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Oct 20, 2017


The Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze has described the Blessed Virgin Mary as an invaluable facilitator in the redemption mission of humanity by Christ; noting that: “True devotion to Mary leads to Christ.” The Archbishop made this assertion in his homily during the celebration of the opening Mass of the final celebration of the country’s third National Marian Congress and the re-consecration of Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary held recently at the grounds of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Benin City, Edo State. The country was first consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the first National Marian Congress held in Lagos in 1954.

The ceremony also marked the culmination of the country’s celebration of the Jubilee Year to mark the Centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, declared by the Holy Father Pope Francis, from November 27th  to November 26th 2017.

According to Archbishop Akubeze, whose Ecclesiastical Province of Benin hosted the celebration, and  attended by over 40,000 Catholic faithful from all parts of the country; “Mary always remained a member of the mystical Body of Christ, the First among the followers of Christ to benefit from the salvation won by her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Using the readings of the Mass to buttress his point, the Local Ordinary of Benin City Archdiocese spoke extensively on the role and position of Mary in the Catholic Church and faith, especially her mediatory role in seeking favour from her Divine Son. He declared: “The intercession of Mary has helped many to receive intellectual enlightenment, conversion to the faith after many years of abandonment; it has also in some instances brought many people back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
He continued: “Therefore, it is very appropriate to ask Mary to help secure good health of mind and body for us, for our family members, for friends, and even for sworn enemies. Let us be part of those who imitate Christ by praying for the forgiveness and conversion of our enemies.” Speaking further, Archbishop Akubeze noted that after the serpent had deceived the first Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God decreed that a new Eve will come to crush the head of the serpent.
“Mary is the new Eve. She is the one of whom God spoke about when he says: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed”; the homilist added.  Archbishop Akubeze further stated: “Jesus Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary is the righteous one who has come to acquit us of our sins. Mary’s collaboration with God’s grace is the reason humankind enjoys this wonderful favour of the incarnation. God has become man so that men can become God. Mary offered Christ his human nature through which he suffered and died to save us. No one can take this honour away from her. It is an honour God himself has bestowed upon her”.
The Local Ordinary of Benin Archdiocese therefore urged that in this period of serious challenges facing the country, the appropriate channel through which the country can be redeemed is our Mother Mary whose intervention, her Divine Son never rejects. The Archbishop expressed optimism that Mary who will never leave us her sons and daughters as orphans will definitely come to the aid of the country. He urged the faithful to take advantage of the unique prayer pilgrimage to rededicate the Nigerian nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that peace, joy, equity and justice can reign again in the country.
He concluded: “As people of faith, we believe that Nigeria will experience a transformation that will impact positively on the lives of every citizen.” He however added: “let us not forget that Mary promised her children that all who pray the Rosary faithfully will never be lost.”
The ceremony was attended by about 53 members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria including John Cardinal Onaiyekan of Abuja and Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the emeritus Archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese and Archbishop Patrick Eboseli Ekpu, emeritus Archbishop of Benin City. Also in attendance were: the Charge de Affairs at the Apostolic Nunciature,  Msgr Javier D Fernandes G, who represented the Papal Nuncio in Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filippazi; the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki , his deputy, Mr. Philip Shuaibu  and their wives as well as other government functionaries; about 800 priests, over 1,000 Rev Sisters and about forty thousand lay faithful from all the Archdioceses and dioceses in the country.

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