CANON LAW PROFESSIONAL SEMINAR HELD IN NNEWI DIOCESE
The annual Canon Law Professional Seminar was held on Wednesday 24th March, 2021 at St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Year Ozubulu in Nnewi Diocese. The turnout at this year’s seminar was very poor. The lecture on Documentation in the Nigerian Church was presented by Rev. Fr. Christopher C.V. Nnubia, JCD. In his lecture, Fr. Nnubia reiterated that “Documentation in the Church is as old as the Church herself.” The seminar paper was divided into five chapters including introduction and conclusion. The first chapter presented what the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC/83) says on documentation from the point of view of the different aspects of governance in the diocese. Chapter two viewed the documents of the Universal Church and their preservation. In chapter three, the critical examination of documentation within the Particular Church was discussed. Chapter four looked at the present stage of documentation of the local Churches within Nigeria. Here the overview of documentation was done without referencing any particular Church. Chapter five suggested ways of improving on documentation in the local Churches within Nigeria. He listed many steps to follow in order to improve our own quality of documentation:
The first step is that the guiding criteria for drafting the documents of the curia should be a canonico-pastoral one because more specific and technical aspects fall under a different competence. The second step is that every act of the Apostolic See, Bishops’ Conference, provincial plenary, provincial council, diocesan bishops, persons and institutions of the diocesan curia, deanery and parishes must be preserved in the specified archive for them. The third step is that each diocese can print all documents in a book form before preserving them in the archive as the Apostolic See does in Enchiridion Vaticanum or the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone Italy does. The fourth step is to develop an alive and active website for documentation. If every diocesan website in Nigeria can be designed to be alive, active and simple but beautiful like that of the Vatican website or some dioceses in Europe and America mentioned above, Christ’s faithful will be fully armed with authentic information about the dioceses within Nigeria. In designing it, the categories will need to include present and past diocesan bishops with their documents: pastoral letters, decrees, letters, homilies, addresses, pastoral visits, dairy, etc; persons and institutions of their diocesan curia according to their branches or sections, liturgical year, liturgical celebrations, financial reports if possible, photos, diocesan policies and statutes, link to basic diocesan forms etc. The purpose of the diocesan website is to provide information. If essential content does not exist or is hard to find, then the website is failing. The fifth step is to have qualified personnel for the archives. There should be historical archive and the archive for the current affairs as well as diocesan museum and library with qualified personnel for them. Dioceses should employ experts and those who have experience of library science. Trained archivists are needed for the historical archive and the archive for current affairs. The candidate for the office of chancellor should also be trained for the diocesan archive and secret archive. Christ’s faithful could be sent to the Vatican School of Palaeography and Archive Science, instituted at the Vatican Secret Archives. Another step to be taken is to have documentation at the deanery level.The preservation of deanery documents is a significant issue when deaneries are created or modified. The copies of the decrees of appointment of deans should be in the deanery archive. Other letters of the bishop to the dean or deanery should be kept in the archive. The dean keeps files regarding the deanery. He has a special part in the archives set aside for all the papers, files, documents and reports concerning the deanery. During the handover, the dean is to hand over the documents and the seal to his successor. Still another step is that documentation in the diocese demands provision of norms by the diocesan bishop which will guide inspecting and removing the acts and documents. There should be adequate funding of the archives and website. He concluded with the words of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church “Preservation is a need that we today justly owe to those who have gone before us. Showing disinterest would be an offence to our ancestors and their memory. It is the diocesan bishops’ duty to observe the canonical regulations in this regard. Young particular churches as well are required to document progressively their pastoral activity following canonical rules in order to transmit the memory of the first evangelization activity and the inculturation of the faith in their community.”
Among the participants were the Host Bishop, Most Rev. Hilary Okeke, Bishop of Nnewi, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, Auxiliary Bishop of Awka, Msgr. Pius Kii, President of Canon Law Society of Nigeria and host others from different dioceses and congregations. Following the robust discussion on paper and its appreciation, it was agreed that the copies of the seminar paper be distributed to the dioceses as a guide or template for their internal diocesan seminar.