Francis Cardinal Arinze
By Padre Mike Nsikak Umoh
The on-going second plenary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in Enugu was, on 23 August, graced by the foremost ecclesiastic of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, Francis Cardinal Arinze, who presided over the Holy Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Ghost, Enugu, to commence the proceedings of the day.
In his homily, Cardinal Arinze reminded the Bishops-in-Conference and all priests of their grave responsibilities, not only to develop the laity, but also to provide them with an enabling environment to play those roles which are proper to them both in the Church and the temporal order.
Calling attention to the mind of the Church on the important role of the laity in the Church as contained in the famous paragraph 43 of the Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council document, the prelate affirmed that “We have to praise God that in Nigeria the lay persons are generally up and doing in carrying out their apostolate. Bishops and priests are in a key position to encourage this awareness and political involvement.”
Having extolled the laity in Nigeria, the Cardinal argues that “If lay Christians carry out properly their apostolate, then there is hope that the earthly city will be better given life by the Gospel.” In view of this, the clergy are to consciously do everything possible “in the promotion of lay leaders by equipping them with correct and robust theology, in supplying them with the strength of the Sacraments and in rejoicing when they do well.” Thus the Cardinal cautioned that rather than being in competition, clerics must understand that “A lay leader, man or woman, is no threat to an able parish priest,” as such, care must be taken to ensure that the best priests are appointed as Chaplains to the lay apostolate groups.
In a similar vein, the Prince of the Church also challenged the clergy to ensure that the mystery of faith, the Holy Mass, is celebrated with faith, love and manifest devotion. “How the priest and those around him comport themselves at the altar is of great influence on the congregation. Priests need to be convinced that it does not build up the faith of the people when the priest adds or subtracts from the approved Missal texts products of his own idiosyncrasies.” There is need to constantly instruct the people on doctrinal matters and make the best of the homily to catechetise the people.
The former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in concluding his homily, urged all Bishops in those States where their schools are yet to be handed back, not to relent in their struggle to get the schools back; but they must also ensure that “schools run by the Church actually persevere in imparting authentic Catholic education.”
Francis Cardinal Arinze was born on November 1, 1932 and ordained a Catholic priest for Onitsha Archdiocese on November 23, 1958. He was appointed the Co-adjutor Bishop of Onitsha on July 26, 1965 and assumed full Administration of the Archdiocese of Onitsha on July 26, 1967. On April 8, 1984, the prelate was appointed a Pro-prefect of the Secretariat of Non-Christians and by the following year, he was appointed a Cardinal-Deacon of San Giovanni della Pigna. He became a Cardinal-Priest in 1966 and in October 1, 2002, Cardinal Arinze was appointed the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and was installed as a Cardinal-Bishop on May 22, 2015.