Religious Orders not really wanted in Africa

Religious orders 'exploding'

A leading Nigerian priest has sounded an alarm regarding the future of the Catholic Church due to an ‘explosion’ of religious orders.

“We have witnessed an explosion of new religious communities. Some with little or nothing in terms of spirituality and charism of consecrated life” Father Anthony Akinwale said.

Fr Akinwale (pictured) is Professor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Augustine University Ilara-Epe in Nigeria’s Lagos State.

Speaking at the 2024 Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Fr Akinwale expressed grave concerns about the future of the Church.

According to Fr Akinwale, the proliferation of new religious orders in Nigeria poses a significant threat to the credibility of Catholicism in the country.

“Some of these ministries and ministers pretend to be Catholic … They even display statues of our Blessed on their websites or expose the Blessed Sacrament in a way that points to sacrilege” he said.

Furthermore, Father Akinwale accused leaders of these religious orders of perpetrating “fake prophecies and arranged miracles” to exploit a vulnerable populace.

The priest expressed concern that such practices push disillusioned believers towards alternative faiths.

“The populism of these ministries, the advertisement of un-authenticated miracles and prophecies, the opium these ministries administer on our people erode the credibility of Christianity, of Catholicism in particular, in our country,” he said.

Pentecostalism encroaching

Pentecostalism in Nigeria is “a greater concern than the blessing of same-sex couples” Fr Akinwale said.

Referring to the controversy around Fiducia Supplicans, he suggested the same-sex blessing issue was a distraction from the deeper issues affecting the Church.

Fr Akinwale also warned that the encroachment of Pentecostal practices within the Catholic Church is diluting its identity and undermining its traditional teachings.

He predicted that an emerging critically minded population would repudiate Catholicism because “it is unable to see the difference between the Pentecostal pastor and a Catholic priest.”

While Father Akinwale’s remarks underscore the pressing issues facing the Catholic Church in Nigeria, not all share his concerns.

Father Stan Chu Ilo of DePaul University believes that dialogue and mutual learning between Pentecostalism and Catholicism can be beneficial for both traditions.

Fr Chu advocates for a broader perspective that acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of each religious movement.

“Pentecostalism and Catholic Charismatic is a good thing for the Catholic Church and the churches of Africa” Fr Chu stated

“We can do better”

In response to the challenges outlined, Fr Akinwale proposed a reevaluation of seminary formation. He encouraged a deeper engagement with lay faithful and consecrated individuals within the Church.

He stressed the importance of upholding the Church’s apostolic traditions while addressing contemporary realities.

“We are doing well. But we can do better” Akinwale said.

And doing better, the priest explained, means that the Church in Nigeria “must have the courage of martyrs of old in receiving, preserving and transmitting the Gospel that comes to us from the apostles.”



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