The first African to host a television series on the global Catholic television network EWTN has urged Pope Francis to visit Africa – and soon.
Father Maurice Emelu, a Catholic priest, inspirational speaker, author, and journalist is known worldwide through hosting several shows on EWTN. His new television series, “Word For a Wounded World”, premieres in September.
In a wide-ranging interview with ZENIT, the Nigerian-born priest and TV producer not only shares details on the upcoming program, but also urges the Pope to visit Africa, and explains how his experiences in the West have formed his view on papal efforts to reconcile problems in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
ZENIT: Could you please speak about “Word For A Wounded World TV series, its objectives and origins?
Father Emelu: Thank you very much Deborah and everyone at ZENIT News team for inviting me for this interview. I grew up reading ZENIT as a college student and I find your up-to-date coverage of Vatican news plus the compelling way you tell the Catholic story quite innovative. Keep up the good work.
“Word For A Wounded World” grew from a pastoral need. Over the years, I have been privileged to share the faith with audiences across the West, the continent of Africa and Asia through television, radio, and the web, at retreats, conferences and during pastoral work in parishes. In my many one-on-one conversations with people from all over the world, one of their common requests is to speak a “word or two” to help them bring succor, healing, reconciliation and peace to their wounded heart and the wounded world around them. When I had the opportunity to develop my second weekly television teaching series for the Global Catholic Television Network EWTN, I discerned that the Lord had provided me with a big forum where I could fulfill this desire which is so close to my heart, to reach out to the wounded, with a ‘word’ of peace, joy, healing, and reconciliation, hence the theme, “Word For A Wounded World”.
I found some inspiration in Pope Benedict XVI’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Africae Munus (on the Church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace). Providentially, by the time I started writing the script for the television program series, Pope Francis’ message on September 2013 stroke a confirmatory nerve. He said, “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” I saw this as a clear affirmation of the goal of my television program series. By the way the book Word For A Wounded World Volume 1, was published August 15 this year.
In December 2013, twenty-four episodes of the television program series were videotaped with thousands of audiences in five church locations in Nigeria and Cameroon. It is now airing (since September 1, 2014) on EWTN. The objective is to reach the “existential periphery” as Pope Francis said, facilitating the healing, revitalizing and reassuring work of Christ and his Church. Every episode of the television program series has been tailored to address a word to a particular wound.
ZENIT: Could you explain why it is important to watch?
Father Emelu: If you have ever been hurt and maybe are still hurting, and by the way who of us can say that he or she never was hurt, then my television program series will speak to you. If you have been a victim of a bad habit, depriving you of true freedom and peace you so much desire, you may want to consider watching my program series. If ideological extremists have terrorized your neighborhood, village or town and you sometimes feel revenge, or you need some words of encouragement to keep your peace, then this teaching series will help you.
Many are hurting. Look around us, from Africa where there are many tribal wars, violence and political instability resulting to corruption and bloodshed; in Nigeria and the borders of northern part of Cameroon, we see the merciless killings of the innocent due to the ideologically and politically motivated evil of Boko Haram terrorism; in Mali, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Kenya, Libya to name a few, we don’t have a safe haven either. In the west, the ideological fight over authentic sex identity and traditional family values is hurting so many people. The wounds of any kind of abuse are devastating too. In the Middle East, we shed tears over the gruesome massacre of minorities. It hurts people terribly. How tormenting must it be to watch a family member or friend brutally murdered! No matter how you may suppress it, the wounds are deep and do not heal fast. And you know, when our society is not at peace, the individual is not safe, but is hurting.
ZENIT: What are your goals for the program?
Father Emelu: To encourage a spiritual diagnosis of the causes of wounds and to lead the audiences into finding healing for their moral, spiritual, social, and emotional wounds. Each episode of the 24-part series is tailored to address one specific cause of wound and offer suggestions on how to deal with it. Ultimately, it is to facilitate healing for the wounded.
ZENIT: You spent a period of time in the West. Could you elaborate on that and on how you believe it has influenced your perspective on the Popes’ effort to reconcile problems in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East?
Father Emelu: This is a very good question. Culture is a complex subject; it has a way of shaping our thoughts consciously and unconsciously. Assimilation is real and often challenging. The impact of my African Nigerian worldview is evident in the way I talk, look at events and tell my story. When I first came to the United States of America, where I have lived now for almost 5 years, I had many moments of culture shock. As years rolled by, the new environment has availed me the richness of cultural diversity as well. Both worldviews shape my understanding of reality and I appreciate where Pope Francis is coming from. To me, his approach, is extended-family-oriented, wherein the door is opened for as many as will want to make the family their home without in any way destroying the individual identity neither of the family members nor of the family itself. As an African born in a similar culture, I understand this; but for some others it may be a cultural shock. Pope
Francis is opening the eyes of the world to the beauty of Catholicism. He is using very effectively every means possible, even the social media, to proclaim the beauty of the unity in diversity which the Church reflects when she, like a mother hen brings all her children under her wings. Many young people, who long for true family identity, true community of love, are in love with the pope, and this is a good development. Recently he told teens during his visit to South Korea that the youth is not just the future of the church, but the present. God bless his soul. This for me is the powerful, groundbreaking new evangelization spirit.
ZENIT: Recently, there have been a number of crises in Africa. I know you are from Nigeria, where, in particular, there has been massive suffering. According to you, how urgent is a visit of the Pope to Africa necessary?
Father Emelu: Very urgent. Papa Francisco, come visit us in Africa. We need you! Pope Francis brings much joy and shares the Gospel in a way that softens the most hardened heart. We thank God for his unique charism. We need such grace. Leaders of the Church today, and indeed every Christian, need to share in the words of Pope Francis, “the joy of the Gospel.” I will point to what happened in Nigeria in 1998. A despot, General Sani Abacha was the Nigerian Head of State then. He ruled with his boots. The visit of Pope John Paul II (Pope Saint John Paul II) and his prayerful appeal to Abacha led to his release of about 60 prisoners, including well-known opponents of the regime unjustly put behind bars. It also ushered in a wind of change in Nigerian political history. So, a visit of the Pope to the second largest continent in the world is always reassuring. It doesn’t matter which country in Africa he choses to visit, it will definitely create a huge impact.
ZENIT: Your program stresses various elements, such as hope and love in areas of conflict, such as certain parts of Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, what do you attribute as being most important and why?
Father Emelu: I would like to remind everyone that no matter their race, color, tribe, religion and political affiliations we are all brothers and sisters. We come from one family, from one origin. God is our creator, our Father. The world is large enough for all of us. Ideological and political battles under the guise of religion do severe harm to the faith. Live and let live. After all is said and done, the worth of our labor is weighed by the true love we bore, the love we shared and the love we lived out in our lives, for “We are brothers.” Let me say it without mincing words; any claim of religious activism that promotes violence, terrorism, or hate is not truly religious but ideological and political. True religion inspires hope, peace, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and most importantly, love.