By Dianabasi Effiong
Port Harcourt – The head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis, has urged Catholic Bishops in Nigeria to preach peace to their followers.
The Pope gave the advice on Thursday in Port Harcourt, at a sermon marking the Episcopal Consecration of Most Rev. Patrick Eluke as the first Indigenous Auxiliary Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese.
The Pope was represented by His Grace, Most Rev. Antonio Fillipazzi, the Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s representative) to Nigeria at the event held at Corpus Christi Cathedral, Port Harcourt.
He also urged and the Catholic Faithful to accept Bishop Eluke as a gift with gratitude by praying for him and the success of the church.
The Pope’s Homily was taken from John 1: 35-42 while the First Reading was taken from Deuteronomy 1: 9-14 and the second reading taken from I Corinthians 1:18-20; 22; 31.
The Pope, who described Eluke as a gift to Port Harcourt Diocese and Nigeria as a whole, also urged that those exercising pastoral ministries must be verified.
The Pope described Jesus Christ as “the good shepherd who never stopped being the good shepherd to people because of his subordinate nature to the Father”.
According to him the human shepherd can never be to themselves independent and absolute owners of the souls entrusted to them but should always be subordinate to the Father and to the Son, Jesus Christ.
Deputy Governor of Rivers, Dr Ipalibo Harry, who represented Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers, said that the people and government of the state were grateful to God for the gift of the priest.
She said the state was also grateful to have the first Indigenous Auxiliary Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese.
According to her the consecration of Bishop Eluke is at the right time when the governor-elect is about to be sworn in for the second term in office.
The deputy governor said the bishop’s consecration would also deepen the relationship between the state governor and the Church.
She said the consecration was at the right time when the governor have been talking with Churches, traditional rulers, the youths, other stakeholders and council chairmen to ensure enduring security architecture for Rivers.
She also said that the bishop with millions of Catholic faithful would partner with the state government to curb youths restiveness and “keep them in the ways of the Lord’’.
In his response Bishop Eluke promised to work with the Bishops with his whole heart for the growth of the Church.
He also urged the faithful to continue to pray for the Bishops, the priest and Nigeria. The Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt was created on May 16, 1961.
Eluke, born on March 25, 1967 in Eligbo in Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers, had his priestly ordination on Sept. 23, 1995.
He was chosen as the first Indigenous Auxiliary Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese and Titular Bishop of Fotice on Feb. 12, 2019 by his Holiness Pope Francis.
Eluke has been the Parish Priest of St. Francis of Assisi, Rumuokwuta, since 2015 as well as Diocesan Director of Vocations since 2016,
His Episcopal Motto, taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 1:10, is “Bring Everything Together Under Christ”.
Present at the occasion were no fewer than 45 Catholic Bishops, including the Metropolitan Archbishop of Calabar, Joseph Ekuwem, his counterpart from Benin archdiocese, Augustine Akubeze, and Port Harcourt, Camillus Etukudoh, graced the occasion.