Cardinals Concelebrate Historic Mass at Cathedral
Apr 05, 2005
Praise and thanksgiving were in abundance at last Sunday's historic afternoon liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels where Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze told the packed congregation that Christ unites all peoples of the world "as no one else can, or will."
(The Tidings, July 25, 2003) More than 2,000 people, including immigrants and visitors from several African countries, attended the 3:30 p.m. Mass, concelebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony and culminating weekend festivities commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Igbo (Nigerian) Catholic Community in Southern California.
In his opening remarks, Cardinal Arinze thanked Cardinal Mahony for welcoming the church of God "in its many colors" with "God's people" from many parts of Africa and around the world.
Referring to the day's Gospel reading of the Good Shepherd, Cardinal Arinze said that Jesus is our shepherd, and we should learn from Him by reading His Word at least 10 minutes a day.
"Do not say you don't have enough time," said Cardinal Arinze. "There will be enough time for whatever you consider important."
He added, "The church teaches us the Ten Commandments, the church teaches us human rights, …the rights of the family; justice and peace…harmony, living together as brothers and sisters."
The church also teaches the importance of being a good citizen, as well as standing up for the rights of the unborn, said Cardinal Arinze. "Nobody pretends that being a Christian is easy," he added.
At the same time, the cardinal reminded the assembly, "there is room for everybody in the church," which has "no reserved seats." He concluded his homily by saying, "It is a joy to be a Catholic."
At the end of the liturgy, Cardinal Arinze announced that the Los Angeles Archdiocese would receive a gift of relics of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. The previous day, Cardinals Arinze and Mahony had participated in the dedication of the Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi Shrine at St. Cecilia Church in Los Angeles. Blessed Tansi, who was known for his work with the poor in Nigeria, was beatified in 1998 and, if canonized, will be the first West African saint.
Both of the cardinals received framed portraits of the Tansi shrine from the Igbo Southern California community as momentoes of the occasion.
Cardinal Arinze --- as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of Sacraments, the Vatican's top liturgy official --- publicly congratulated Cardinal Mahony for the extraordinary turnout of people for the day's event as well as for the new cathedral which he described as "really original."
He said the cathedral "delivers a message" that God is "transcendent." He prayed that visitors to the cathedral would be enlivened and quickened in faith.
Cyprian Uzoh, who traveled from San Jose for the Mass, said that he would take up Cardinal Arinze's challenge to read the Bible more often.
Uzoh was a teenager when the cardinal became the bishop of Onitsha in 1965 at age 32 --- at the time, the youngest bishop in the Catholic Church. According to Uzoh, whose father was a personal friend of the cardinal, Cardinal Arinze is "brilliant…a very powerful speaker."
Earlier on Sunday, Cardinal Arinze met at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center with members of the Nigerian Catholic community who had traveled to Los Angeles from throughout the U.S. In a dialogue session with the cardinal, they expressed their concerns about how they are ministered to, how their youth are affected by U.S. culture, and the divisions that sometimes arise within their communities over the style and language of worship.
Cardinal Arinze cautioned that, as a Vatican official, neither he nor "the Vatican" can simply step in "like a firefighter" to resolve problems within a particular parish or diocese. "For me to lecture the bishops of Nigeria on what to do about a particular situation is not appropriate," he said. "It is much better if you yourselves approach your priests and bishops."
He acknowledged the challenge of raising children and maintaining cultural identity, a problem that increases as children get older and discover more about what other youth in American society do, how they live, "how things are done, how they dress --- some of them like scarecrows," he said dryly. "You do the best you can, and it will be appreciated."
Cardinal Arinze was baptized by Blessed Father Tansi and was ordained to the priesthood at the church of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on Nov. 23, 1958. He attended the Second Vatican Council as a newly-ordained bishop, and in 1967 was named archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria.
In 1985 he was elevated to cardinal and named to head the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He served in that position until he replaced Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments in October 2002.
On Oct. 24, 1999, Cardinal Arinze received a gold medallion from the International Council of Christians and Jews for his "outstanding achievements in inter-faith relations." He has written and published several books, including: "Meeting Other Believers: The Risks and Rewards of Interreligious Dialogue," and "Religions for Peace: A Call For Unity to the People of the World."
Ed. Note: To see the mural of Blessed Father Tansi, visit http://www.the-tidings.com/2003/0711/nigerian.htm.