Consequent upon the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV1’s successful Visit to the United Kingdom in September for four days, the Nigerian Chaplaincy in Dalston/Kingsland Area of North London, invited the Very Reverend Monsignor Fortunatus Nwachukwu as Chief Celebrant at a Thanksgiving Mass to mark Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee Anniversary of Independence.
Monsignor Nwachukwu is the Chief Protocol Officer at the Vatican Secretariat in Rome. He was indeed, a Child of Independence as he was born in Ntigha, in the former Eastern Nigeria, in 1960, the year Nigeria attained its Independence from Britain. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1984.
The Gospel Reading at the Mass, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year, was taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 17, verses 5-10 (“If Only You had Faith”).
In his Homily, Monsignor Nwachukwu described the celebration of a Jubilee, as an opportunity for renewal, adding that it was also a mark that God was ready to bless!
He went on to say that Nigerians had to be proud because they had been blessed as a country.
He pointed out that as people of the black race, the role of Nigerians in a historical perspective, had always been positive.
He expatiated on this by saying that Moses of the Burning Bush Fame, in the Holy Bible, had married a black woman adding that the Almighty God had punished Miriam and Aaron for opposing him (Moses) on account of his black wife.
He also pointed out that our Lord Jesus Christ had sought refuge in Africa, the Black Continent while fleeing from Herod as Moses had done in the Old Testament when he sought refuge in Egypt.
After studying Theology, Monsignor Nwachukwu had joined the Vatican Diplomatic Service and had served in some African countries.
During the Mass, forty members of the Chaplaincy’s Pastoral Council, led by Anthony Ogunseitan of Osun State in Nigeria, made their Inauguration Promise while the Executive Members had made their Solemn Declaration.
Members of the Congregation were decked in flowing Nigerian Costumes and most of the female members wore clothes depicting the country’s colours of green white green; even the priests wore white robes draped with green scapulars.
There were songs in Hausa language,”Sai Kuzo”, ( You Should Come”), Ibo, “Otito Dili Chineke”,(Glory To God), Yoruba,”Adupe Baba”, (Come, Lord Jesus) and Efik, “Enyen Eron”, (Kiss of Peace).
Monsignor Fortunatus Nwachukwu who speaks Ibo, English, Italian, German, Modern Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic, then launched a Book, “Stations of the Cross: A Diaspora Experience,” written by Father Innocent Ezeonyeasi, an Assistant Chaplain.
A native of Urualla, in Imo State, he had come from the Catholic Diocese of Orlu and had worked as a Parish Priest (School) and Chaplain to St. Camillius Chaplaincy, Imo State University, among other responsibilities, before coming to Britain.
In launching the booklet, the Very Reverend Monsignor Nwachukwu said that what Father Innocent had written “would challenge one”. He exhorted members of the Congregation to buy the booklet.
The Chaplain, Fr. Albert Ofere, had prayed that Nigeria might grow spiritually and materially and expressed the hope that the Sun of Justice would shine brightly on Nigeria so that it might achieve success.
Among those who attended the Mass were the Deputy High Commissioner at the High Commission of Nigeria, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna, OON,members of the Central Association of Nigeria in the United Kingdom,(CANUK) and several Nigerian and African prelates and religious orders in Britain.
By PHILLIP Ideh (Snr)