Nigeria’s Cardinal Arinze Is God’s Gift To Humanity
Nov 30, 2015
The Vatican, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa, and prominent Nigerians have praised Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze on the occasion of the 50th Episcopal Golden Jubilee Anniversary of the ordination of His Eminence.
Archbishop Augustine Kassuja, Pope Francis’ Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, spoke yesterday at the Pontifical Mass at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity in Onitsha, Anambra state, and called Arinze God’s gift to humanity.
Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Central Africa, said: “Good fifty years have gone by since Cardinal Arinze was ordained a Coadjutor Bishop, Titular Bishop of Fissiana to succeed Archbishop Charles Heerey.
“At his Episcopal consecration on 29 August 1965, at the age of 32, the young Francis Arinze became the youngest Roman Catholic Bishop in the whole world. Luckily for him, he was ordained just in time to join others at the closing session of the Second Vatican Council, and after the demise of Archbishop Heerey after a long period of illness, the young Francis Arinze succeeded him, on June 26, 1967.
“What we are celebrating today is a combination of fidelity, heroism, determination, endurance, faith and joyful service of the Lord We are paying honour to whom honour is due: first to God, and appreciation to his Eminence.
“Your Eminence, when in 2005, the whole world acclaimed you a worthy Papa bile, it was not by chance. It showed that your capacity was recognized. If on that occasion you were not chosen as a Pope, surely it is not because of your incapacity, but because our continent was not yet ripe for such an election. You have been a sign of hope to many, even those who have not met you in person.”
He eulogised Cardinal Arinze as Ozi Uzo (“the leader”), Obubelu Chukwkwu Uzo (“one who puts God first”), Ome Mgbo Oji (“one who gives out when he has”), Ugo Eji Ejemba (“pride of a nation”).
Present at the mass was General Yakubu Gowon, the former head of state. Expressing joy over the growth of Christianity and Arinze’s role in it, Gowon said: “Cardinal Arinze, who is now 83 years old, has been very consistent in the service to God and humanity. I want to use this opportunity to urge him to continue being consistent in the service of God and humanity. He is a good shepherd that has been consistent in leading his flock. He is a true man of God and I urge him to continue, he is my elder brother, who is my senior with two years”.
Responding to the praise, Cardinal Arinze thanked the Pope and the Vatican for giving him the opportunity to serve God from Onitsha to the Vatican, and Dr Gowon for attending the ceremony.
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was born on 1 November 1932 in Eziowelle, a city of the Archdiocese of Onitsha.
He was ordained priest during a ceremony at the Church of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on 23 November 1958. On 29 August 1965, he was ordained coadjutor Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese and became the substantive Archbishop two years later.
n 1984, Pope St. John Paul II asked him to head, as pro-president, the Secretariat for Non-Christians (now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue). He was created Cardinal on 25 May 1985.
Since the year 2005, Cardinal Arinze holds the title of Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni.