The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, on Sunday asked Catholic bishops and archbishops to order priests converting pulpits to campaign grounds to stop.
The governor also urged the clerics to caution priests who make inciting statements on the pulpits to refrain from doing so.
The governor who spoke in his address at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria held in Orlu asked the prelates to use the opportunity of the conference to reaffirm the neutrality of the Church.
Uzodinma said while he was not against the members of the clergy speaking against social ills and criticising the governments, clerics shouldn’t dabble in politics.
The governor said, “Your Graces and Lordships, permit me to also point out, with every sense of responsibility, that I do not think it is right for some members of the clergy to convert God’s house and the pulpit to the soap box for campaigns for their preferred candidates or parties in an election season or anytime in the election cycle.
“Sadly, this has become the norm in many of our churches. My worry is that if the church drags itself into partisan politics, then it would have lost its moral authority to pontificate because it has made itself an interested party.
“Indeed, the church cannot be in the moral pedestal to preach against certain conducts of the society if it has not gone through purification by purging itself of those who are diminishing its authority. I believe that true sanctification can only come when the church presents itself as a living testament of good, impartial and temperate conduct. It is my sincere hope that one of your resolutions from this conference will be to condemn members of the clergy who use their positions and the church for political ends.
“In the same vein, some priests under your watch have through inciting sermons also taken it upon themselves to inflame passions, instead of abating them. In addition, I have noticed with dismay that some members of the clergy have also become open canvassers for separatism and secession. Sadly, they also use the sacred pulpit to do this. This should not be the case. The need for the church to remain on high moral standards includes abstaining from fiery comments that seem to highlight and promote our differences rather than on the things that unite us.
“This conference is holding today because Nigeria, though beset by insecurity in some parts, is not in a state of war. No matter the imperfections of our republic and democracy, we are still better off in a united country.
“To the glory of God, we have an increasing number of political leaders who are committed to addressing these imperfections, especially as it concerns equity and justice, so we can build the perfect nation we all desire. And I can assure you that it is only a matter of time before this is achieved, On their part, Church leaders should continue to promote the unity of the country and not its division.
“I wholly understand that priests have the right and duty to hold our leaders and governments accountable, and nobody will ever stop a priest from condemning the ills in the society, including bad governance and corruption. My position should not be misinterpreted as an attempt to rob them of this moral authority that they have enjoyed since the beginning of time.
“I, therefore, appeal to your Graces and Lordships to bring up these concerns of mine in the course of your deliberations during the conference. It is important that you reaffirm the church’s neutrality on political matters and, thereafter, caution the priests not to dabble into partisan politics. Above all, they should also desist from fanning the embers of disunity in the country.
“Your Excellencies, as a baptised Catholic, I have every respect not only for the Church but for the priests and the entire leadership. As my spiritual fathers, I draw a lot of inspiration from you, individually and collectively. Thus, I would be sad to witness anything that tends to weaken or erode your authority and reverence.
“I am sure that the current leadership of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria will work harder to strengthen its arms to make them responsive to the yearnings of the faithful. Going by your programmes, I am also hopeful that you will address some of the contending and contemporary issues in our country today. As always, I have no doubt that your goal is to make Nigeria a better place not only for Catholics but for every Nigerian.”