AT CHRISTMAS, Rome has no rival. It is closest one gets to paradise on earth. Unknown to the generality of the public, the planning commences two or three years before 25th December of whichever year.
The consistency of the outcome is sufficient justification for the detailed personal attention which Pope Benedict XVI devotes to ensuring a hitch free Christmas which would command the respect, loyalty and enduring faith of all believers.
The Holy Father is a very serious Pontiff.
This was not always the case. During the reign of Pope Leo XIII, it was common knowledge that Mariani wine (1875) was the most famous Coca wine of its time. Cocaine was a major ingredient in the huge variety of wines that were freely available on the market. Everybody used to say it would make you happy and it would also work as a medicament with fantastic healing powers. Not only did Pope Leo XIII insist on carrying a bottle with him all the time, he rewarded Angelo Mariani (the producer of the wine) with a Vatican gold medal.
What is even more interesting that professional tour guides regularly regale the unwary about a certain Pope who in the 19th century chose ministering to ladies of easy virtue as his special calling. To this end, every evening after mass he would saunter over to the den of iniquity just outside the Vatican to render what he merrily described as a mission to save the souls of sinners!!
Whenever he felt a pang of conscience, he took solace by administering a generous dosage of Mariani wine. Indeed, as a demonstration of his contrition he built a tunnel for the exclusive use of the Pontiff to the den where he took on the demons head on with his rosary firmly clasped in his hands.
The tunnel remains till today as a tourist attraction. The wayward Pope went to his grave firmly convinced that even if he had failed to save the bodies of the wicked ladies, he had at least salvaged their souls.
On the wall of the Vatican, there is an advertisement for Bayer’s “Heroin”. Between 1890 and 1910 heroin was sold as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. It was also used to treat children suffering with a strong cough.
Pope Benedict XVI has neither the time nor disposition towards frivolities. His main pre-occupation is the plight of the poor driven beyond endurance into the abyss of hunger, homelessness, joblessness and hopelessness. They have become a huge underclass with nowhere to go but hell and damnation.
Regardless, the Holy Father loves and cares for them – especially at Christmas. Indeed, in the spirit of sublime humility Pope Benedict XVI publicly carried out the washing of the feet of the poor just like Jesus Christ did with his disciples.
As for Africa, the continent in ferment, the Holy Father has delivered a powerful message to its rulers:
“A country (or continent) that cannot provide for the many that are poor, cannot protect the few that are rich.”
– John F Kennedy (late President of the United States of America)
The security challenges that have engulfed Africa, particularly Nigeria, are a real monster for the Vatican. Matters took a frightening dimension when going back to 2010, the Islamic Maghreb became training fields for terrorists. Now they are in firm control of Northern Mali and are sweeping across the northern belt of West Africa – with Mauritania; Burkina Faso; Guinea; Ghana; Nigeria; and Chad in their cross hairs. What they are preaching is a volatile cauldron of Islamic militancy and total rejection of western education. Rome is certainly not their idea of paradise.
BREAKING NEWS ON CNN
Headline: “This Day” newspaper (December 6, 2012):
“PROSECUTION WITNESS SAYS SULEJA BOMBING SUSPECTS WERE PROMISED 72 VIRGINS EACH”
An army officer yesterday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that four suspects of the Suleja bombing were promised 72 virgins each as incentives.
The officer, whose name was not given for security reasons, was testifying in the case filed by the State Security Service against the six accused for the Suleja/Madalla bomb attack.
He said in his evidence-in-chief that the information was contained in a cell-phone confiscated from the suspects at the point of their arrest at Gumel Junction, Kachia in Kaduna State.
The witness explained that a total of four mobile phones were seized from the suspects.
According to him, one of the mobile phones carried the promise of incentives and the secret code to arrange and detonate an explosive.
The suspects are: Salisu Ahmed, Umar Babagana-Umar, Mohammed Ali and Musa Adam.
They were arrested on July 28, 2011 in Kahia, on their way to Kaduna where the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, and other dignitaries were to attend a sporting function on July 29 at the township stadium.
Umar Ibrahim and Shuaibu Abubakar, were also standing trial for alleged multiple bombings and killings in Suleja and Madalla both in Niger.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the witness read the first message thus: “Do a deed which Allah by his grace and mercy saves you from the punishment of the grave and a dangerous bridge with a speed of light.
“Save you from the greatest fear. Allow you safe from hell fire. 70 members of your family shall marry you 72 virgins in paradise, give you a crown of respect, which even the prophet will be impressed with.
“Keep your soul in the green birds of paradise and your wish to return to the world and die as he died because of the good blessings and reward you encounter after such noble last deed. I pray for you to do such a noble deed,” the message stated.
Mr Emeka Okoro the counsel to the accused persons, however, applied for a short adjournment to enable him to access the officer’s statement which was not before the court.
Justice Bilkisu Aliyu then adjourned cross-examination of the witness to December 6 Aliyu ordered the State Security Service to avail the counsel to the accused persons with the army officer’s statement.”
It is against this gory background of looming anarchy and disintegration that the Holy Father has had to contend with the 70 “Senior elders” from Nigeria who have been praying fervently in Saint Peter’s Church for the deliverance of their beloved country.
Here is the message from the Pontiff to the Nigerian delegation:
1ST THESSALONIANS 4:13-5:11
“And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since you believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.
I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet Him ahead of those who are in their grave. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with Him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.
I really don’t need to write to you about how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “All is well, everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as woman’s birth pains begin when her child is about to be born. And there will be no escape.
But you aren’t in the dark about these things. Then brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day, you don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober. Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk.
But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armour of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour His anger on us. He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of His return. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
The message to the to the Nigerians has been a wonderful tonic which has lifted the morale of the group and boosted their hope for divine intervention in the affairs of Nigeria.
Indeed, Al Jazeera has been showing over and over again the picture of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria at the December 2012 Holy Ghost Congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God held on December 15, 2012. He was on his knees supplicating God Almighty to save Nigeria from chaos.
Pastor EA Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Church was the Chief Host and provided assurance that God would not fail to respond to Nigerians earnestly yearning for salvation.
As for the chartered accountants who have been protesting on the steps of the Basilica about being marginalized – 99 per cent of their market has been cornered by the “Big Four” (largest accounting firms) while the rest scramble for the 1 per cent left over, they have become a manifestation of a demonstrable and visible miracle.
Rather than wither away on account of their fasting on a diet of bread and water, they are positively glowing. Their secret weapon for survival is the abundant blessing they have been receiving from the Holy Father.
On Christmas day, they were the guests of the Pontiff who had invited them to join him for dinner where they joyfully sang:
“O God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led;
Our vows, and prayers, are now present
Before thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.
Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.
GENOCIDE OR WHAT?
As far back as 1898 Dr John Kehinde Randle; Dr Akinwande Savage and Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford (of the Gold Coast) the founders of the National Congress of British West Africa had begun to agitate for the Independence of Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. Dr JK Randle graduated from University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1888 and won the Gold Medal for surgery.