OPUS SECURITATIS

MISSION

To guarantee retirement assistance to priests who are elderly and the terminally ill through the provision of suitable social security.

VISION

A life of wellbeing for priests in old age and infirmity.

Opus Securitas is the Pension scheme for the diocesan priests in Nigeria. The idea of Opus Securitatis came in the early 1970s, with a proposal put forward to open a Pension Fund for Clergy by some of the Churches in mission territories which were already receiving assistance from Missio-Aachen in Germany. This was adopted and approved by the Superior Council of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) and Opus Securitatis was launched in May 1976. In May 2003, the General Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) decided to de-centralise Opus Securitatis and make it the responsibility of the respective diocesan Bishop or national Bishops Conference. The Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in his letter of May 25, 2004 strongly recommended that the new system of pension for the local clergy be organized for all the Arch/Dioceses together by the National Bishops Conference in order to guarantee economic stability and better administration.

The CBCN, at its September 2004 plenary assembly, decided for a collective management of the funds, but in such a way that each Arch/Diocese is involved, and the funds belonging to each Arch/Diocese remain at the credit of the Arch/Diocese, to be transferred to the Arch/Diocesan Opus Securitatis Account on maturity for management in favour of the beneficiaries. This prompted the setting up of the first Board of Opus Securitatis by CBCN in 2005. Opus Securitatis Board of Directors is tasked with the responsibility to ensure that the Opus Securitatis Fund is well managed and that entitlements are paid to Arch/Dioceses when their priests attain the age of 65 years.

Opus Securitatis emphasise on priestly solidarity, priests helping priests and the money meant for taking care of priests is not meant for any other purpose.

OPUS SECURITATIS FOUNDATION

(AN AGENCY OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA, CBCN)

FOREWORD

The notes in this booklet are intended to supply some essential information on Opus Securitatis Foundation, an agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria that sees to the management of the retirement fund of diocesan priests of Nigeria. It has been observed that many priests especially the young ones have little or no idea of this agency and what it does. It is earnestly hoped that this little booklet will inspire readers – clergy, religious and laity to give the necessary support to this agency.

OVERVIEW

  OPUS SECURITATIS

Opus Securitatis is an organ of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria which works to guarantee retirement assistance to priests who are elderly and the terminally ill through the provision of suitable social security.

 VISION:  A life of wellbeing for priests in old age and infirmity.

MISSION: To guarantee retirement assistance to priests who are elderly and the             terminally ill through the provision of suitable social security.

 ORIGIN

Due to the emergence of indigenous priests through the growth of the local Church, there arose a question of who takes care of them when they are old. This is because while the foreign missionaries had proper and formal retirement arrangement made for them in their respective homelands, for our indigenous priests, nothing was in place.

In order to find an answer to the above question, some Churches in mission territories who were already receiving assistance from Missio-Aachen in Germany put forward a proposal to open a Pension Fund for Clergy in the 1970s. Missio Aachen adopted the proposal as a project of inter-ecclesial help and, with the approval of the Superior Council of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), the Opus Securitatis was launched in May 1976.

SUSTENANCE

  • At the initial stage, the project was sponsored by the Churchv in Germany mobilized by the PMS. PMS also paid a subsidy to sustain the scheme. The priests in the mission territories made their own contribution in the form of two Masses per month.

TRANSITION

  • In May 2003, the General Assembly of the PMS, de-centralized Opus Securitatis and made it the responsibility of the respective diocesan Bishops or National Bishops’ Conferences.
  • On May 25, 2004, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples addressed a letter to all local Ordinaries of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions under the Congregation and expressed among other issues that the Opus Securitatis Pension Scheme be centrally organised for all the dioceses belonging to every Conference. In his words: “although the individual Bishop has the right to define his own economic policy independently, I strongly recommend with insistence that, as far as possible, this new system of pensions for the local clergy be organized for all the dioceses together by the national Bishops’ Conference. This will guarantee economic stability, better administration of the Fund, more economical contracts, more efficiency with one administration and, most important, a spirit of solidarity among the dioceses of the respective country”.

NATIONAL OPUS SECURITATIS

  • In accordance with the strong recommendation of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the CBCN at its September 2004 plenary, decided for a collective management of the funds, in such a way that each diocese is involved, and the funds belonging to each diocese remains at the credit of the diocese, and on maturity is transferred to the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee for management in favour of the beneficiaries.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  • Like the other CBCN Agencies, Opus Securitatis has a Board of Directors, who sees to the policy, judicious growth and use of Opus Securitatis Funds. The first Opus Securitatis Board was inaugurated by the CBCN on November 14, 2005, to govern the Opus Securitatis of the CBCN and administer the funds. The current Board Chairman of Opus Securitatis is His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja.

STATUTES OF OPUS SECURITATIS AND THE MODEL FOR THE REGULATION OF DIOCESAN OPUS SECURITATIS COMMITTEE

The Statutes of Opus Securitatis was drafted and approved by the relevant office of the PMS in Rome.

Find below A) the National Statutes of Opus Securitatis and B) the model for the preparation of the Diocesan Opus Securitatis.

A) STATUTES OF THE PENSION SCHEME

I.   Preamble

One of the major responsibilities of diocesan Bishops (local ordinaries) is to provide adequately for the elderly priests of the diocese. Opus Securitatis was founded with the aim of assisting the bishops of mission territories dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in fulfilling the responsibility of adequately providing for the elderly priests of their dioceses. The idea originated from some mission countries and was adopted by Missio Aachen, Germany as a project of inter ecclesial help and launched in May 1976 with the approval of the “Superior Council” of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS). After partly achieving its original purpose of providing welfare for elderly priests in many Churches, it was considered that the time was ripe for the local Churches to assume full responsibility for this duty. The Superior Council of the Pontifical Mission Societies considered this proposal extensively and resolved to decentralize the scheme. Consequently, the Opus Securitatis was now transferred to these local Churches, giving them full responsibility for this duty.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, (CBCN) after deliberating on the matter, decided to approach this responsibility in a cooperative spirit, aware that individual diocesan administration of the Opus Securitatis fund might be cumbersome for many dioceses and that a collective approach would be more conducive for security, high aggregate returns and flexibility in its management profile. What is more, it will further enhance and strengthen the spirit of solidarity and unity of the different dioceses in Nigeria.

Consequently, the new Opus Securitatis Fund for the Church in Nigeria was established to continue to provide this assistance to retired priests as far as condition allows, in accordance with the rules established by these statutes.

II.  The Obligation of Assistance

Art.1 Retirement assistance to the elderly is a duty declared by the ILO (International Labour Organization) for all workers, and recognized by the laws of the State for every citizen. In fact, all citizens regardless of their social status have a right to this assistance. The extended family system in Nigeria recognizes the need for this service and has been, and to some extent is still providing it, in some limited cases.

Art 2.  The Catholic Church, a perfect society with its own laws, in its Canon Law affirms the right of Priests in every Church throughout the world to have “the remuneration that befits their condition” and it declares that “suitable provision is likewise to be made for such social welfare as they may need in infirmity, sickness or old age” (can. 281 §1,2). This right to a “suitable and worthy provision” is also recognized for the Bishops Emeriti, and it is a duty of the Episcopal Conference, bearing in mind “the primary obligation which falls on the diocese which he served” (can.402§2).

Art 3.  Responsibility for providing this Pension Fund and the expression of priestly solidarity, belongs to the Bishops of the local Church: “Where there is as yet no properly organized system of social provision for the clergy, the Episcopal Conference is to see that a fund is established which will furnish adequate social security for them” (can.1274 §2).

Art 4.  This responsibility may be exercised by the Bishop of each individual Diocese as well as by Bishops jointly (in solido), gathered in the Episcopal Conference. The purposes of social welfare for the clergy depending on differing local circumstances might be better achieved by amalgamating various diocesan funds, or by cooperation between various Dioceses, or even by setting up a suitable association for them, or indeed for the whole territory of the Episcopal Conference itself” (can.1274 §4) For Nigeria, the Opus Securitatis Fund shall be organized at the level of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in order to achieve higher professionalism and flexibility in management, greater security and high aggregate returns, better protection for dioceses that will otherwise find it difficult to operate the system on their own, consolidate priestly solidarity and unity as well as cooperation within the CBCN.

III. Administrative Structure

Art 5.  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria shall establish a National Opus Securitatis Board which, working under the supervision of the Finance Committee of the CBCN shall govern the Opus Securitatis of the CBCN and administer the funds. The members of the Board shall be appointed by the CBCN and also determine their number. The membership must include an accountant and a person who is conversant with Insurance Business. The Chairman of the Finance Committee of the CBCN shall be an ex-officio member of the Board.

Art 6.   A member of the Apostolic Nunciature in Nigeria shall be on the Board as an observer.

Art 7.  The Board shall be responsible for the management of the Opus Securitatis Fund. In doing so, it shall avail itself of the services of the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd, especially in the areas of the investments and disbursement of the funds.

Art 8.  Investment proposals shall be made to CBCN for consideration and approval. It shall be the duty of the Board and the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd to seek and recommend ways of achieving capital growth through investments.

Art 9.  Each diocese should retain its own account on the Opus Securitatis and statements shall be regularly rendered to each local ordinary, as shall be regulated by the Board.

Art 10.  The Board shall see to it that the pensions accruing to each priest are promptly paid to the appropriate diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee for proper administration. On no account will that money be paid to the individual priests directly by the Board.

Art 11.  The Opus Securitatis Board shall meet at least twice a year and shall report to the CBCN at least once a year.

Art 12. All the Bishops, priests who have been members of the centralized Opus Securitatis, shall automatically become members of the Opus Securitatis of the CBCN, with full entitlements.

Art 13.  Participation in the “Opus Securitatis Fund” is open to all those who are members of the diocesan clergy: diocesan Bishops, Priests incardinated in the Diocese, and Permanent Deacons where they exist. Participation is reserved to clergy “incardinated” in the Diocese for the whole time that this situation persists.

Art 14.  The age necessary for drawing the pension is normally 65 years on the advice of the insurance company through the CSN Investment Concept, taking into account the civil laws in force and local customs.

Art 15.  Should a member of the “Opus Securitatis” die before reaching retirement age, his contribution goes to increase the “Fund”, which is an expression of the priestly solidarity of his Church.

Art 16.  The capital of the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, to be transferred from the collective Opus Securitatis, or obtained through the contribution of members or offered by other Institution or persons, must be used exclusively for the purpose for which it was given.

Art 17.  The constitution of the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, through the contribution of its members may be made in various ways and with different structures. The simplest way is a contribution to the “premium”, due annually and established by the CBCN on the advice of an insurance company through the CSN Investment Concepts Ltd, with a percentage offered jointly by the Diocese and by its Clergy. The percentage should be defined by the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee. The contribution must be such that it must be suited to the financial possibilities of the Dioceses. Dioceses may however decide on other ways of raising this contribution provided that the per capita contribution established by the CBCN is met.

Art 18.  The “Opus Securitatis Fund” shall be open to the contribution of ecclesial Organizations and lay Institutions that are in a position to give their help and their assistance, but it is not conditioned by anyone and is totally free in its financial management.

Art 19.  Each diocesan Bishop shall set up a diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee, which shall operate under the direction of the Bishop. It shall be responsible for managing the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, of the diocese and must ensure that this Statute is observed and that the benefits due to contributing members are disbursed promptly and properly.

Art 20.  The Diocesan “Opus Securitatis Committee” should meet, at least, twice a year to examine matters concerning the administration of the “Fund” and fix times and ways for the distribution of the sum due to Priests of pensionable age who have contributed to the “Opus Securitatis Fund”.

Art 21.  Enrollment in the diocesan “Opus Securitatis Fund” with the ensuing duties is an obligation for every priest in the Diocese and the pension benefits are reserved to those who have faithfully observed the obligations and the necessary requirements.

Art 22.  Retirement assistance through the “Opus Securitatis Fund” may be provided either with the direct disbursement of the quota due to participating members, or through institutions, such as the “House for the Clergy” or an “Old People’s Home” which take care of them when they are sick or disabled.

Art 23.  For no reason whatsoever may the pension contribution be disbursed to family members, unless, through the pensioner’s free choice, they take care of the elderly priest and only during his lifetime.

Art 24. If for any reason a Priest leaves his Diocese, he has no right to any compensation, apart from what he has contributed annually to the “Fund”.

Art 25. The diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee” shall work in close collaboration with Opus Securitatis Board of the CBCN.

IV. Amendment of the Statutes

Art 26. The statutes can be amended or reviewed by the CBCN provided that such a review shall not compromise the aims and objectives of the Opus Securitatis nor approve the application of any of the funds accrued to Opus Securitatis for any purpose other than the welfare of the priests.

B) MODEL FOR THE REGULATION OF DIOCESAN OPUS SECURITATIS COMMITTEE

I. Preamble

Can. 281 states that since clerics dedicate themselves to the ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve the remuneration that befits their condition, taking into account both the nature of their office and the conditions of time and place. It is to be such that it provides for the necessities of their life and for the just remuneration of those whose services they need. Furthermore, it goes to say that suitable provision is likewise to be made for such social welfare as they may need in infirmity, sickness or old age.

Can 1274 recommends that in every diocese there is to be a special fund which collects offerings and temporal goods for the purpose of providing, in accordance with can. 281, for the support of the clergy who serve the diocese, unless they are otherwise catered for.

Again, it states “where there is as yet no properly organized system of social provision for the clergy, the Episcopal Conference is to see that a fund is established which will furnish adequate social security for them”.

In consideration of the above, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria has decided to “approach this responsibility in a cooperative spirit by setting up Opus Securitatis Fund at the national level which in addition to the expected “high aggregate returns and flexibility in management profile,” … will further enhance and strengthen the spirit of solidarity and unity of the different dioceses in Nigeria.

Article 19 of the Statutes states that “Each Diocesan Bishop shall set up a diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee, which shall operate under the direction of the Bishop. It shall be responsible for managing the “Opus Securitatis Fund” of the diocese and must ensure that the Opus Securitatis Statute is observed and that the benefits due to contributing members are disbursed promptly and properly.”

Consequently, the Catholic Bishop of ……. Diocese establishes the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee with the following regulations.

II. Obligation of Assistance

The obligation of the diocese to the sick and elderly priests requires that adequate provision be made for the assistance of these priests in their spiritual, emotional and physical needs. The diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee shall be an organ through which the Diocesan Bishop with the entire Presbyterium, in the spirit of priestly solidarity, carries out this obligation.

III. Administrative Structure

The Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee shall be made up of ……. Members as follows:

  • The Diocesan Bishop (Ex officio)
  • The Vicar General (Ex officio)
  • A representative of the Board of Consultors
  • The Diocesan Financial Administrator (Ex officio)
  • Chairman or representative of the diocesan Finance Council
  • Three priests freely elected by the presbyterium
  • One representative each, of the following lay apostolate organizations (Optional)
  1. Laity Council
  2. Catholic Women Organization
  • Two priests appointed by the diocesan Bishop (Optional)
  • A legal practitioner (Optional)
  • A person who is conversant with insurance business. (Optional)

(Membership will be conditioned by the local situation and so cannot be the same for every Diocese. While nos i – iv are the most important and should be there, the rest will have to be adapted to suit the circumstances of the diocese.

The priests elected by the presbyterium can be elected in such a way that they represent different ordination groups eg. 1 – 10 years, 11 – 24 years and 25 and above.)

All except the ex officio members will serve for a period of five years which is renewable.

IV. Functions:

The Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee works in collaboration with the National Opus Securitatis Board of the CBCN and shall form the link between the Diocese and the National Opus Securitatis Board of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.

It shall be responsible for the management of the Opus Securitatis Fund of the Diocese and must ensure that the Statutes of the Pension Scheme for Elderly Priests of the Dioceses in Nigeria – Opus Securitatis Fund is observed.

It shall open account/s with reputable financial institution/s. Signatories to such accounts will include the Diocesan Bishop as the principal signatory, and two other members. The signature of the Diocesan Bishop and any of the two will be sufficient for any withdrawals. It shall render an annual financial and operational account to the presbyterium at least once a year.

The diocesan Bishop, or his appointee which must be one of the members, shall be the Chairman of the Committee. The Secretary shall be elected by the members of the Committee.

In particular, it shall be guided by Arts 13 – 25 of the said statutes:

Art 13. Participation in the “Opus Securitatis Fund” is open to all those who are members of the diocesan clergy: diocesan Bishops, Priests incardinated in the Diocese, and Permanent Deacons where they exist. Participation is reserved to clergy “incardinated” in the Diocese for the whole time that this situation persists.

Art 14. The age necessary for drawing the pension (which is normally 65 years) is to be defined by the CBCN on the advise of the insurance company through the CSN Investments Concept Ltd, taking into account the civil laws in force and local customs.

Art 15. Should a member of the “Opus Securitatis” die before reaching retirement age, his contribution goes to increase the “Fund”, which is an expression of the priestly solidarity of his Church.

Art 16. The capital of the “Opus Securitatis Fund”, to be transferred from the collective Opus Securitatis, or obtained through the contribution of members or offered by other Institutions or persons, must be used exclusively for the purposes for which it was given.

Art 17. The constitution of the “Opus Securitatis Fund” through the contribution of its members may be made in various ways and with different structures. The simplest way is a contribution to the “Premium”, due annually and established by the CBCN on the advice of an insurance company through the CSN Investments Concept Ltd, with a percentage offered jointly by the Diocese and by its Clergy. This percentage should be defined by the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee. The contribution must be such that it can offer substantial help to members of pensionable age, but it must be suited to the financial possibilities of the Dioceses. Dioceses may however decide on other ways of raising this contribution provided that the per capita contribution established by the CBCN is met.

Art 18. The “Opus Securitatis Fund” shall be open to the contribution of ecclesial Organizations and lay Institutions that are in a position to give their help and their assistance, but it is not conditioned by anyone and is totally free in its financial management.

Art 19. Each diocesan Bishop shall set up a diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee, which shall operate under the direction of the Bishop. It shall be responsible for managing the “Opus Securitatis Fund” of the diocese and must ensure that this Statute is observed and that the benefits due to contributing members are disbursed promptly and properly.

Art 20. The Diocesan “Opus Securitatis Committee” should meet, at least, twice a year to examine matters concerning the administration of the “Fund” and fix the times and ways for the distribution of the sum due to Priests of pensionable age who have contributed to the “Opus Securitatis Fund”.

Art 21. Enrolment in the diocesan “Opus Securitatis Fund” with the ensuing duties is an obligation for every priest in the Diocese and the pension benefits are reserved to those who have faithfully observed the obligations and the necessary requirements.

Art 22. Retirement assistance through the “Opus Securitatis Fund” may be provided either with the direct disbursement of the quota due to participating members, or through institutions, such as the “House for the Clergy” or an “Old People’s Home” which take care of them when they are sick or disabled.

Art 23. For no reason whatsoever may the pension contribution be disbursed to family members, unless, through the pensioner’s free choice, they take care of the elderly priest and only during his lifetime.

Art 24. If for any reason a Priest leaves his Diocese, he has no right to any compensation, apart from what he has contributed annually to the “Fund”.

Art 25. The diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee shall work in close collaboration with Opus Securitatis Board of the CBCN.

FUNCTIONALITY OF OPUS SECURITATIS

THE SCHEMES

Opus Securitatis runs two schemes: Scheme A and Scheme B.

Members of Scheme A are those Dioceses that were members of Opus Securitatis before the project was transferred from Rome to Nigeria. Scheme B are all members of Scheme A, together with the dioceses carved out from them that continue their contribution to the scheme in terms of premium.

 

PREMIUIM

This is the amount contributed by the members of the scheme in an annual basis.

There are three levels of contribution:

Level 1 – N30,000 per priest per annum

Level 2 – N20,000 per priest per annum

Level 3 – N10,000 per priest per annum

The level of contribution is the decision of the diocese. It is appropriate that the premium be paid at the beginning of the year so that the full interest for the year may be earned.

ENTITLEMENT

Each priest belonging to the Opus Securitatis scheme is deemed retired at the age of sixty five. Entitlement is the emolument which includes the lump sum invested and the accrued interest. This amount is paid to the Opus Securitatis account of the Arch/Diocese to which the priest belongs. At the demise of a priest, the Arch/Diocese should notify the National Opus Securitatis office, for calculation and payment of his entitlement.

NOTE: Opus Securitatis Foundation does not deal with individual priests. All premium and entitlement payments are done through the Arch/Diocese and is paid into the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Acount.

REQUIREMENTS TO RECEIVE ENTITLEMENT

a) Set up a Diocesan Opus Securitatis Committee

b) Appoint a Diocesan Opus Securitatis Coordinator

c) Draft the Diocesan Opus Securitatis Statutes

d) Open an account specifically for Opus Securitatis transactions

e) Be up to date in the payment of premium

CONCLUSION

Opus Securitatis is the child of the CBCN. The CBCN decided to handle the responsibility of the administration of the Opus Securitatis Fund in a cooperative spirit. We appeal that Opus Securitatis be given the necessary support and encouragement it requires to see to the continuation of the scheme and the smooth running of the office.