- Rev. Fr. James Anelu *
Anthony Kila highlights the case of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Gberigbe in Ikorodu-Lagos as an example and a reflection of how frail and problematic our living together as a people is in the country
The Parish of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Gberigbe in Ikorodu is currently making news and with it, your good self. From what we read in the media; three main items stand out and these are the object of discussions in the news. One is the fact that worshipers at the church in Ikorodu erupted in Igbo song(s) second is that the presiding priest, Rev. Fr. James Anelu, interrupted the second collection chorused in Igbo. Third is your swift decision to reprimand and suspend the priest. Let us not dwell on a priest interrupting collections.
Many have applauded your action as an index of true hands-on leadership. Those that have thus far praised your intervention and its timing, point out that your stepping into the situation has doused a lot of potential problems. They also appreciate your providing clarity on the position of the church. This is very understandable especially when juxtaposed to a national secular leadership not known for swift direct communications, reactions or propensity to stop the dramatic from becoming tragic.
There is a question however: Process.
Unless the press has not given a full account of your intervention or I have missed part of their account, it does not appear as if Your Grace has opened any avenue to hear from Rev. Fr. James. Some questions therefore linger: Who is this priest and why did he resort to such a drastic action? What sort of relationship exist between Rev. Fr James Anelu and his congregation? Has there been cases like this in the past, lighter cases or worse ones in the same parish? What was the conduct of Rev. Fr James in his previous parishes? Is Rev. Fr James simply an erring priest or a mischievous or malicious personality? Only a due process in the form of a fair hearing can provide answers to these and other questions. Some of the beauty and values of a process are that it allows one to go beyond an act by giving us insight into intention and context.
It is less about the investigated, (in this case Rev. Fr James) and more about the rest of us. Any reader with an open mind will readily deduce that a good and fair process does not guarantee guilt or innocence. Due processes allow us to better understand the gravity or less of what we are dealing with. Like a roll of dice, you never know what you might get. Those hoping to disrobe the priest might even get more reasons and those defending might see why they should not.
The case of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Gberigbe in Ikorodu is an example and a reflection of how frail and problematic our living together as a people is in the country. The event of the church is a microcosm of what is going on in the larger society. The fear, real or imagined, of domination by one group over another or others, the suspicion that we are not tolerated in a place that ought to be a commonwealth, the need to cling to an ancestral identity that is only a part of who we are and who we can be.
Ordinarily, one would think that in the body of Christ, all are one and that in the physical church built around Christ, tongue and tribe will not matter. Alas it is now clear that just like in our factories, boardrooms and in politics tongue and tribe can trump faith and views.
How do we deal with these destructive issues related to identity? How do we create trust and unity amongst our people? Creating a new identity of Christians, Muslims, solders, farmers, dentists or voters of this or that party seems not to be working. I have more than a few doubts about the effectiveness and efficiencies of decrees, directives, punishment and persecutions.
Nasty and annoying as the case of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Gberigbe in Ikorodu appears, it does give us an opportunity to review our assumptions and the problems related to our mode of living together. A clCatholic church is by name and in essence a universal body with a history of centuries of managing people of different background under one creed and culture. Your Grace, the holy church can do the rest of Nigeria a huge favour, if she takes time to study and discover how to make diverse Nigerians live together in trust and with no fear.
It is not enough to have a desire to serve God or be inspired or called by the spirit to become a Catholic Priest, besides the widely known carnal denial, it takes a lot of commitment and above all studies to be ordained a Catholic Priest. It cannot be overstated that every time you see an ordained Catholic Priest, you are not only seeing a man of the church but you are seeing a man with an above average knowledge of the law, sociology, history, psychology and of course theology. In all, every Catholic Priest is taught universalism is key. Rev. Fr James Anelu is or should be such a man and if after all that, he got to a point of interrupting a service because of the language of a song or songs then we really need to take our time to know who Rev. Fr James Anelu is.
- Culled from THISDAY