The Archbishop of Jos has stressed that the Catholic Church in Nigeria is opposed to any discrimination of gay people.
Earlier this year, Nigeria adopted a law that hands out 14-year sentences to anyone entering a same-sex union and bans public displays of affection between homosexual couples.
At the time, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama announced the Church’s support for the legislation. The move was widely seen has giving Catholic support to punitive discrimination of gay people.
But speaking at a press briefing on the Synod on the Family at the Vatican today, the archbishop said the Church only supported the elements of the law that set out that marriage is between a man and a woman. He added that there had been a “gross misinterpretation” of this by the media.
“We are not supporting the criminalisation of people with different sexual orientations,” Archbishop Kaigama stressed. “We would defend any person with homosexual orientation who is being harassed, who is being imprisoned, who is being punished.”
He added: “The Government may want to punish them – we don’t. In fact we will tell the Government to stop punishing those with different orientations.”
On Monday the Synod Fathers were addressed by a married couple who said parishes should welcome gay couples. The couple gave an example of a family who welcomed their gay son and his partner one Christmas.
Reflecting on that address, the archbishop told The Tablet: “If the son is part of the family it is only natural that the family should be together. You cannot exclude a family member from a feast, from a meal. Our arms should be open.”
The archbishop criticised international organisations, countries and groups who would are encouraging African countries to “deviate from our cultural practices, traditions and even our religious beliefs.”
He criticised agencies that tell African countries that their populations are too large.
“We are told, ‘If you limit your population we are going to give you so much,’ and we tell them ‘Who tells you that our population is overgrown?’” he said.
“In the first place children die in infant mortality, in inter-tribal wars and diseases, but yet you come to say ‘decrease your population and we will give you economic help’.”
The archbishop said organisations that bring contraceptives to Africa were offering the wrong help and that the countries are now able to think for themselves.
“We want food, we want education, we want good roads, healthcare. We are being given the wrong things and we are being asked to accept, simply because we are poor.”
But the archbishop said that poverty was not simply material and it was possible to be poor in ideas and education.
“We may be poor materially but we are not poor in every sense,” he added.
Above: Archbishop Kaigama with lay participants at the Synod. Photo: CNS