The natural order of mortals-divinity relationship was reversed, getting a make-over recently at Umunnamehi, Ihiala, Anambra State when the palatial All Saints Catholic Church, built and donated by business mogul, politician and philanthropist Dr. Obinna Uzoh was dedicated by top Catholic bishops, including the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Augustine Kasujja. LOUIS ACHI captures the spiritual-political saga
In Christian religion, a church building is a structure primarily to facilitate the meeting of the Christian faithful. Originally, Jewish Christians met in synagogues, such as the Cenacle and in one another's homes - house churches.
As the faith grew, becoming more acceptable to secular governments, notably with the Edict of Milan, rooms and, eventually, entire buildings were set aside for the explicit purpose of Christian worship.
This brief history perhaps provides a pertinent background to the milestone event that transpired in Umunnamehi, Ihiala, Anambra State, penultimate weekend. At a fundamental level, the event itself, vision, ecclesiastical response, political presence and signaling, excitement of locals and overall intensity of youth and womenfolk’s participation lacked precedence in Anambra State, in recent years.
With little question, Umunnamehi people had every cause to be happy. The community had the privilege of having a large-hearted son - Dr. (Barr.) Obinna Uzoh, consummate businessman, astute politician and noted philanthropist - who undertook to single-handedly finance the construction of a church complex. The imposing structure made up of the church auditorium and reverend father’s residence was dedicated on Sunday, February 12. There is more.
The community also reveled in the rare privilege of playing host to the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev Augustine Kasujja, who dedicated the new church complex. They were also thrilled to no end in beholding the faces of some Nigerian dignitaries, whose names they could only hear on radio and behold on television.
They saw, face to face, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; Anambra State Governor Peter Obi; Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof Viola Onwuliri; and leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, Chief Ralph Uwazurike.
Present also were the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh, Honourable Chuma Nzeribe government functionaries, at the federal and state levels, company chief executives, political party leaders as well as other dignitaries.
An unforeseen dimension to the event was that it also a moment of healing for the powerful, disparate political tendencies in Anambra State who ditched their differences and came to the new house of God.
Indeed, Ihiala community stood still, as events leading to the dedication of All Saints Catholic Church, Umunnamehi, Ihiala, built by Dr. Uzoh, came to a climax on D-Day Sunday, February 12, with the celebration of Mass and the pronouncement of blessing upon the church and all those who would worship in it.
It was a solemn church service, which featured scores of bishops and archbishops, including one from Kumasi, Ghana; bishops from across the country and more than 200 reverend fathers.
The Mass had kicked off with the procession of the priests into the church auditorium, with the Papal Nuncio at the rear. In the procession, the priests lined up according to their ranks. First, in the procession were the altar boys, followed by the reverend fathers, then the bishops, archbishops and the Papal Nuncio, in that order.
The priests included Archbishop Valerie Okeke (Onitsha), Archbishop of Benin; Bishop Matthew Kukah (Sokoto), Bishop Stephen Bansa (Minna), Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor (Awka) and others.
As the priests marched in, the choir generated something of spiritual electricity within the atmosphere with powerful Catholic hymns they sang. Uzoh had set the tone by formally handing over the keys to the church to the Papal Nuncio and Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev Dr. Hillary Okeke, under whose diocese the new church is located. The Bishop had, in turn, handed the keys to the parish priest, Very Rev Father Raphael Ebedeagu.
Speaking at the Mass, Bishop Hillary Okeke shared with the congregation how Dr. Uzoh offered to build the church. He said he was apprehensive, at a time, if the deadline for the completion of the church would be met.
According to him, he exercised faith in God, believing that the church would be ready and that the 10th anniversary Mass of the Nnewi Diocese would be celebrated in the new building.
The bishop urged other wealthy Nigerians to emulate Uzoh, in building churches for the worship of God as well as engaging in philanthropic gestures. “Some people use their money to foment trouble. Others use it to take care of their family alone. Obinna Uzoh has used his wealth to build the church of God,” he said.
Okeke told the congregation that the church would be dedicate to God, for his worship in truth and spirit. In the dedication, he said, there would be baptism, anointing and blessing of the church, as it’s done for new converts. With this, he said, the new church would be ready for the worship of God and the blessing of his children.
The bishop said that after the dedication of the church only things related to divine worship would be done therein. He urged people to be careful what they do inside the church, while condemning the killing of worshippers inside a Catholic Church, in Madalla, Niger State,
While urging those present to use the dedication of the church to reflect on their lives, the bishop told them not to worship God with their lips, when their hearts are far from God. He also urged them not to make the “house of God a den of thieves.”
He decried a situation where Nigerians are known as the most religious people in the world, while corruption pervades the society. “Christians should stand for the truth. Everybody in this church would carry his cross,” he told the congregation.
The climax of the compelling Mass was the dedication of the church proper. In dedicating the church, the Papal Nuncio Kasujja, performed the symbolism of baptism, with the sprinkling of water on the altar and the congregation.
Also, he performed the symbolism of anointing, with the marking of the altar and crosses on the walls of the church with consecrated olive oil. There was also the symbolism of the release of “fragrance of Christ,” with the waving of lighted incense at the altar and across the church auditorium.
There was also the symbolism of the invocation of the “light of Christ,” with the lighting of candles in the altar and on the walls of the church auditorium as well as the lighting of the bulbs.
The Papal Nuncio, in dedicating the church, pronounced blessing upon those who would worship there. He thereafter unveiled the plaque to conclude the dedication of the church.
In his goodwill message, during the church dedication, Governor Obi commended Uzoh for devoting his resources to build a church as well as to help humanity. He told the congregation that Uzoh is one of those doing things to develop Anambra State. He expressed happiness that Uzoh also practises politics without bitterness.
Meanwhile, as grateful individuals and organizations in the state and nation at large continue to commend Uzoh for building the All Saints Catholic Church, Ihiala, the fact cannot be missed that Uzoh had reached out to help a transcendental power that hardly needs human help.
In his compelling explanation, Uzoh told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that. “My humble action is an expression of deep gratitude for what God has done in my life.”