…Says: It’s a continuation of God’s goodness to me
…It will add more to the pride of this country – CSN
From AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday appointed the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. The elevation of the former President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) came amongst five others namely: James Michael Harvey (America), Bechara Boutros Rahi (Lebanon),
Baselios Cleemis (India), Ruben Salazar Gomez (Columbia) and Luis Antonio Tagle (Philippines), making Onaiyekan the only African amongst the six newly appointed cardinals. With his elevation, the Kabba, Kogi-State born Onaiyakan becomes the fourth Nigerian Cardinal after the late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, Francis Cardinal Arinze and Anthony Cardinal Okogie. He will be joining the College of Cardinals in November, 2012.
The Supreme Pontiff had yesterday, at the end of the weekly general audience, said in a surprise announcement that he would be appointing cardinals in a consistory on November 24, the second consistory to be held this year. The appointment of the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) means that the 68-year-old prelate is now qualified under the Canon Law to be elected a pope and also join other cardinals, who are below the age of 80 in the election of a new pope. Onaiyekan, who is presently in Rome, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that first and foremost, the elevation is a continuation of God’s goodness to him. Hear the newly appointed cardinal:
“First and foremost, it is a continuation of God’s goodness to me. For so long, God has been good to me. So, it is God’s goodness. It means God’s free gift of grace and it is not as if one is receiving a reward for good action.” “Secondly, of course, I thank His Holiness, the Pope, because the Pope chooses his Cardinals according to his will. And I take it too as an encouragement to continue the good work, the work that we are trying to do in Abuja as an archbishop and part of the bishops of Nigeria.
“I will do my best too, to assist the Pope because that is part of the job of a Cardinal to be a close assistant to the Pope in his difficult task of ruling the Church all over the world. In other words, the bottom line is, thanks be to God.” On what his elevation signified for Nigeria, Onaiyekan said he did not know what he would say his elevation signified. He, however, said: “We do know that when Lagos as a diocese deserved to have a Cardinal because it is the first diocese in Nigeria, secondly,
Abuja is the capital of the biggest country in Africa. So, whoever is in Abuja, probably, one can say he deserves to be a Cardinal like the archbishops in the major cities of the world, which means that our country is being taken seriously even on the level of our Church. “Do not forget that we already had a cardinal in Rome for almost 30 years, Cardinal Arinze, who had done wonderful work for the universal Church. He is now getting close, almost 80 years of age. So, it is like he would no longer be in the frontline of things. But the rest of us will continue the work,” Onaiyekan said.
Also speaking, the Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Very Revd. Fr. Ralph Madu, said Onaiyekan’s elevation was good news to the CBCN, Nigeria, all those who love him and Africa. Madu said: “It is good news to the Conference; it is good news to the country, it is good news to all those, who love him and good news for Africa.” “He happens to be very prominent among them. If you look at the six of them, I think he is the only one from Africa.
It is a recognition of the Church in Nigeria also and the role we are playing in the universal Church. It will add more to the pride of this country. “You know they will be made Cardinals on November 24, in Rome. Essentially, it is a thing of joy for the entire nation.” Early life Born on January 29, 1944, Onaiyekan had his primary school education at home from 1949 to 1956 and in 1957, proceeded to Saint Michael’s Secondary School, Aliade, Benue State, where he studied till 1962.
Priestly formation Upon graduation in 1962, Onaiyekan started another phase of life with his decision to study for the Catholic Sacred Diaconate/Priesthood. Between January 1963 and June 1965, Onaiyekan studied philosophy at the prestigious Catholic Major Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan. He thereafter went to Rome for the study of theology at the Pontifical Urban College of Propaganda, Fide, Rome, from September 1965 to June 1969. Priestly life Having fulfilled the requirements for the Catholic priesthood, Onaiyekan was ordained at Kabba, his home town, as it was the practice in those days on August 3, 1969. His first priestly assignments were school and parish work.
Higher studies In September 1971, till February 1973, Onaiyekan studied Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum), Rome, and did his doctoral programme at the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, from February 1973 to January 1976. Ecclesiastical appointments *Rector, Saint Clement’s Minor Seminary, Lokoja (January 1966-August 1977). *Appointment as Vice Rector, Catholic Major Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, Bodija, Ibadan, and teacher of Sacred Scripture and Fundamental Theology (September 1977). *Rector, Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, Bodija,
Ibadan (1978). *Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ilorin (November 1982) *Ordained Bishop in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, by His Holiness, the late Pope John Paul 11 (January 6, 1983). *Appointed Residential Bishop of Ilorin (October 1984). Mission to Abuja *Appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Abuja (July 1990). *Became Bishop of Abuja (November 1992). *Promoted Archbishop with the elevation of the then Diocese of Abuja to archdiocesan status (March 1994).
Special Holy See (Vatican appointments) *Member of the International Theological Commission (1980-1985). *Member of the Methodist/Roman Catholic International Dialogue Commission (1981-1991). *Many times member of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican. *Member, Standing Committee of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (March 1991-June 2006). Honours *Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) (December 18, 2001).
*Grande Ufficiale (1 Classe): Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana conferred by President Carlo Ciampi (May 2003). Other posts held *President, CBCN (March 1999-March 2006). *President, CAN and Co-President of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (June 2007). Areas of special interest *Sacred scriptures, fundamental questions of theology and in particular, the theology of non-Christian religions in the Nigerian context. *Onaiyekan is also deeply interested in the theological evaluation of African cultures, history and contemporary socio-economic issues amongst others.