; as such the religions of the people was not mission oriented.
Speaking of religious situation in Yoruba land before her encounter with Islam and
Christianity, it was observed that Traditional Religion was not mission-minded.
728

Gregory, Ikechukwu Olikenyi, op. cit., p. 173.

729

Igenoza, Andrew Olu, Wholeness in African Experience: Christian Perspectives: In Emmanuel Lartey et al.
eds, The church and Healing: Echoes from Africa, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 1994, p. 124.

242

Everybody was born into it.... Islam and Christianity were jointly hostile to its
members.730
However, between Islam and Christianity exists real acrimony, bitterness, hostility....,
methods of conversion were sometimes crude and unspiritual..., use of abusive and
disrespectful languages to discredit the other religions is another feature of Christian
and Muslim evangelism.731 There are series of songs by the Protestant Christians in
Yoruba composed to ridicule Islam.732 The same situation is applicable in the Eastern
Nigeria between the Protestant churches and Catholic church.... 733 We can say that, the
initial contact between Traditional religion with Islam and Christianity on one hand was
not a peaceful one. While on the other hand between Islam and Christianity there were
frictions here and there, and among the Christian groups in Nigeria. In all these, the
most dangerous religious violence is always between Islam and Christianity. Presently,
the religious tension between Christianity and Islam is much in the northern part of
Nigeria. Hence, there was no peaceful co-existence between the three religions at the
earlier stages of encounter and interaction. Thus:
religious conflicts came with the introduction of foreign religions in Nigeria
and African continent. Proselytization and competition for membership
were none-issues in African Traditional Religion. The story has been that,
at any given time the nation is dealing with one religious issue or the other.
Among which are: religious conflicts, OIC, or sharia debates, pilgrim issues,
diplomatic relationship with Islamic or Christian nations, and the activities of
religious fundamentalists.734
Religious violence occurrences threaten the peace and unity in the family, kindred,
community and nation. The victims of such incidents are perpetually under
psychological and emotional pains, and aggressive towards one another. The onus falls
on the different religious leaders to work in collaboration with the government to find
some possible and lasting solutions to the issue. The type of solutions capable to
liberate religions in Nigeria from the hands of the fanatics, fundamentalists, some
politicians and rich elites who instigate the poor masses underground, but in turn utilize
the situation to promote crime and importation of weapons of mass destruction. In this
situation the country becomes stagnant in development and many of her citizens are
730

Dopamu, Ade Traditional Religion Islam and Christianity in Yoruba: Patterns on Interaction, in: The Gods in
Retreat: Continuity and change in African Religions. edt, by, Metuh Ikenga Emefie, Enugu, Nigeria, Fourth
Dimension Publishing CO. LTD 1985, p. 109.
731

Dopamu, Ade, ibid, p. 110.

732

Dopamu, Ade, ibid, p. 111.

733

Okorie, B. C. Joseph, If the Nigerian Church is to Survive... Imo State Nigeria, Chimavin Prods. NIG. LTD Orlu,
2006, p. 127.
734

Terumbaur, Abraham Mbachirin, The Responses of the Church in Nigeria to Socio-Economic, Political and
Religious Problems in Nigeria: A Case Study of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), pp 73-78
https://beardocs.baylor.edu/xmlui/Abraham.mbachirin_phd.pdf? Visited on 10.8.2012.

243

turned into agents of destruction. With these situations, the aim of religion in human
society seems thwarted. Instead of one of the means that sees to human character
formation, religion has been used otherwise to sow the seed of destruction, division and
hatred among people and distorts man's relation to God. The religious situation in
Nigeria requires the motherly services of the church achieved through practical
ecumenical and interreligious solidarity with other Christian churches and different
religions existing in the nation.
4.3.5.1 Need for Practical Solidarity with other Christian Churches in Nigeria
(Ecumenism)
Nigeria is a pluralistic Christian country. It has not been easy for the different Christian
denominations to harmoniously co-exists and work together. This perpetual rivalry is an
inherited problem that has become persistent. Each Christian dinomination scramble for
members and territorial control. The new trend especially among the African
Independent churches and the New Generation churches in Nigeria is to convert
members of the orthodox or traditional churches over to their own. There are a lot of
division and separation in the church going on in the nation. The first ever division in the
church was the schism of 1054. This led to the separation between the Eastern
Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Next was the Reformation of 1517
began by Martin Luther of Germany.735 The aftermath has been that, things have not
been the same. Therefore, in Nigeria we received divided Christianity from the early
missionaries.736 This manifests itself in different Christian denominations as: Catholic,
Methodist, Church Missionary Society, Anglican Communion etc, and the numerous
aggressive new African and Nigerian Independent churches. What we experience today
in the nation owns its origin in the history of the church although on a different note. In
Nigerian case some left Catholic church because, she is more traditional and rigid in her
worship. People seek for a place they can express their religious emotions in a more
Nigerian and African rythmus. Some leave as result of not wanting to be under the
control of the leaders in this or that church. Even in the Protestant, African and Nigerian
Independent churches members jump from one church to another, while new ones are
being founded. Commenting on this religous attitudes of the people Ndiokwere says,
the urgly circumstances that brought about the birth or the establishment of the
different churches were in themselves enough scandal. Some were stories of rebelion
against constituted authorities, acts of sabotage and intrigues, disobedience and
disrespect for leaders. Selfish motives and lust for leadership, also contributed to
separation and founding of new Churches.... 737
It may not be an overstatement to say that everyday in the cities as well as in the
remote parts churches spring up in Nigeria. One important fact remains clear; and that
is, that the different Christian denominations hold claim on Jesus Christ. Yet, they
735

736
737

Ndiokwere, I. Nathaniel, The African Church Today and Tomorrow, Vol. 1 : Prospects and Challenges, Onitsha
Nigeria, Effective Key Publishers Limited, 1994, p. 305.
ibid, p. 306.
ibid, p. 312.

244

behave as if Christ is divided, although, each differ in method and approach in worship
and doctrine. In other to rectify this and in line to the famous prayer of Jesus Christ that
they may be one... (cf. Jn 17:11), lends credence to the birth of ecumenism. That is a
movement towards restoration of unity among all Christians. This presupposes that
things are not the way it should be in the Church founded by Jesus Christ. There is
state of division, disunity, distrust, rivalry and competition going on in his Church. The
seed of discord, hatred and division sown by the different western Christian missionary
groups in the process of evangelizing Nigeria has germinated; and is being nurtured
presently by the indigens. One of the consequences is what we are experiencing today
in the form of proliferation of churches, movements and sects in the nation. Hence,
instead of unity, the Christian bodies have continued to divide. .. various Church bodies
saw each other as enemies.738 This suggests the obvious that things have gone bizard.
In this case, we suggest practical ecumenism to strenghthen the already ecumenical
project in process in the nation. Ecumenism is a word used to delineate efforts to unite
all Christian churches. Practical ecumenism in this context means ecumenical actions
that are beyond speeches, talks and paper presentations. It is an action oriented works
and processes within (Ad Intra) and outside (Ad Extra) with regard to other Christian
denominations in Nigeria. This will help to checkmate unnecessary castigations that
exist between different Christian churches, and to serve the people of God religiously on
one hand. On the other hand, the practical maternal solidarity process will help reorientate the mentality and attitude of our people divided because I belong to this and
you belong to that church syndrome that has caused divisions and scandals. The
question of Paul to the Corinthians is to guide us on this, .... every one of you is
declaring, I belong to Paul; or I belong to Apollos; or I belong to Cephas; or I belong to
Christ. Has Christ been spilt up? (cf 1Cor. 1:12). The wisdom of his teaching applies in
our present religious context in Nigeria its Christian unity is seriously affected on the
ground that I belong to Catholic church, you belong to Protestant, African and Nigerian
Independent churches.
There is need to strengthen the already formed and existing Christian body in the
nation, the Christian Associations in Nigeria (CAN). This is the largest Ecumenical Body
that exists in Nigeria with its head office at Abuja. 739 The association was formed as
Christians in the country shared the fear that marginalization has become the order of
the day. The association is to serve as a useful forum for fostering unity and progress
among members. Externally, it is to help the churches stand a position and take united
actions or decisions in issues that concern both Christians and non-Christians at the
local and national levels. Therefore, the association serves as a medium through which
the Christian churches in Nigeria voice is heard with the aim to obtain political,
economic, religious, and cultural freedom for Nigerians. As offshoot responsibilities,
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is to foster the spirit of practical ecumenism
between the various Christian denominations. It is to offers the different churches the
platform to come and reason togeter on how to find solution to the religious problems
738
739

ibid, p. 311.
http://cannigeria.org/about-us. Visited on 5.02.2014.

245

and other issues as they affect Nigerians of today through dialogue. However,
Protestant, African and Nigerian Independent churches are not to see Catholic church
as their great challenge. On her side, the Catholic church is not to feel superior over
them, thus playing the role of super mother that knows it all. No. the Catholic church in
Nigeria in this case is to play rather the role of a fellow sister.
In collaboration therefore, they are to work together for a common goal, the wellbeing of
Nigerians, both spiritual and material without each losing its undamental identity. This is
very important. For effective realization of the maternal practical ecumenism, there
should be more avenue for intellectual and religious activities, events and chances for
the different members of the churches to meet often in the year. In these meetings
members of different churches come to know and understand each group more. This
will reduce the occasion of rash judgment and conclusion of my church is better than
the others mentality we openly portray anytime we encounter each other. In the
observation of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, such division openly
contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause,
the preaching of the Gospel to every creature. 740 Christians are to learn that we have
one God on whose deeds the foundation of the Church is built. Hence, there is only but
one Church that professes God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in and through different
churches and doctrines. As it stands the call for ecumenism is not a process that brings
about doctrinal unification of the different Christian churches in Nigeria.
In other to realize the goal of praical ctecumenism in the nation the clergy and members
of all the Christian churches in Nigeria are to be involved. They are called to work in
collaboration with each Christian denominations involved in the project. That the clergy
of all the Christian churches have great role to play in this project is obvious. They are
to teach, educate and practice it for people are more convinced by example. However,
some attitude they express do not encourage. In fact, it seems that they are more
divided. And this leads to Unhealthy condition that breeds: suspicion, skepticism and
distrust that characterizes the entire effort towards tolerance. It is not surprising to
discover that a Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor living and working in the same
town, street, village, etc do not know or visit each other. They seldomly encounter each
other at public gathering and exchange greetings. It is even more problematic of who
leads in prayer. It has been observed that Catholic priests are always egar to reach out.
While the protestant counterparts are more reserved with regard to this. On another
note, the Catholic priests often refuse invitations to protestant celebrations. While the
protestant ministers attend Catholic celebrations. 741 There should be different days set
apart for ecumenical celebrations beginning from the denaries, to the diocesan levels
and up to the national stage.

740
741

The Document of Second Vatican Council, Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 1.


Ndiokwere, I. Nathaniel, op. cit., pp.323-323.

246

4.3.5.2 Need for Practical Interreligious Dialogue in Nigeria


The Second Vatican Council's position in Nostra Aetate serves as a base for the
church's understanding of the need for practical interreligious dialogue in the human
society. The Fathers in through this document assert that:
The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in all religions.
She has high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and
doctrine which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching,
nevertheless, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. Yet she
proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the
truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). in him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself
(2Cor. 5:18-19), men find the fulness of their religious life. The church urges her
sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with
members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and
way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths
found among non-Christians, also their life and culture. 742
This implies that the church recognizes and appriciates the existence of spiritual and
moral truth outside herself. The above illustrations suggest that the era of opening her
hands to embrace and to encounter the non-Christian religions; and in collaboration and
fellowship work for the common good centres on the salvation of mankind has dawn.
The church realizes the need of working together with others as she goes about her
mission in human history. Thus, the mother church conscious of this fact asserts that:
In this age of ours, when men are drawing more closely together and the bonds of
friendship between different peoples are being strenghtened, the Church examines
with greater care the relation which she has to non-Christian religions. Ever aware
of her duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations,
she reflects at the outset on what men have in common and what tends to promote
fellowship among them.743
Interreligious dialogue is an integral part of the mission and specific activity of the
church as she encounters other religions in the world. In the case between Traditional,
Islamic and Christianity in Nigeria, there is urgent need for better understanding of each
other by one another. Here, the value of authentic and practical interreligious dialogue
will be of great value for nobody exists or live alone. Nature has through family, society,
religions, cultures and so on made it compulsory that we encounter each other at
various levels in life. This shows the necessity of dialogue in human life. It pays more
positively in resolving our differences like false accusations, suspicious, judgment and
prejudice through dialogue than with violence. The word dialogue is a common term but
often misunderstood by human beings. In the common understanding of people,
dialogue means the process where two or more people are involved in discussion of
742

The Second Vatican Document, Nostra Aetate, no. 2. see also, Pope Benedict XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic
Exhortation, Africae Munus, Nairobi, Paulines Publication, 2011, no. 92.
743

Ibid, no. 1.

247

one talks, the other listen method. In other words, dialogue in a very simple terms
means You talk, I listen, I talk, and you listen. Dialogue is therefore the way to mutual
understanding.744 Simply put, it is a mature way towards better understanding of one
another in any giving situation.
Since providence made it that in the nation Nigeria different religions must exist and
encounter each other for a purpose. This requires positive process of dialogue to help
us discover and ultilize the reason why multiple religion exist in the nation. Hence, the
need for interreligious dialogue. By its name, interreligious dialogue is mainly a dialogue
between members of different religions in Nigeria as in other parts of the world. As
religious people, the members through the process meet to reason together with the
aim of deepening, learning with the intention of enriching oneself and one another.
Through dialogue useful information about each religion is gained. This in turn becomes
vital in achieving the aim of the project of interreligious dialogue in the nation. In other
words, interreligious dialogue is a meeting of hearts and minds of the different members
of religions on a level platform to discuss issues that concerns them religiously. For its
success therefore, interreligious dialogue should anchored on love, torelance,
willingness, openness and truthfulness to one another, and objective in discussion.
Hence:
Interreligious dialogue is a religious partnership without complexes and without
hidden agendas or motives. It is a relationship at the deepest level of man which
involves all that is human since all men form one community from the one stock
which God created.., and since all share a common destiny, namely God. It is
concerned with a common witness to God. It is also a dialogue of love. 745
Witness to, and love of God are basic reasons for interreligious dialogue that leads to
the common good of the human persons. So, love in God and for the sake of the fellow
human persons brings people of different religious convictions into a meaningful and
mature interreligious dialogue. In this process, conversion is likely to take place; and
one learns how to effectively respect one another, and the same time work towards
avoiding and minimising the occasions of religious violence and intolerance in the
nation. However, interreligious dialogue is not to be take as conversion. The process is
not to be seen as an opportunity or avenue for one religion to wine members from the
others. In view of this, Cardinal F. Arize said:
While interreligous dialogue should never be opposed to conversion, it is necessary
to say that dialogue is not the same as the effort to get the interlocutor to be
convinced of one's own faith and to persuade him change his religion. Dialogue
does not aim at a conversion in the sense of a change of religious allegiance, but
conversion understood as a greater readiness to do God's will, should be one of the
744

Peter B. Tanko, The Church and Interreligious Dialogue, in: The Nature and Identity of the Church: Nigerian
Theological Perspective, edit. by, Valerian, M. Okeke, Nsukka, Fulladu Publishing Company, 2002, p. 235.

745

Ibid, p. 236.

248

aims and fruits of sincere interreligious dialogue. 746


Interreligious dialogue abhors coercion. The meetings is to help members of the
different religions find the best way to bear authentic witness to God in Nigeria. This is
very important as it will help both to work together for the promotion of peace,respect for
the dignity of the human person, justice, unity, upholding of religious freedom and love
towards the ongoing establishment of God's Kingdom on earth; and the realization of
social development and progress of our nation.
We can say that, the two processes of: ecumenism and interreligious dialogue require
enormous education and huge work of explanations for positive results. Through the
education we try to discover the common bases and differences 747 that exist between
the religions involved. This is the practical way for positive ecumenical and interreligious
dialogue in the nation. It becomes the sole duty on the part of the leaders of the different
religions to educate their members properly. Through proper education of members, the
idea and objective of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism projects is to be highlighted
and encouraged. This will enable the masses to differentiate between political activities
from religious issues on one hand. On the other hand, they will be able to distinguish
fundamentalist, fanatics in and within the different religious groups who do not have the
interest of the nation at heart, and want to cause problem under the cover of religion
and say no to it. It will also help the different religions to work for the realization of the
common goal of unity rather than division. Religion in Nigeria is to help the people to
really understand themselves and direct their collective consciousness towards
achieving positive social, cultural and religious goals. The processes of practical
maternal ecumenism and interreligious dialogue therefore call for endurance and
tolerance for the required and awaited results. However, Nigerian clergy, members of
the different churches, and those of the other religions are to work together to overcome
rivalry, competition, suppriority and inferiority complex, leadership struggle which
Ndiokwere classified as enemies of Ecumenism we are to be conscious of, and careful
to avoid as much as possible.
Thus, her maternal solidarity quality can further be expressed in her effort to participate
in strengthening the religious relationship with other religions existing in the nation. This
is much needed and urgent between the Christian churches and Islam. Archbishop
Ignatius Kaigama observes that: dialogue between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria is
not successful because in most cases it only offers the privileged Muslims and
Christians opportunity of coming together to exchange pleasantries, make friendships
with each other and take pictures as if everything is alright. 748 It is not surprising
because, the real people concerned are not involved. The victims are to be involved. If
not, the issue will not be properly discussed as everything will end with speculations. In
746

747

Francis, Arinze, Church in Dialogue: Walking with Other Believers SanFrancisco, Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 331,
as quoted in The Church and Interreligious Dialogue by Peter B. Tanko, loc. cit.
See, Peter B. Tanko, pps. 243-244. see also, Nostra aetate citated above, nos. 1 and 2.

748

Paul, Odoeme, op. cit., p. 260. cf. Also, Andre, G., and Simone, R. (eds), Christlich-islamische Partnerschaft fr
Gerechtigkeit und Frieden. (Impulse aus Afrika, Asien und Nahost), Don Bosco Muenchen, 2006, p. 136.

249

other to achieve the real objective, the dialogue and ecumenical members must involve
people from below.This will enable them get to the root causes of religious unrest in the
nation. A strong and effective network of ecumenical association and interreligious
dialogue to the grass root level in the churches and Islam is needed. Under this
umbrella they work in solidarity and collaboration with the masses in seeking for positive
means rather than destructive religious violence in moment of tension and strife. This is
very important as non of these religions exist for her sake only. All exist rather for the
establishment of Gods kingdom, realization of the teachings of this kingdom in our
nation Nigeria and the world at large. Its objective must aim to minimize and gradually
overcome religious unrest that affect the citizens: Traditionalists, Muslims and Christians
alike. What this work recommends could be best describe as pratical interreligious
dialogue and ecumenical project from grass root.
Effort should be made to have association or action group that will serve as a platform
for both young Christians from the various christian denominations and young Muslims
alike to whom the present and future of the religions and the nation belong to them. This
is to provide them the opportunity to reflect on religious problems facing them as in most
cases, they are objects used and the most victims. In their discussions, they jointly
decide on what action they can undertake to ensure a meaningful, peaceful
coexistence, trust and be able to say no to those who often use them to cause religious
problems in the nation. Through these projects, Nigerian families, communities, villages
and the nation in general characterized with different Christian denominations and
different non-Christian religions will be saved.
4.4 The Mother Church: Marriage and Family in Nigerian Cultures and Society
Marriage and family are hold in great exteem in Nigerian and African cultures. Likewise,
the family is uniquely important to the Churh and in these times, .. as the essential
agent in the work of evangelization. 749 The church as mother demonstrates fidelity and
love of God through Jesus towards humanity. This fidelity and love of Yahweh was
depicted towards Israel on the basis of marriage covenant relationship in the Old
Testament bible. The same marriage terminology finds its way in the New Testament
bible. Here, Jesus Christ is the bridegroom and the church his bride. The Yahweh
husband and Israel wife, Jesus Christ bridegroom and the church bride motifs favour
monogamous marriage system. The paaring confirms and supports the fact that an
ideal marriage is between man and woman symbolized in the image of God as Father
and Church as Mother. The family structure is obviously presented in the maternal
understanding of the church comprises of Father, Mother and children. Yahweh and
Jesus Christ serve as model for all husbands in the marital union as it concerns love,
intimacy and fidelity. The wives and mothers motif associated with Jerusalem, Israel,
Zion and the church signify that of humble and obedient wife of Yahweh or bride of
Christ. In relation to human beings, the church is a spiritual mother and God the spiritual
Father.This is where the Christian family and marriage derives further its meaning,
structure, mission and vision that will help the contemporary man and woman of this
749

XIV Ordinary General Assembly, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary
World, Lineamenta, Vatican City, 2014, no. 1.

250

driven apart with the present wave of newly invented marriage and family notion. The
understanding of family and marriage structure from this, therefore, offers the global
world the value of a traditional family built on man, woman and children that signfies the
full image of the human family; which the Nigerian cultures even in this present era hold
strongly to.
On a general note, family and marriage culture is gradually been affected as result of
emerging understanding in the west. What does this mean in this present period
marriage institution and the traditional notion of family as consisting of a man and a
woman are given a new meaning, interpretation and understanding in some cultures in
today's world? In a very particular way to Nigerian cultures and society that place high
socio-cultural and religious values in marriage and family. In other words, what can the
Nigerian cultures offer the global human society with regard to family and marriage.
Thus, family is to be clearly separated from a relationship of same-sex people. In the
worldview of Nigerians and Africans:
family life is conceived as a subset of, and a linkage to the larger community
and a mirror into the whole picture of humanity. It is not a relationship between
two persons, but a communal life of members of the family representing the
community. Thus, there is a primacy of family life and community over individual
claims because we are through other people and I exist because I belong to a
community, and I am nothing without others, human and cosmic realities... the
individual cannot stand outside the community.750
This is a call to carefully revisit once more the origin, historical, cultural, social, religious
and theological foundation on which the institution of family and marriage is built. With
new trend of things, are Human beings not directly revolting against the family structure
and marriage institution considered very important in every culture of the world?
Through family and marriage institution, human beings are invited by God to become
his co-associate in the work of creation through the process of procreation. They are
called on this platform to participate in Gods plan of salvation for mankind
sacramentally. No doubt family and marriage institution in the 21 th century face critical
challenges as result of: loneliness, powerlessness in the face of socio-cultural realities,
poverty and unemployment that expose families to serious financial dificulties, lack of
enthusiasim on the part of the young ones to enter into marriage, families suffer
abandonment and lack of attention by institutions. They face challenges towards the
members like in a bid to raise children, acceptance of new birth and the old members
seen as burden.751 The human family of 21st century needs the pastoral education and
guidance of the church in order not to deviate from its foundation, mission, vision and
goals.
However, the image of husband and bridegroom of Yahweh and Jesus, and the image
750

Stan, Chu Ilo, What Africa Wants From the Catholic Synod on the Family in Rome, in:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-chu-ilo/what-africa-wants-from-the-synod_b_8246764.html. Visited on
12.02.2016.

751

XIV Ordinary General Assembly, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary
World, Lineamenta, no. 5.

251

of wife and bride symbolized by Zion, Jerusalem, Israel and the Church do not in any
way imply any masculine and feminine gender differentiation or separation that divides.
What this ultimately signifies is the intimate union of human beings and God base on
fidelity, love and faithfulness. The questions today is, where have love, fiedelity,
understanding, humility and obedient in the family gone that the culture of divorce has
deeply crept into families and marriages. This is where Christian families need pastoral
assistance of the church. For the church to be successful in this, conjual fidelity,
togetherness, warmth, solidarity, love of life, hospitality to strangers and other traditional
core values should be re-emphasized against divorce, men chauvinism, individualism
etc.752
Again, the newly invented marriage and family challenge the ideal traditional and
Christian teaching about marriage and structure of the family built on man, woman and
their child or children. The irony of it all is that the political proponents of this have their
own families made of father, mother and child or children. To make what they called
family and marriage look indeed like a family, some western nations accord right of
adoption to same-sex partners. The fundamental question here becomes, whose child
is to be adopted? Or better still, what if there is no child to adopt as birth rate is
geometrically going down in the west through various means. There is a growing
tendency that children population in the world is going down. Majority of the married
men and women do not want to bear children due to one reason or the other like
financial statue, ill-health, time constraint in taking care of children, and some place
more value to carrier proffession. Adoption of children should be encouraged in
situations where husbands and wives are unable to have their own child due to one
reason or the other. Even those who already have children of their own but want to give
sense of belonging and future to some children in the orphanage are to be encouraged.
The argument for adoption is best in family where real father and mother figures exist.
This is very important for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of the adopted
child. Biologically, every child is a product of love experience between a man and a
woman, and this plays strong role in human existence, development, growth and
encounter of the child within and outside his or her environment with other children.
Through the new wave of man made or man-united-to-man or woman to woman
union, and the already existing policies like, legalization of abortion, use of
contraceptives, etc human beings try to regulate birth rate. Hence, people directly and
indirectly obstruct the work of God achieved through the act of human (man and
woman) procreation activities. This is a sign of revolt against one's nature and Gods
injunction to multiply, increase and fill the earth (cf. Gen. 1:28). This new invention is a
culture of death because, procreation is willfully prohibited as result of unguided choice.
The contact between Christianity and Nigerian cultures affected polygamy as practiced
in Nigeria before the encounter. There are many reasons while people marry more than
one wives. The most fundamental is a situation of barenness in the union. In other to
solve this problem in the family the man is left with the options to divorce the first wife
and marry another wife or wives. Or, retain the first wife and marry another one.
Tradition allows the people to marry as many wives as one wishes so far he is capable
752

Udoye, E. Anaegboka, op. cit., p. 338.

252

to care and provide for them and their children. It is only Christianity (Catholic) that sees
polygamy as something unthinkable and should not be practiced. Any catholic family in
the above mention problem in Nigeria is under threat. Obviously, family and marriage
institutions are valued so high in Nigerian cultures and society. In the traditional mindset
of the people, a family comprises of the father, mother or mothers, child or children.
Family and marriage are aspect of the people's cultural, religious and social value with
strong attachment associated to both by the people. What has the mother church to
offer to people who are Christians and at the same time belong to these cultures with
deep sense and regard to the issue of polygamy, problem of childlessness and women
having only right to acquire property but not to inherit property.753
4.4.1 Maternal Patoral Solidarity with Childless Family in Nigeria
Childlessness is one of the major socio-cultural problem in Nigeria and Africa. This is
one of the serious issues that threatens family and marriage institutions in Nigerian
cultures and African continent at large. Just as we discussed in the previous chapter
that the birth of a child in a family is a sign of integration and acceptance of the woman
in her new family. The birth also beings about social and cultural change for both man
and woman who now ascend the title of father and mother. The absence of a child or
children in any Nigerian family is already seen as a threat, a source of unhappiness for
the wife, husband, relatives from both sides, the kindred and concerned friends. The
absence of this special gift of God in house leads to many consequences. Among the
consequences are encouragement from family members and friends of the man
presurising him to marry another woman. Or divorce the first he wedded with in the
church and marry another one. The same goes on with the wife.
It is evident that in most cases, the couples involved go out to try their luck thereby
becoming unfaithful to the love and fidelity they promised each other. Decision taken in
this situation is always difficult as it concerns Christian families especially the Catholics.
In the case of divorce it is always difficult for those who are already wedded in the
church. For the traditionalists, members of the African Independent and protestants
churches the available option is the man marrying another wife or wives. However,
some women who are in this situation encourage their husbands to marry another wife.
Some of these women suggest the co-wife to be and even provide money for the
process of the marriage. All this support is to avoid the extinction of the family. As a
result of childlessness couples are not fully accepted and associated within the society
and the cultures. They are socially and culturally stigmatized. They are exposed to
emotional and psychological pains. The same is their fate in the church as the Bible
praises fertility (cf. Deut. 7:14) and fruitfulness (cf. Psal. 113:9; 128: 3). Also, children
are seen as God's blessings in the family (cf. Psal. 127:3-5; 128:3-6). The above biblical
texts compound their problems and pains with many why questions like: why have I not
been blessed with this special gifts of God in my own home? Am I really a woman and
among the children of God?
753

This is very important because, for Nigerians, family and marriage is incomplete and in extreme sense regarded
as not have existed without a child or children to show for it. In these cultures women have only right to acquire
property. When it comes in real life situation, they lack right to property ownership in their fathers and husbands
homes especially at death of ones husband. And worse still when the woman has no child, or only female children.

253

Observations have shown that among some Catholic families in childless condition
problem, that some of the men do have secret wife who bear children for them. While
the bold ones among them make it open. The immediate result has been the absence of
such people from sacraments. If the man has problem of infertility he encourages his
wife to sleep with any man of her choice to bear children in the house. In both cases the
man and the woman failed in the fidelity they promised each other at the altar. Culturally
in some places, the husband's life is in danger the moment the wife begins to flet
around. In this situation, it is clear that Nigerian families face big problem as it concerns
their Catholic faith and doctrine of one man one woman. How is the church to help them
live authentic life with regard to the faith they profess. And meet with the social and
cultural demand on them as husband and wife expected to have children. The problem
of childlessness exacts pressure on the understanding and practicing of Christian faith,
Christian marriage and family institutions in Nigerian cultures and society. This is very
important as families are throne into serious crisis of expectations from the society and
the cultures on one hand. And from the church that expects them to be faithful to her
teachings and doctrine on the other hand. Hence, what has the mother church to offer
those who are under the pressure and discrimination due to childlessness bearing in
mind the socio-cultural worldview of Nigerian people.
The preaching of hope and trust in God is good. But the people want practical solution
to the problem of childlessness. According to scholars, ... for the church in Africa to
initiate a painstaking and organized research in the African family system....taking
cognizance of (a) the essence of family life in Africa vis-a-vis the desire for offspring, (b)
the agonizing and frustrating experiences of childless couples. ... the church to really
mediate between childless couples who are in a physical, psychological, social, and
cultural dilemma....754 The same will be appreciated by the people if the church in
Nigeria is to engage in such a serious research for the benefit of those who suffer
problem of childlessness. The first initial effort will be for the church to develop and
include program of childlessness in her preparatory program for those about to marry in
the church and those who are already victims. This program is to cover areas like
medical seminars on fertility, infertility, and prayer retreats organized as a support
programm for such couples.... those who cannot really afford the bill for medical
investigation and treatment can be helped by the Christian community through subsidy
or free treatment in the Mission Hospitals or Maternities. 755 This is going to help the
victims sustain their hope and faith as they wait on the Lord. However, how long is this
waiting going to last.
Another possible approach to solving this problem is through adoption. This takes place
when every efforts have been exhausted without positive result of the couples having
their own child. This requires work of counseling for a successful acceptance of the
notion by the involved couples because, Nigerians are very reactive to accepting blood
754

Kemdirim, O. Protus, Towards a Positive Vision for Childless Couples in the African Church: A Post-Synodal
Issue in: Ecclesia in Africa The Nigerian Response, edit, by Oguejiofor, J. Obi et al, Nsukka, Fulladu Publishing
Company, 1997, p. 145.
755

ibid, p. 350.

254

that is not theirs. If at last the husbands and wives accept the option, there are
important issues these families are to be careful with. These include the area of the fate
of the child or children at the death of their adoptive parents when they are still tender.
How secure is the future of the children. Do they have access or inheritance right to the
property of their adoptive parents. This is very crucial because, traditionally, they have
no right of inheritance in the kindred's property like a portion of land to build house and
title taking. They are seen as slaves and obstacles to the brothers and sisters of their
adoptive fathers and mothers. These are some of the fundamental issues that should be
consider and cleared before the final step is taken for proper actualization of adoption in
the families. The maternal pastoral solidarity to the childless families calls for immediate
pastoral attention as it threatens marriages and families in the nation. The situation
challenges the married couples in manifesting and expression of their Christian faith.
Another foreseeing problem with the issue of adoption is that, only the rich and wealthy
can actually afford to undertake such project. What becomes then the fate of the poor
couples.
4.4.2 Maternal Apostolate for Children
Another area of concern the church in Nigeria, Africa and the world in general is to
beam her maternal pastoral light is on her young ones. They are not only the future of
the family, society, and culture. They are equally the future of the church. They are gifts
of God to humanity, source of hope and renewed life. They are the best friends of Jesus
Christ. He manifested his preferential love for them (cf. Mk 10:13-13). 756 Yet, they are
among the most vunerable in the world. Now and then the media at national and
international levels speak of children missing in Europe, America, Asia, Africa and so on.
The high rate of child abuse such as trafficking, prostitution and neglect in the world of
today is obvious.These are noticeable in many homes, at the cities and villages. Most
children are found in the major streets of towns begging for alms. As maid in many rich
homes they are turned into objects to be used at will that do not deserve respect,
accorded right and dignity. Virtually, most of the domestic chores are left for them to
attend like: cooking, washing of clothes, fetching of water and firewood. They prepare
the children and take them to school, but do not go to school. Even in situation they are
allowed, they attend the public ones and always late. They hardly eat at normal time
with the children of their masters and madams. Often, they are the last to go to bed
everyday and first to wake in the morning. They are sexually molested and often times
victims of trafficking. These and more are the many ugly faces of child abuse and
neglect in Nigeria and Africa.757 It is so interesting that, most of these men and women
are members of the church. They dressed so gorgeously, occupy front seats and donate
generously in our churches; but stingy to those who work in their homes and businesses
as nwa odibo (an apprentice).
Proper care and concern of the children by the Nigerian church is of great importance
as tomorrow belongs to the children of today. Hence, organization of children's ministry
756

Pope, Benedict XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, Nairobi, Paulines Publications Africa,
2011, nos, 65, 68.

757

Cf, Obiora, Ike, op. cit., pp. 113 and 114.

255

in such a way to meet both their spiritual and human development is very crucial. We
are to appriciate the efforts and structures Nigerian church put in place for them such as
the establishment of motherless babies homes, orphanage centres and encouraging
people to adopt them in other to give them sense of belonging. Spiritually, she puts in
place structures that takes care of them like: the Block Rossary, catechesim class,
Sunday School class, Junior Legion of Mary's presidum, etc. Through these means,
they learn about the christian faith. This in turn prepares them on how to interract with
others in the wider society and cultures. The Christian formation they receive at this
tender stage of development and growth will no doubt be of great help to them in the
furture. In view of this therefore, the personnel used in parting the Christian faith on the
children are to be helped, encouraged and thus, make their work and responsibility easy
for them. At the parish, denary and diocesan levels seminars and workshops are to be
organized for such people to better their skills and methods of teaching in a way that will
be more understandable to the children. They are to learn how to teach the children with
symbols and stories common in their environments, cultures, church, families, and
society. Let the teaching not be only for mere memorization. It has to aim at guiding
these children at this stage, and becomes one of the good resources they can fall back
in the future.
On the part of the men and women that take these children as maids, nannies and
helpers at homes and businesses. The church is to preach and bringing to their notice
of the unjust manner with which they handle these children under their care. She is to
denounce and condemn the intolerble treatment of many children that silently goes on
unnoticed in some of the domestic domains in the nation. As their mother who can
speak on their behalf, the church is to advocate for these children so that all and sundry
will know that their case is a serious challenge to Justice, Love, Human Right, Life and
Dignity, etc. The church is to organise awarness programmes, seminars and workshop
to sensitise our people on the need and the problems of this segment of our population
marginalised children. Let the pulpit be a place to speak for these voiceless ones. 758
4.4.3 Maternal Apostolate for Youths
On the part of the youths, the maternal care of the church in Nigeria is urgently needed.
This is very crucial as the youths of this generation is facing a lot of challenges in life.
They are confronted with the challenge of carrier choice. Science and technology has
caused unprecedented challenges which affect the youths of our time. They are also
facing serious ideological confrontation of this era, choice of life partner (marriage).
They are equally affected with the problem of unemployment. In fact, they are the most
vunerable. Again, most of them have become victims of political electioneering in which
they are used and dumped at the end. The global terror insurgencies is another typical
example of life challenge the youths of this generation are facing. They are lured into
what they do not know and thus, become objects of human destructions. The Islamic
Boko Haram movement, kidnapping and militancy groups in Nigeria use the jobless
youths to perpetrate their havoc in the nation. The ISIS attack in Iraq and Syria,
Alshabaab group in Kenya and Somalia, and Al-qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India,
758

Obiora, Ike, ibid, p. 116.

256

Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the various recent attacks in Europe and America are been
carried out by the youths. Thus, the youths from all over the world are involved in this
bloody acts due to joblessness. They are also the most affected in the present global
migration of people from one part of the world to another in search of better living or
reaization of life dreams. No one cares for them. They are seen as objects to be used
rather than persons they are. In the schools, majority of them have become members
of one cultism or the other in search of meaning, security, value, etc in life. The
members of these secret societies have turned out to become terror to others around
them in and outside the school. While the female ones turn to prostitution for survival in
life. Even some of the boys have taken to call boy profession to make both end meet
in life. Majority are equally lured into pornography out of economic hadship. Large
population of the youths have become drug and alcohol addicts while some traffick
drugs beyond one border and the other. Others engage in advanced fee fraud, 419,
cyber crime, armed robbery and so on. These are the audience to whom the present
and future of human society, cultures, families and the church belongs to.
For the future of the youths to be assured, the church in Nigeria and the world is to
inv