IJCH 2015 Vol.1(2): 95-99 ISSN: 2382-6177
doi: 10.18178/ijch.2015.1.2.018

Rhetoric and Religion: Reference to Authority in Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters in the Ecclesiastical Province of Onitsha, Nigeria

Virginia C. Okafor and Adejoke O. Olugbuyi
Abstract—The interconnectedness of rhetoric and religion lies not only in the communicative role played by language in religion, that is, in trying to make the supernatural understandable to the humans, but also in the fact that rhetoric, as strategic use of language, is central to religion in encouraging a believer to remain in his faith or persuading a person to adopt a belief system or change of life. This article examines the use of reference to authority as a rhetorical device in selected Roman Catholic Bishops’ Lenten Pastoral Letters in the Ecclesiastical Province of Onitsha, Nigeria. Aristotelian Rhetoric was adopted as the framework because of its emphasis on persuasion through three main rhetorical appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. Data were drawn from 10 pastoral letters of five Roman Catholic bishops in five dioceses (two letters from each) out of the seven in the Ecclesiastical Province of Onitsha. The five dioceses-- Onitsha arch-diocese, Nnewi, Awka, Enugu, and Awgu dioceses—were chosen because pastoral letters are regularly published there. The 10 pastoral letters were published between 2000 and 2010 and ranged between 20 and 104 pages. They were selected, through purposive sampling, based on consistency in publication and rhetorical content. Data were subjected to discourse analysis. Analysis revealed references to six types of authorities: the holy Bible, the Vatican Council documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Canon Law, the Pope, and the Saints. The device was adopted by the bishops as a means of validating their messages of faith, love, repentance and loyalty to boost credibility.

Index Terms—Ecclesiastical province of onitsha, pastoral letters, reference to authority, rhetorical devices, roman catholic bishops.

The authors are with the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State Nigeria (e-mail: chikkrisokafor@yahoo.com).

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Cite: Virginia C. Okafor and Adejoke O. Olugbuyi, "Rhetoric and Religion: Reference to Authority in Roman Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letters in the Ecclesiastical Province of Onitsha, Nigeria," International Journal of Culture and History vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 95-99, 2015.

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