Prominent Nigerians from the clergy and culture again stressed the need for peace and national unity, saying it was time for all parts of the country to strengthen their bond irrespective of tribe and religion.
Catholic bishops, emeritus bishops, archbishops, representative of the pope and the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II, made the assertion in Benin City, Edo State at the Catholic Bishops Conference.
They said the meeting was to mark the centenary of the apparition of Mary in Fatimah Portugal in 1916 where she was sighted by 10 years old Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco Marto, 9 and Jacinta Marto 7.
Speaking at Government House where Governor Godwin Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, Chief of Staff, Taiwo Akerele and other top government officials received the clergy, they said Nigeria needed peace as Mary preached 100 years ago during World War I.
The bishops were led by its President, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama and others drawn from around the country including Archbishops John Onaiyekan, Olubunmi Okogie, Anthony Ekpu, representative of the Apostolic Nunsio in Nigeria, Monsignor Harvier, who also represents the Pope in the country and Archbishop of Benin Diocese Reverend Augustine Akubueze, among others.
Kaigama said: ìIf we pray and pray and no good works follow, then it is an empty exercise and if you work and work and there is no prayer, it is just a futile exercise because prayers and good works must go together. We have come to celebrate the centenary of the apparition of our Lady of Fatimah.
Mary the mother of Jesus is so dear to us Catholics. We hold her in high esteem because she is a special human being chosen to be the mother of Jesus and as such we give her very high regard.
One hundred years ago, the message she gave was the message of peace because at that time, World War I was raging and she talked about peace. Therefore, we have come to Benin City to preach peace and the message of reconciliation in the country.î
Earlier, at the palace of Oba Ewuare II, the bishops called on the faithful and the people to pray for President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders, as well as the unity and peace of the country.
Responding, Oba Ewuare II said: ìWe have a lot of challenges. We want peace and we want security. We keep praying to God Almighty. We pray for our leaders in Abuja, the President for his good health, for all the governors and most importantly that God should give us more wisdom to rule our people.
At the prayer session yesterday, Obaseki said his administration was committed to adding value to the lives of Edo people irrespective of their faith, saying this could only be done through unity of purpose and support from all the religions.
President, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Reverend Ignatius Kaigama (right); Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki; Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu and his wife, Maryann, during the Grand Finale of the first National Marian Year and third Marian Congress in Benin City.