PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE SEASON OF ADVENT ISSUED BY THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
“We are the clay, and thou art our potter”(Isa. 64:8 RSV)
We the Catholic Bishops of Ghana send you this Pastoral Letter for the season of Advent. Advent is the pre-Christmas season in which we spiritually prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, while readying ourselves for his second coming.
The theme of this Letter is taken from the first reading (see Isa 63:16-17; 64:1,3-8) of the First Sunday of Advent: “We are the clay, and thou art our potter” (Isa. 64:8 RSV). It is hoped that as we prepare for and celebrate Christmas and throughout the New Year, we will each remain clay in the hands of our Creator, so that He will continue to mould us according to His divine purpose.
As this Letter comes only a few days after the Communique we issued on “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia”, we take the opportunity to pray that every family in our nation will be shaped by the Divine Potter according to the purposes for which He established these families.
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COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE
GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
AT THE END OF ITS ANNUAL PLENARY ASSEMBLY HELD IN HO IN THE VOLTA REGION OF GHANA NOVEMBER 6 – 18, 2017
Grace and Peace of God our Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, be with you all (cf. Eph. 3:14-15).
We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have held our annual Plenary Assembly at the Freedom Hotel in Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana from November 6 to 18, 2017 under the theme: “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia”. Our theme was inspired by Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family – Amoris Laetitia (AL), which literally means, “the Joy of Love”, released on April 8, 2016. We are equally motivated, convinced and therefore affirm that the joy of love experienced by our families in Ghana is also the joy of love experienced by the Catholic Church in Ghana (cf. AL, #1).
In the course of our Plenary Assembly, we had a five-day spiritual retreat facilitated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. We paid courtesy calls on the Volta Regional Minister, Hon. Dr. Archibald Letsa, Deputy Volta Regional Minister and some Staff of the Volta Regional Coordinating Council as well as the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State and President of the National House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede XIV and some of his sub-Chiefs and Queenmothers of the Asogli State. We also invited and interacted with Mr. William Darkwah, the Coordinator of the Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme. Among ourselves, we deliberated on our theme and appraised the socio-political situation of our country Ghana. In the context of our deliberations, we wish to share with you the following reflections.
THE SITUATION OF FAMILY IN GHANA
The Ghanaian family is experiencing emerging trends which are at variance with the ideal family image foreseen by the Church’s tradition of faith and morals. Some of these changes began and were noticed decades ago. Such changes include the increase in the proportion of “cohabitation and other sexual unions”, which were initially socially unacceptable, butare now gaining greater social tolerance. The phenomenon of teenage and single parenthood, poor or irresponsible parenting, separate household and distant marriages that make couples live apart are all aspects of contemporary trends in the Ghanaian family of today.
Children are influenced by the current social and digital experiences. Social media rule their lives and they must organize their experiences according to its dictates. Some must battle to find their orientation towards integral development amidst a myriad of alternatives with which they are enticed from different philosophies of life.
The urban elite live mostly in nuclear family systems that are by and large non-traditional in structure. Partners in marriage strive for self-development; they must sometimes maintain more than one job to sustain their desired standard of living and make sure that their children have the best of education and opportunity for growth and success in the future. Those that accept additional responsibilities towards extended family members experience more stress. Some families are in many practical regards alienated from their roots. Their children barely have any connections with members of their extended families and communities of origin. A good number of such children and youth may never have visited their places of origin.
SOME CONCERNS FOR FAMILY LIFE IN GHANA
The traditional vision of marriage and family life in Ghana attaches importance to procreation and sexuality. While social pressure is the same across the various models of family in terms of the place of sexuality and procreation in marriage, concepts, decisions, challenges and their solutions vary across the models. A general trend that seems to be affecting some youth across the social divide is their fixation on sexual functionality, particularly among young and middle-aged men.
The desire to be sexually active and effective among married men compels some to abuse popularly advertised alcoholic beverages, and what is worse, untested traditional or orthodox medication, believed to boost libido in men. Such young men come to realize after a few years, to their humiliation and surprise, that they have not succeeded in their adventure.
Most troubling, however, is the long standing traditional stigma associated with inability to give birth. In traditional Ghanaian communities, this inability is erroneously blamed on the woman, though there is increasing awareness to the fact that this challenge equally occurs in men. This challenge raises the additional concern for family pastoral care in Ghana. The many prayer requests from women and young couples seeking the blessing of fruits of the womb at various Church centres is evidence of the importance of childbirth in marriage and family life in Ghana.
Other concerns include the inadequate availability and involvement of parents in the direct upbringing of their children due to professional and busy-weekend engagements, the way couples and their respective families manage and resolve their differences which sometimes only breeds unforgiveness, instability, bitterness, disunity and consequently separation and the fate of young children in the face of such challenges. The increased monetization and exaggeration of customary marriages (erroneously named ‘engagement’) has become, in some cases, quite burdensome for the average young man in Ghana seeking the hand of a woman in marriage.
Apart from these specific realities of marriage and family life in Ghana, we recall some general experiences and challenges, identified in Chapter 2 of Amoris Laetitia, that may not necessarily be limited to specific cultures. These are extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, freedom of choice that lacks noble goals or personal discipline; and degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others, migration and its effect on populations, the ideological denial of differences between the man and woman, the culture of the provisional anti-birth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation, the canker of pornography and abuse of minors, inattention to persons with disabilities, lack of respect for the elderly, legal dismantling of the family and violence against women.
THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY
Despite the above situations, Christian marriages, as willed by God, are between one man and one woman. Such marriages are open to life and to the children that God grants them. The family remains the domestic Church, the vital cell of the society and it is in it that the Good News of God’s love is known and lived in our midst. Many Ghanaian families, by their witness to God’s will and love, build up the Church and society. We urge all Ghanaian families to remain united in true love and live in mutual understanding. Let us all contribute our best to inspire our society with the timeless values of family life.
INTEGRAL PASTORAL CARE FOR THE FAMILY
- Pastoral Care
We understand Pastoral Care to mean “any assistance offered by the Church – through her ministers or other trained and designated persons – to couples or families in their growth toward the model of family which God the Father Himself intended from the beginning (cf. Gen. 2:18-24) and which Jesus Christ renewed with His grace of redemption facilitated under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”. In making adequate provision for the pastoral care of families, we are conscious of the fact that “the Gospel of the family responds to the deepest expectations of the human person: a response to each one’s dignity and fulfilment in reciprocity, communion and fruitfulness. This consists not merely in presenting a set of rules, but in proposing values that are clearly needed today, even in the most secularized of countries” (AL, #201).
As Shepherds of the Family of God, we respectfully acknowledge that there are some difficult, irregular and imperfect situations of family life that need the most attention and care. Some of the difficult situations include families of migrant workers, families of those in prisons and in Psychiatric Homes, families of alcoholics, families with handicapped children and terminally-ill members, and single-parent families. Trial marriages, free unions, separated or divorced persons who have not remarried, customarily or civilly married persons who have divorced and have remarried, and homosexual unions are but some of the imperfect-irregular situations.
Given the importance of the family in the Church and society at large, the pastoral care of the family is a shared responsibility that involves the Clergy and Religious, Marriage Counsellors, the Parish-Church Community, Small Christian Communities (SCCs), Couples and Associations of Families. Special attention need to be given to the formation of special agents to accompany the youth at their various stages of development, to assist their understanding of the vocation of Marriage and Family-Life and the religious life and to prepare adequately for it.
- Pastoral Interventions
- a) Remote Care: Preparation for marriage begins from childhood; in fact from birth.
The experiences of children from their family of origin may be carried along to their own future families. Those best prepared for marriage are probably those who learned what Christian marriage is from their own parents, who chose each other unconditionally and renew daily that decision. Parents and pastoral agents must intervene to effect this mandate in the life of our children.
- b) Proximate Care: In preparing prospective couples for marriage, Pastoral agents and Marriage Counsellors should assist them to recognize the “good times” and “bad times” of marriage, encourage them to discuss honestly what each expects from marriage, what they understand by love and commitment and what kind of life they would like to build to The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment. In the light of the demands of this stage, we direct that all proximate preparations for marriage shall take normally six months in the Catholic Church in Ghana.
- c) Immediate Care: In their preparation for marriage, the couple must be encouraged to see the sacrament not as a single moment that becomes a part of a past and its memories, but a reality that permanently influences the whole married lif They are to be encouraged to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of the signs. We stress that the words of consent (the marriage vow) cannot be reduced to the present; they involve a totality that includes the future: “until death do us part”. We encourage less-expensive wedding ceremonies.
- d) Post-Marriage Care: As the years of marriage roll on, a couple’s experience of love may grow stagnant and may lose the very excitement that should be its propelling f Those who accompany couples in their marriage are encouraged to teach them that love needs time and space: time to talk things over, to share plans, to listen to and appreciate one another and to build a stronger relationship. Through these, couples learn how to plan and spend free time together, share moments of recreation with the children, celebrate important events together and share opportunities for spiritual growth. In all these, family prayer and spirituality will reap the greatest fruits; ‘for the family that prays together, stays together’.
- e) Care for Difficult and Irregular Situations: Special discernment is indispensable for persons in this category. Care givers shall regard such persons as part of the ecclesial community; not as excommunicat Avoid language or conduct that discriminates, show them respect, make efforts to reconcile and mediate through neutral and impartial interventions. It should be noted that the Christian community’s care for such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity.
GENERAL PASTORAL GUIDELINES
- In cases of civil marriage or even simple cohabitation (in our context, customary marriages), we adopt the recommendation of Pope Francis that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage” (AL, 293)
- In dealing with irregular situations in the case of Marriage and Family Life, “two ways of thinking have been dominant in the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement… The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart… For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (AL, 296).
- “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine teaching of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. (cf. AL,
297). The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the Body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. (cf. AL,
- Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”. The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality. (cf. AL, 305)
ISSUES OF NATIONAL INTEREST
- Education and Free SHS
We commend the government for rolling out the Free SHS programme which seeks to make education accessible for many more graduates from the JHS level. We are aware of the teething challenges of this initiative. We urge that, as a matter of necessity, all stakeholders should help to ease the challenges of overcrowding in the dormitories, classrooms and dining halls of our Schools. A conducive teaching- learning environment is crucial for the effective implementation of the Free SHS programme.
- Phenomena of Land Guards, Political Vigilante Groups and Nomadic
We cannot ignore the fact that land guards, political vigilante groups and nomadic herdsmen have unleashed violence on Ghanaians for a very long time. These groups are employed by Ghanaians to protect their property but often terrorize fellow Ghanaians who have variant interests in the same property. Vigilante groups are creations of some politicians who use them for their political gain. While we commend Government for calling on the security agencies to stop the violent activities of land guards, vigilante groups and nomadic herdsmen; we state that we need more action than words. Government must walk the talk. We demand that our security agencies shall disengage these groups once and for all.
- Mob Injustice
The culture of mob lynching of perceived criminals is a sign of an impatient society that has no trust and respect for due process, rule of law and dignity of human life. We recommend a radical education that acknowledges that every human life in Ghana is sacred and ought to be respected from the moment of conception to natural death. We further encourage continuous education of every Ghanaian to respect due process which is a basic tenet of our democratic dispensation.
- Incidence of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable but sexual abuse against minors is not only evil, but also criminal and a serious indictment on society. Perpetrators of sexual abuses must face the wrath of the law, while we commend them into God’s mercy. We recommend further that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should collaborate with the Ghana Education Service to put in place feasible structures for child protection in our Basic Schools. Our children should be
informed and formed on how to identify and report sexual predators. We have put in place and are running various interventions on Child Protection in the Catholic Dioceses in Ghana.
- Religious Leadership
We acknowledge with admiration the expansion of the Christian family in Ghana through the ministry of very renowned men and women of God of the new Religious Movements. We congratulate their genuine efforts of evangelization. However, we express complete disapproval for persons whose conduct and ministry only seek to worsen the dignity and capacity of the human person and exploit the resources of unsuspecting Ghanaians.
- Bribery and Corruption
Our previous directives on this issue seem to yield no positive result. We reiterate that corruption in every facet of Ghanaian life is not only perceived but very rife. This is unacceptable and must be dealt with at all times and at all levels of human endeavour. Since corruption is cancerous to the life and vitality of our nation, we call on every Ghanaian – individuals, Government agencies, service providers, public and civil servants – to stand up and to defend the cause of justice, probity and accountability. Ghana must lead and live the crusade against corruption.
- Galamsey menace
We commend Government, the Media, Civil Society and Faith-based Organizations for their tireless efforts in fighting the menace of illegal mining that has plagued our nation. Let us sustain our efforts to reverse the harsh consequences of this self- inflicted destruction. We remind Ghanaians that our natural resources belong to those gone before us, those of us living and those who will come after us. We must therefore refrain from selfish exploitation of our natural resources to the extent that generations after us will be deprived of their fair share of these resources.
- Sanitation and Waste Management
A recent UNICEF report (Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: July
2017 – Updates and SDG Baselines) perceived Ghana as one of the dirtiest countries in the world. This is a shameful record. Let us rally in support of the campaign to roll back our country’s unsavoury sanitation challenges. As a Church, we recently launched an E-waste Management Project to manage electronic waste through aggressive education in order to preserve a safe environment for future generations.
- Traditional Rulers, Values and Customs
Our culture defines and shapes our destiny. We have observed how some religious leaders and their followers show complete disregard for some of our cultural values and customs through the use of demeaning words on radio, television and in their churches. We caution all who engage in such conduct and urge them to show due respect and positive regard to our traditional rulers, values and customs. We, however, reject traditional customs that dehumanize the dignity and wellbeing of the human person.
- Eastern Corridor Road
We appeal to the Government to speed up the construction of the Eastern Corridor Road which is in a deplorable state. The poor state of the road is not only affecting economic activities of the areas concerned but has enormous health and development implications. The road poses great danger to the lives of motorists, traders and tourists.
- On-going Conflicts
We have expressed in previous Communiques our displeasure about the Nkonya- Alavanyo conflict. Various steps towards a peaceful resolution seem not to bear fruit. People continue to die on both sides of the divide; people continue to live in fear; farming and employment avenues are on the decline.
We reiterate our call on all parties, to the on-going conflicts in Nkonya-Alavanyo and Bimbilla, to smoke the peace pipe and work for reconciliation and peace. We entreat the government to open up employment avenues in these areas to engage the youth on both sides. This, we believe, will dissuade them from engaging in activities detrimental to peace efforts.
- Crisis in the Republic of Togo
We have observed with grave concern the destruction of life and property in our neighbouring country, the Republic of Togo; a situation that affects Ghanaian families directly and indirectly. We appeal to the President of Ghana, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to intervene urgently to ensure the safety of Ghanaians along the Ghana-Togo borders. We encourage all to treat refugees from Togo with love and warmth.
WORLD DAY OF THE POOR
We entreat all Catholic Parishes and Church-communities in Ghana to join the Catholic Church worldwide to celebrate the first annual World Day of the Poor scheduled for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sunday, November 19, 2017 – on the theme: “Let us love, not with words but with deeds” (1 Jn. 3:18).
May the Holy Family of Nazareth – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – grant that the families of all Ghanaians may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and may all who have been hurt or wounded find ready comfort and healing through the balm of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Issued on Friday, November 17, 2017
in the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Kpevele in the Catholic Diocese of Ho.
ADDRESS FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE CELEBRATIONS OF THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC MISSION IN ACCRA ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017, AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHEDRAL, ADABRAKA, ACCRA.
O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
For his great love is without end.
Let the House of Israel say it:
‘His love is without end!’
Let the House of Aaron say it:
‘His love is without end!’” (Ps: 118:1-3).
And now, let the Archdiocese of Accra say it: His love is indeed without end!
- Greetings and Welcome: My dearly beloved sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, all you of the Archdiocese of Accra, nearly five years ago, precisely on November 24, 2013, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, it was with these words of the Psalmist that I joyfully began and pronounced the official closing of the year-long celebrations of our 120th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission in Accra, at the Black Star Square in Accra, and I inaugurated with great hope and expectation the 125th Anniversary celebrations for 2018.
Surely, we all thought, well, let us see when that will be! Today, thanks to the unfathomable graces of God, here we are at the launch of the celebrations of the 125th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission in Accra.
Without any doubt, you and I can once again borrow from the Psalmist that beautiful hymn of the Jewish Pilgrim to Jerusalem which says: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’. And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Ps. 122:1-2.)
Yes, five or so years ago, we set off on this spiritual pilgrimage, a journey of preparation (individually, communally, parochially, and archdiocesan), and now our feet are truly standing on the threshold of the gates of our Jerusalem; our 125th Anniversary Jubilee celebrations. Yes, let the house of the Archdiocese of Accra say: God’s love is indeed without end!
I am happy to welcome you one and all to this event. Permit me to repeat ditto-ditto parts of my address at the launch some five years ago of the 120th Anniversary celebrations which took place here on July 02, 2013. I am saying this lest I be accused of plaigiarism of my own earlier address. I will give a short historical panorama, then I will highlight some of the events lined up for this Jubilee celebration, and I will end with some exhortation to you all.
Our 125th Anniversary celebrations will start on Saturday, December 02, 2017, and close on Sunday, November 25, 2018, on the Solemnity of Christ the King with Holy Mass to climax it all again at the Black Star Square in Accra, God willing. Again, this will be a year-long celebration throughout the entire length and breadth of the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra.
- A short historical panorama: For your information, the Catholic Church in Accra began with the first Holy Mass on the soil of Accra on January 31, 1893, by Rev. Frs. Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raes, two priests of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who were sent from the Elmina Mission that had started in 1880.
In the same 1893, the first Catholic Baptism in Accra took place of Mr. Louis James Buckle on May 25, and the first Holy Matrimony was celebrated between Herbert Cheetam and Rose Mary Quaye on August 12, 1894. However, in 1895, the Accra Catholic Mission had to be closed down for Frs. Hilberer and Raes to return to Elmina to take up priestly duty there as a result of the successive deaths of their SMA confreres in that Mission due to tropical illnesses of malaria and yellow fever. The Catholic community of Accra was, therefore, left in the care of a Church committee led by Messrs Andoh, Brown and Yankah.
It was only in 1924 that Rev. Fr. Joseph Stauffer SMA was posted to Accra, and he purchased an old cocoa shed situated on the Derby Avenue, which he later refurbished and turned into a chapel that was dedicated in 1925 as the Sacred Heart Church (of today), the premier Church and parish of Accra.
The SMA Fathers ministered to the growing Catholic community here until 1939 when they handed over the then Eastern Province of the Gold Coast colony to the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD). Rev. Fr. Adoph A. Noser SVD became the first Superior of the Accra Mission.
In 1947, Fr. Noser was appointed the first Bishop of Accra, and on February 08, 1953, he laid the cornerstone of this magnificent Holy Spirit Cathedral. In the same year, Bishop Noser was transferred to Papua New Guinea to be the Archbishop of Alexishaven. He was succeeded as Bishop of Accra by Rev. Fr. Joseph Oliver Bowers SVD, JCL., an African-Caribbean from the Commonwealth of Dominica, who became the first black bishop of the Gold Coast.
After three decades of solid, foundational missionary work here, in 1971, Bishop Bowers was transferred to the West Indies, his hometown, and he was succeeded by the first Ghanaian Bishop of Accra that same year, in the person of the Most Rev. Dominic Kodwo Andoh DD., JCD, my predecessor. It was during Bishop Andoh’s episcopacy that the Catholic Diocese of Accra was elevated to the status of a Metropolitan See in 1992, and the Catholic Diocese of Koforidua was created by Pope (now St.) John Paul II. Archbishop Andoh, the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, led this Archdiocese to celebrate the Centenary of the Catholic Church in Accra in 1993, and he retired in 2005. The rest is recent history!
(Now, since the mortal remains of my two predecessors, Bishop Bowers and Archbishop Andoh, lie here in this Cathedral, let us rise and observe a moment of silence in prayer for the repose of their souls; one day, may they be counted officially among the saints of the Church as our patrons! *** Eternal Rest grant unto them o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them! May they rest in peace! Amen! Let us sit!)
- Theme and programmes for the Jubilee: The chosen theme of this Jubilee is “125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing our commitment to Evangelization”. It was inspired by the theme of the Second Synod of our Archdiocese celebrated in February 2009. To refresh our minds, the theme of the Synod was: “Renewing the Church and fulfilling our Vocation and Mission in the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra in preparation for its 125th Anniversary”.
Here in my hand is a copy of the Acts of that Synod, and, for the past ten years almost, we have been implementing the recommendations that were given for the strategic development of our Archdiocese, spiritual, financial, material and institutional. Sometime during these Jubilee celebrations, I believe, we shall have to have an Archdiocesan Pastoral Congress in order to give account of the state of the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra to you, my dear People of God.
Again, for your information, after a lot of reflection and evaluation of our 120th Anniversary celebrations and our preparations towards this Jubilee, we decided to declare as our official Archdiocesan Slogan: “Arise Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!”
It was also decided to maintain as our Archdiocesan Logo a slightly modified version of the 120th Anniversary Logo. This will from now onwards be the official logo for the Archdiocese of Accra until another decision is made in the future.
My dear brothers and sisters, my dear priests and religious, here is a copy of the 125th Anniversary programme of activities! The celebrations should involve all Catholics of the Archdiocese in all our outstations and parish communities, in all our Church societies and pious associations, our apostolates and ministries. We are going to have celebrations on deanery as well as on Archdiocesan levels, of course. Parishes and deaneries are to put in place their own local organizing committees to work hand in hand with the Archdiocesan 125th Anniversary Celebrations Committee.
The year’s programmed activities aim at the three goals indispensable to the mission of the New Evangelization; they are to foster and deepen
- the spiritual growth in Christ (see Eph. 4:13) and the development of all our Catholics, children and youth, men and women, priests and religious, etc.;
- the correct knowledge and intellectual appreciation of the Catholic faith and doctrines (see Hos. 4:6);
- the spirit of fellowship and communion among the Church members, Church societies, parishes and in the Archdiocese, as well as with the universal Church (see Acts. 2:42-47).
Some of the programme highlights are:
- Monthly Focus of Archdiocesan intentions for prayer and talks in parishes/outstations/rectorates and to be included in the various society programmes;
- the Archdiocesan Opening Ceremony on Saturday, December 02, 2017; Deaneries are to organize Rosary Pilgrimages and Processions from vantage points to the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Accra, for the First Advent Vespers. This is to replace the usual monthly Marian pilgrimages to the Grottos;
- The Official Parish Opening of the 125th Anniversary Celebrations on Sunday, December 03, 2017 in every parish/outstation/rectorate of the Archdiocese;
- The whole of the month of December should focus on Children as God’s gift to the Archdiocese;
- Saturday, December 30, 2017, Archdiocesan Carnival at the El Wak Stadium to showcase the cosmopolitan nature and cultural diversity of our Archdiocese with very colourful ethnic pageantry and cultural display. Come, one and all! Let us have fun;
- The next event of importance is the Commemoration of 125th Anniversary of the First Holy Mass in Accra scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at 14.00 GMT to take place where the SMA missionaries first celebrated Holy Mass on the soil of Accra. We are hoping to celebrate the Holy Mass in Latin, and follow that with a candle light procession with the Blessed Sacrament through James Town to the Sacred Heart Church on the Derby Avenue, Accra.
Two other very important events in the year ahead of us are:
- the completion of the Restoration of our Cathedral,
- and the 125th Anniversary Jubilee Lectures in Accra and Tema Metropolises.
The rest are in this brochure for you to keep and observe. They will be communicated to you in the various parishes, outstations and rectorates.
- Conclusion: Yes, my dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, my dear Religious Sisters and Brothers, and dear brother priests and co-shepherds, our friends of the Media, print and electronic, let me conclude again with the Psalm that I started:
O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
For his great love is without end.
Let the House of Israel say it:
‘His love is without end!’
Let the House of Aaron say it:
‘His love is without end!’” (Ps: 118:1-3).
And now, let the Archdiocese of Accra say it: His love is indeed without end!
Yes, indeed, the Lord our God has been good to us in the Catholic Mission of Accra. In the last 125 years, He has blessed us and we have grown from a mission station into the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Accra, the Catholic Diocese of Koforidua, and the Apostolic Vicariate of Donkorkrom. We cannot enumerate the number of the Churches and chapels, educational facilities, from first cycle through secondary, vocational and technical to tertiary, hospitals, clinics and other health-care delivery as well as the many social services institutions, etc.
Yes, here and now, our feet are standing within the gates of our Jerusalem, on the threshold of the 125th Anniversary Celebrations of the Catholic Mission in Accra. It is our hope and prayer that we will complete this year-long celebration under the maternal protection and solicitude of Mary the Immaculate Heart, Patron of our Archdiocese, whom we have been celebrating as Our Lady of Fatima in this Centenary Year.
My dear People of God, it is with the utmost sense of humility and gratitude that I now declare officially launched the celebrations of the 125th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission of Accra, in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
St. Peter Claver, pray for us!
St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!
All you Holy Martyrs of Uganda, pray for us!
And may St. Matthew on whose feast day we launch our 125th Anniversary Celebrations intercede for us!
Arise Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!”(Eph. 3:20-21).
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra.
PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS FOR THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ACCRA ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 2017.
- Sermon: “The Eucharist and the New Evangelization”, Mary, Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Priesthood are some of the various thoughts that come to my mind for today’s Ordination sermon.
SERMON FOR THE INSTALLATION OF
MOST REVEREND GABRIEL EDOE KUMORDJI, SVD.,
AT CHRIST THE KING CATHEDRAL, AKATSI
ON SATURDAY, MAY 13, 2017.
- Greetings and Gratitude: “At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation”.
CIBT SOON TO OFFER BSc. PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTSHIP
The Catholic Institute of Business and Technology (CIBT) will soon begin admissions for BSc. Physician Assistantship. The new programme will be affiliated to the University of Cape Coast (UCC). Watch out for admission forms soon.
Meanwhile, there are admission forms ready for the ff. Programmes:
(NB: Admission forms cost only GHC 50)
- BSc. in Business Administration (Univ. of Ghana)
- BSc. in Public Administration (Univ. of Ghana)
- BSc. in Computer Science (Univ. of Ghana)
- B.A. in Religious Studies and Church Administration (Univ. of Ghana)
- BSc. in Information Technology (KNUST)
- MBA in Global Entrepreneurship (Cath. Univ. of Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy)
Get Admission Forms from the CIBT Administration Block (located behind Ministry of Information and Adjacent to the GNAT Hall, Adabraka – Accra). You can also download the forms from our website www.cibt.ghana.net
For any further information
Call: 0208241315 / 0205 4955 89 / 0307-033-547.
HOMILY FOR HOLY MASS OF CHRISM 2017 IN THE YEAR OF GHANA @ 60.
- Sermon: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt. 2:9).
My dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, I chose this text from the First Letter of St. Peter, because it spells out the very import of the celebration of the Mass of Holy Chrism.
STATEMENT OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE TO CONDEMN ASSAULT ON THE KUMASI CIRCUIT COURT
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has noted with dismay the disregard for the rule of law exhibited by the Vigilante Group “Delta Force” at the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly Circuit Court on Thursday, April 6, 2017.We, the Catholic Bishops, hereby condemn in no uncertain terms the incident of raiding the said court and will like to call on all and sundry to do same. Such acts of wanton disregard for the legitimate work of state institutions and state officials only go to discredit the hard-won democratic credentials of our beloved country.
The Conference, however, will like to commend the Minister of the Interior and the Inspector General of Police for their prompt response to the Kumasi incident. We equally acknowledge their commitment to deal with any person or group that breaks the law irrespective of their political affiliation and urge them not to relent in their efforts to bring the perpetrators to book. This, we believe, will serve as a deterrent to the public and send a clear signal to such other “vigilante groups” who believe they can act with impunity and vicious disrespect for legitimate authority.
We call on the constitutionally recognized security agencies and institutions of our country to enforce, without fear or favour, the laws of the land and ensure the safety of life and property of all Ghanaians. We hope the security agencies will intensify their work of intelligence gathering in order to act promptly to avert such incidents in the future.
We also call on all Ghanaians to be law abiding and never take for granted the peace and stability we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy. Ghana remains the motherland of all Ghanaians and a haven for many peace-loving people; let us all, therefore, work together as leaders and citizens to safeguard and sustain the peace, freedom and stability of our dear motherland.
Issued on this 10th day of April, 2017 at the National Catholic Secretariat, Accra
Most Rev. Philip Naameh Archbishop of Tamale &
President, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference
EASTER MESSAGE FROM THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE, (GCBC). APRIL, 2017.
Peace be with you!
Dear people of God, it is with exceeding joy that we, members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, (GCBC), greet you with the words of the Risen Christ, the same words which he pronounced when he first appeared to his disciples on the evening of Resurrection Sunday. The passage of scripture which recounts this encounter, John20:19-29 captures, in our humble estimation, the spirit of the Easter Season and provides the basis for profound reflection for the individual Christian, for the Church and indeed for the nation.
The greeting “Peace be with you”, was pronounced three times by the Risen Christ in the passage just referred to. Each time Jesus greeted them with these words he sought to reassure the disciples who were faced with a particular threat. In the first instance, the evangelist John recounts how Jesus appeared to his disciples when these had locked themselves in for fear of the Jews. The mention of the Jews recalls the events that led to the crucifixion and the death of Christ. The disciples faced the real threat of persecution from the same Jewish and Roman authorities who had put Jesus to death. It is in this situation of fear of death that Jesus first appeared to his disciples with his message of peace. His greeting “peace be with you“, was an indication that he had conquered death and with it the fear of death. His victory was first and foremost a victory over death in all its ramifications – physical, spiritual, moral and psychological. That was the message behind the first greeting of peace.
The second pronouncement by the Risen Christ “peace be with you” remains in the context of his appearance to the disciples on the evening of the resurrection. This time however, John the evangelist notes, that Jesus after greeting his disciples breathed on them the Holy Spirit and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”. The second message of the Risen Christ is thus directed against the threat of sin. The resurrection is not only a victory over death; it is also a victory over sin. The reason why Jesus died was to expiate our sins. Thus, as John the Baptist testified, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). The peace that we need is therefore not simply defined in terms of the absence of persecution. It refers also to the relationship each one of us has with our God as well as the relationship we have with each other. Can I truly say that I have risen with Christ from the death of sin to the life of holiness? Am I at peace with my God? And am I at peace with my neighbour?
The third greeting of peace according to our passage of scripture takes place eight days after the first encounter of Jesus with his disciples. Thomas the apostle was not present at the initial encounter and thus retained fierce doubts about the truth of the resurrection. Jesus immediately after appearing to the disciples the third time, addresses Thomas saying “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing”. But what really was the threat in this instance?
The third threat to the peace of the disciples was the internal disagreement among the disciples of Christ. It was the threat of division. Thomas’ unbelief was not simply a lack of faith in Christ; it also demonstrated a lack of trust in his fellow disciples. It showed the lack of cohesion in the body of the disciples and illustrated the internal struggles that characterize every family, every congregation and every nation. This was the third threat to the disciples which Jesus by his resurrection sought to conquer.
The above has implications for every one of us; as Individual Christians, Christ’s message of peace should calm our personal anxieties and fears; it should assure us that we are able to rise above disappointments and past failures. It should enable us to forgive ourselves, to forgive those who have hurt us and also seek to be reconciled with those we might have offended. Christ’s message of peace should also remind the church of the exhortation of St. Paul to be ambassadors of reconciliation at all times, supporting every effort to create fellowship among God’s people.
The message of Easter is equally relevant to us as a nation. It should give us the assurance that we are able to overcome everything that has come to symbolize death to our people. As a nation, we must and can overcome the scourge of sickness; we can eradicate poverty and end the carnage on our roads. We can and must put an end to the wanton destruction of our environment. The unnecessary death of infants at our health facilities. The message of Easter must encourage us to put an end to all moral ills; it is time to turn our backs to dishonesty, indecency, bribery and corruption, indiscipline, disrespect for our elders, intemperate language, violence and vengeance. The message of Easter must help us to turn our efforts in healing the wounds of division, reconciling broken families, reuniting communities, settling disputes among people of different political persuasions and religious faiths. The message of the Risen Christ is not just his message to us. It is also our message to one another. On this note, we the Catholic Bishops Ghana wish all Ghanaians
a Happy Easter.
Once again, we say “Peace be with you!”
MOST REV . PHILIP NAAMEH
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TAMALE &
PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
HOMILY FOR THE ORDINATION TO THE DIACONATE AT ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH, ODORKOR-ACCRA ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 06, 2012.
- Sermon: My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, on the Feast of Epiphany, the Church invites us to meditate on the visit of the wise men from the east to Jerusalem in search of the “infant king of the Jews”. This story of the Magi, or of the astrologers as they are often called, is only narrated by St. Matthew in his Gospel. There is so much that you and I can learn for our spiritual development from the episode, but for this evening, permit me to dwell on the text: “The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt. 2:10-11).
1.1: The Feast of Epiphany commemorates the presentation of the Messiah to the world of the Gentiles, the world of the non-Jews. According to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, St. Matthew, the Jewish Gospel writer, narrates this visit in such detail in order to emphasize the Good News that Jesus Christ did not come as Messiah for only the Jews, “the Chosen People”; he came to save all of humanity, even the non-Jews who, through their own sciences (for example the science of astrology), come to know God and recognize Jesus as King of Kings, as Lord of Lords and as the Conqueror of Death, the one who ushers in the Resurrection.
St. Matthew reports that “after Jesus has been born at Bethlehem in Judaea…some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage’”.
We are not sure from where in the east, but we are informed that they were wise men who were certain that from their science of astrology, the star they had seen as it rose indicated the birth of “the infant king of the Jews”. They were convinced of the identity of the one whose star they had seen and they were therefore coming “to do him homage”.
Now, why would foreigners, some people from the east, want to come and do homage to “the infant king of the Jews”? Is it not strange that even the Jews themselves, their chief priests and scribes and their king, Herod himself, did not seem to have noticed anything extraordinary at the time? It took “some wise men from the east” to awaken the Jews, the Chosen People, their priests and scribes and even their king to the news that “the infant king of the Jews” had been born.
And thanks to the enquiries of the wise men from the east, the chief priests and scribes of the people were compelled to re-read their Books of the Law and the Prophets in order to ascertain that “the Christ was to be born ‘at Bethlehem in Judaea’’’.
1.2: My dearly beloved, the truth, or better put the good news, is that God in his own wisdom knows how to bring all people, especially those who seek him, to knowledge of the Saviour and Messiah, knowledge of the salvation he has prepared for humanity. What is important here now, or what we learn for our lives of faith, is that we should be ready to follow the “star” that rises from time to time in our lives and seek from others who may know so that they may lead us to a better and deeper knowledge of God. That is what the wise men from the east did by going to King Herod in Jerusalem. After all, they were looking for the “infant king of the Jews” who had been born; and that event had to be in the palace of the king in Jerusalem, the capital of Judaea.
1.3: “The sight of the star filled them with delight…”: Now having been informed by the Jewish chief priests and scribes, and following what they were told, the wise men are blessed with the reappearance of the star which fills them with delight and leads them to where they find the infant king of the Jews.
My dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, in our life’s journey of faith, there are times of darkness and doubt. The star we once had seen may disappear; that is the time we should never despair of God. Let us go on seeking. When God sees our effort at seeking and enquiring, he rewards our steadfastness with the reappearance of the star in our life’s journey; it then brings us to where we find delight in the Messiah Son of God, because our faith and hope encounter the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
1.4: “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” The sort of gifts these wise men from the east brought out of their treasures has very deep, indeed, mystical meaning. Gold in those ancient days represented nothing but the most precious of gifts given especially to kings and royals. Frankincense in the east represented devotion to the divine, in fact, adoration to God only. Myrrh is symbolic of sacrifice and suffering in order to overcome death ultimately and attain eternal life. So from these three gifts of the wise men who came from the east, St. Matthew teaches us all to give God nothing but our best, excellence in all our endeavours, the devotion and adoration that is due God only, and the acknowledgement that only in a life of sacrifice and even death with Christ Jesus is there victory over death for ever.
1.5: Now permit me to address a word from this episode of the Magi to our deacons to-be! Every seminarian starts his journey towards the Holy Priesthood with the appearance of a star; a desire to become a priest. With the help of the formators in both the minor and major seminaries, with the help of family and friends, with the help of their priests, and even at times with the help of people unknown or most unexpected, if we listen attentively, God shows us what he would want of us and directs our paths towards the house where we encounter God in the person of Jesus Christ.
This evening, as you are soon to be ordained deacons, the final and most decisive step towards the Holy Priesthood, and who knows, maybe one day on to the episcopacy, the fullness of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, Priest, Shepherd and Teacher, I can say that the star that sometimes appeared and even disappeared during your preparation in the seminaries, has now reappeared forcefully, and it is pointing you to the house where Christ is waiting for you with his Mother Mary and Joseph.
This evening, Jesus Christ is going to ask you for something deeper and more spiritual, or of even greater value than gold, frankincense and myrrh. Soon, Jesus is going to ask that you become like him, chaste, obedient and poor so that as his minister/servant, you will be indeed Christ-like, and people coming into contact with you may come to know and encounter Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life in your person.
My dear friends, you are going to make your commitment to a life of celibate chastity; you are going to make a firm promise of obedience to the Holy Roman Catholic Church in the presence of the Archbishop, and you are going to be required to live a Christ-like life of poverty.
In these three virtues of chastity, obedience and poverty, Jesus will require nothing less of you than the Magi brought. Out of your treasures, you will offer nothing to Jesus Christ the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Saviour but the best, gold representing excellence in your ministry; you should do everything in deep devotion and adoration of God, represented by the frankincense; and you must be ready to sacrifice your life accepting to suffer like Christ did for the salvation of those you will be sent to as deacons, and later on as priests; this is represented by the gift of myrrh.
I hope, in fact, I exhort you after this ordination that, you continue to meditate on the story of the Magi and ask the Lord our God to lead you into its still deeper and more mystical meaning for your ministry as deacons and priests in the near future.
May Mary the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of all Christians intercede for you our deacons to-be and for us all Clergy, Religious and Laity, so that we will be truly sacraments of Jesus Christ the Servant of all, the Eternal High Priest, Teacher and Shepherd!
Hail holy Queen…
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra.