The Nigerian Catholic Chaplaincy for England and Wales was inaugurated at colourful Mass at St George's Cathedral in Southwark on Saturday, lead by Cardinal Francis Arinze. Bishop Alan Hopes, Nigerian Chaplain Fr Albert Ofere and Assistant Chaplain Fr Austin Mbulu were among the concelebrants. During the service, the logo and banner of the new chaplaincy were brought up to the altar for the Cardinal's blessing, by a procession of religious and laypeople in national dress. During his homily, Cardinal Arinze said it was important for Nigerians in England and Wales to feel part of their local parishes, and integrate into the communities in which they were living. But at the same time, he said, it mattered that they kept their own identity. "You are Nigerians" he said. "Your identity is important. No one nation is a photocopy of another. Nigerians love community and we love to show that we are Nigerian in the way we dress and the way we celebrate our faith. That identity is not destroyed by the Catholic Church. Vatican II encouraged us to retain our culture. That is why it is normal for the church to make provision for the different communities." The Cardinal said it was beautiful that the Church in England and Wales had requested a Nigerian chaplaincy. He said he expected the chaplaincy would rejuvinate the Church and support all Nigerians in their faith. "There are over 240 languages in Nigeria" he said, telling parents: "make sure your children learn their own language. If you don't know your own language you are without roots. Language matters very much, because it touches the heart." The new chaplaincy he said, would pay due attention to the different language groups. But, Cardinal Arinze concluded: "Christ is at the centre of all. There was loud applause throughout the Cathedral as the Cardinal gave thanks for the Chaplaincy. In his inauguration speech, Bishop Alan Hope pointed out that the Nigerian community was one of the largest African groups in the UK and had a mission to evangelise here and in Nigeria. "We pray that the chaplaincy will help you become more than ever integrated, Bishop Hope said. He added that the chaplaincy was not intended to replace the local church but to enrich everyone. 'We are all one in Christ Jesus" he concluded. Bidding Prayers were said in a number of Nigerian languages including Efik, Hausa, Ibo, Urhobo, Yoruba and English. At a reception after the Mass, attended by the Nigerian High Commissioner HE Christopher Kolade there was a special cake, refreshments, music and dance performances from several different Nigerian groups. Jo Siedlecka
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