Francis Cardinal Arinze
Apr 13, 2005
Cardinal Francis Arinze is on the shortlist of candidates to succeed Pope John Paul II. And because he comes from Nigeria, the cardinal has attracted considerable media attention and prompted questions about whether the world is ready for a black pope. But his background runs deeper than skin color. Arinze is one of the leading cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and was “Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship” and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Roman Curia when elected under Pope John Paul II.
(The Manila Times, April 12, 2005) Arinze was one of the principal advisers to the Pope and is widely considered a strong candidate to succeed him, a possibility that would make him the first African pope in more than 1,500 years. His interreligious credentials and the influence of the Catholic faith have helped enhance the prominence of the church in Africa, a continent divided by religious and political sanctions.
Arinze was born in Eziowelle, Nigeria, on November 1, 1932. He was baptized at the age of nine by the first Nigerian to be canonized, Michael Tansi. At the age of 15, he entered All Hallowa Seminary Ognissanti of Nuewi and graduated in 1950.
He stayed at that seminary to teach until 1953. Arinze later entered the Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, where he studied philosophy.
In 1955 he went to Rome to study theology at the Pontifical Urban University. On November 23, 1958, Arinze was ordained priest at the university chapel.
From 1961 to 1962 Arinze was professor of liturgy, logic and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary. There he was appointed regional secretary for Catholic education for eastern Nigeria. Arinze was then transferred to London, where he attended the Institute of Pedagogy and graduated in 1964. On July 6, 1965, he was appointed to the titular church of Fissiana in Nigeria and named coadjutor to the Archbishop of Onitsha.
Cardinal Arinze has worked extensively in the United States, where he presides over a dedication of the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
As coadjutor Father Arinze proved himself a highly intelligent and able leader. After great consideration of his successes throughout his early pastoral career, Arinze was consecrated Bishop on August 29, 1965. Two years later he was asked to take over the pastoral government of the archdiocese and on June 26, 1967, was named Archbishop.
In 1979 Archbishop Arinze continued his rise to the Church hierarchy. His peers elected him president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, where he served until 1984.
In 1985 Pope John Paul II requested his services to become president of the Secretariat for Non-Christians. Today the organization is called the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Before assuming the position, Arinze was made cardinal by Pope John Paul II in a consistory on May 25. Cardinal Arinze served as president of the council until October 1, 2002.
On May 8, 1994, Arinze presided over the altar of the Chair of Saint Peter’s Basilica as president of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
On October 24, 1999, he received a gold medallion from the International Council of Christians and Jews for his outstanding achievements in interfaith relations. He traveled extensively and became a popular speaker in the United States, where he cultivated many devotees of his pastoral leadership.