– By Padre Mike Nsikak Umoh, CSN

The Vatican ambassador to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the new auxiliary bishop of Minna diocese, Most Rev. Luka Sylvester Gopep to strive to be a true ambassador of Christ by building bridges among the different groups of persons within the diocese and even with other religious bodies by his life of humility, detachment and sacrifice.

The Pope’s representative, who was the principal consecrator, gave this admonition in his homily at the ordination Mass of Bishop Gopep which took place on the open ground at St Michael’s Catholic Cathedral in Minna and had in attendance, dignitaries from Church, State, traditional rulers and a highly controlled number of lay faithful, in keeping with the COVID-19 protocol.

While reminding the new Bishop that “Bishops are continuators of the Apostles, their successors,” and  that “the Apostles were chosen, consecrated and sent with powers and tasks in order to serve the human salvation by the Lord Jesus himself,” the Nuncio emphasised that “today Christ the Lord chooses, consecrates and sends Bishop Luka, who is like the most recent link in the unbroken chain that goes back to the Apostles and thus connects to Christ himself and through Him to the heavenly Father.”

The Prelate therefore went further to explain that because the new Bishop is sent by Jesus, like the Apostles, he is an ambassador of Jesus and must imitate the one who sent him. “Like an ambassador, the Bishop represents another one more important than himself and must carry out the instructions and be accountable to him.”

As humans, representing the Divine, Bishops  may experience the feeling of inadequacy and be at risk of being misrepresented and criticised, but they “must carry out their ministry in humility, meekness, detachment from material possessions, sacrifice, and love for the Lord Jesus and for souls, never seeking in our lives and in our ministry, power, wealth, comfort, or fame.”

Moreover, Archbishop Filipazzi reminds Bishop Gopep to be a build builder among priests, men and women religious and lay faithful and “avoid anything that endangers this unity in the Church, but he must also … promote concord in the society,” since “the voice of blood can no longer be louder than the voice of the water of Baptism, which makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ!” “Let us not trample because of the bonds of human blood on the blood of Christ who, by redeeming us, has made us spiritually brothers and sisters,” the prelate warns.

Bishop Luka Sylvester Gopep was born on 14 July, 1965 in Kalin Nemel, Pankshin in Plateau State. He had was a grade II teacher and had various working experience before entering the Seminary of St. Thomas Aquinas, Makurdi  in 1989 for studies in Philosophy and later St. Augustine Major Seminary in Jos for his studies in Theology from 1993 to 1997. With Fr Thaddeus Umaru, he was among the first priests to ordained for Minna Diocese by Bishop Martin Uzoukwu on 31st january, 1998.

In a similar vein, the CBCN President, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, in his address at the Mass, particularly thanked and congratulated Bishop Martin Uzoukwu for requesting the Holy father to grant him an auxiliary bishop to assist him in the pastoral task in his Diocese. He used the occasion to educate the congregation that the role of an auxiliary bishop is to assist the substantive bishop of the diocese through “the attitude of collaboration” since “the faithful of Minna are entrusted to only one Bishop, and that is Bishop Martin.” Like the Trinity who though equal in substance, but distinct persons, he urged Bishop Gopep “to work  with same mind with the diocesan bishop.”

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