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(LifeSiteNews) — It is often said that Africa will re-evangelize the West. Indeed, the Catholic hierarchy in Africa is known for its phenomenal pro-life stances. The liturgy in Africa, however, is normally impoverished compared to the continent’s orthodoxy.

My guest on this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show is Father Abah Onuh Samuel Maria, a Nigerian priest who serves as spiritual director for the Sons and Sisters of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts and says the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). 

Discussing the history of the TLM on the continent, Fr. Samuel Maria explains that it is crucial to remember that the Novus Ordo Missae of St. Paul VI, introduced in 1969, was introduced at a time when most African Catholics were just beginning to leave their traditional African religions. What distinguished Catholics from Protestants, further, was their devotion to Our Lady and the way they celebrated mass.M

According to him, African bishops have attempted to stifle the TLM, claiming that the people don’t want it, even though the people themselves seem to yearn for it. Indeed, Father maintains that it is “necessary for us to have this Mass given to our people.” 

Samuel Maria, recalling how he got involved with the Mass, said that he read about Catholic tradition in seminary after someone sent traditional books to it, including books on the Ottaviani intervention and books by Michael Davies.

“[The seminarians] read them and started asking questions in liturgy class,” he recounts. “And our … professors would just say, ‘Ah, that’s the Mass [where] the priest [has his] back to the people.’ So for me, I became interested.”

While he had an opportunity to go to Michigan to study how to say the Mass shortly after his ordination in 2003, his bishop did not allow him to go, as he himself spent time in the United States and did not want Samuel Maria to see the Church’s cultural situation in the country. Samuel Maria eventually contacted the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) in Gabon, Africa, and with the permission of his bishop, learned how to say the TLM with the SSPX at their seminary in Australia.

After returning to Nigeria, told that he could only say the TLM privately, he said the Novus Ordo as conservatively as he could. During COVID-19, however, when churches shut down, he refused to close his.

“I told the people, ‘I am for tradition. And if you … truly want to attend the Mass, Christ is here with us,’” Father began. “‘So it is not by force that you could attend the Mass. But if you want to attend, I’m available. I’m not afraid of COVID-19. I’m not afraid of death.’” 

In October 2020, when the Nigerian bishops allowed for public Masses again, Samuel Maria asked his bishop for permission to say the TLM exclusively but was denied the permission. He currently lacks permission to say the Mass publicly. While he sent people away, knowing that he did not have the permission to say Mass for them, people still came. He has since told the bishop that he is not bringing them to Mass.

“Currently my case is being studied by the diocese and we are hopeful that they would give me a hearing,” Father tells me. “So that’s if I have the right to celebrate the traditional Catholic Mass for the people, then fair and good. But if they don’t want to give me [that right], I still do what I feel I can do for the remnant Church.”

Samuel Maria’s community, the Sons and Sisters of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, formed after a group of young men asked him to train them for the priesthood, consists of 22 men, most studying philosophy while the rest are making a “spiritual year,” as well as two other priests, and a group of sisters. One is rofessed, five are in the novitiate, five in the postulancy, and four are aspiring to enter. The group has received a blessing from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

The group, Father explains, has suffered attack from the local clergy, with accusations that it is outside the Church, an accusation that confuses visitors. “Many of [the visitors] are asking the bishops … why can’t they have this Mass, why can’t they have a traditional Catholic seminary, as the Church has always wanted it in the past. So there’s this battle going on.” 

Samuel Maria also explains that he looks to America as a “bastion of hope” for the Church, and calls on American Catholics to be courageous.

“We are in a battle,” he reiterated. “We need to take a decision now, while there is still time. We need to join Our Lady in her army to bring about the restoration … I want American Catholics to be strong and bring forth the true Catholic faith and morals to the people, because that is the only thing that can save the people now.”

The John-Henry Westen Show is available by video on the show’s YouTube channel and right here on my LifeSite blog.

You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].

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John-Henry is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of He and his wife Dianne have eight children and they live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout the world. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum, an annual strategy meeting for life, faith and family leaders worldwide. He is a board member of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization. He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.