Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I bring you greetings of peace and love in the name of our lord Jesus Christ at whose name every knee must bow and every tongue confess (cf. Phil. 2:10-11).
My attention was brought to a video clip that went viral on the social media regarding some celebration that took place in one of the Catholic Parishes in my diocese where a masquerade was seen dancing to the excitement of those in attendance including some priests. Many asked, and rightly so, as to what is the masqueradedoing in the church? And not that many only asked, but that hundreds, if not thousands, of those who saw the clip felt bad and considered the act an insult to their Christian belief and practices.
I am not writing to explain why the masqueradewas in the first place within the assembly of believers, during a liturgical celebration and in that manner, especially that whatever explanation we may put forward for or against the incidence, I believe will not equal the injury inflicted on innocent and fragile minds.
This is why I believe very strongly that we must always keep in mind the saintly advice of the Great Apostle Paul when he says “only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so, by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (1Cor. 8:9-13).
Having said that and believing in the saying that everything has its place and time, may I still remind us strongly and in good faith that the church especially in the Catholic Diocese of Yola is NOT a place for the display of cultural artifacts. There is no doubt that every serious-minded Catholic in the diocese knows that Eucharistic celebrations are a solemn worship and not an entertainment or a show. This is why I asked on the 18th of December 2017, for example, that the presentation of the Book of the Gospels in the name of inculturation should not be done in the Diocese. The celebration of the Liturgy must remain solemn and sacred. Besides, we all know the process of inculturation in the Catholic Church.
In the light of this and conscious of the fact that so many times we lose our sense of judgment and so do things that are dangerous and unacceptable, I wish to say that this act was a misrepresentation of our mode of worship in the Catholic Diocese of Yola. And may I reiterate that as a diocese, we stand for what is right and proper in the celebrations of the mysteries of faith as handed down by the Apostles.
Being the first time, this masquerade was ever heard of or even seen performing in a liturgical celebration in the diocese, it is therefore not acceptable by the diocese and I am as a matter of fact investigating why the masquerade appeared during a liturgical celebration and will surely handle it with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.
Peace be with you!
Most Rev Dr Stephen Dami Mamza
Catholic Bishop of Yola