ISSUED BY THE CHRISTIAN COUNCIL OF GHANA (CCG) AND THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE (GCBC) ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2018
Dearly Beloved fellow-citizens, and men and women of goodwill resident in Ghana, receive warm greetings from the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We, the members of the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’
Conference, held our annual Joint Meeting at the Mary Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Church, Airport West, Accra on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. We also held an Ecumenical Service to pray for Christian unity, the wellbeing of the Government and People of Ghana, and we reflected on the theme: “Unity with Christ and with each other for peace and mutual upbuilding” (cf. Romans 14:19). In our Meeting, we discussed several issues of both Church and national interests. We deem it appropriate as Christian Leaders to speak to and bring the following issues to the attention of the Government and People of Ghana, especially to members of our Church communities.
Christian Spirituality in Ghana
We have observed with very grave concern various abuses in some worshipping centres in Ghana in the name of spirituality, prophetic revelations and divine intervention. These happenings in the Christian fraternity discredit the Gospel and cause people to despise the positive influence of the Word of God. We are concerned that the role of Christianity “as the salt of the earth and light of the world” (cf. Matt 5:13-14) is losing impact as a result of the self-serving practices of some Christian leaders. We abhor such practices and call upon such leaders to tend the flock of the Lord faithfully.
We therefore wish to draw the attention of Christians and the nation to the following:
- No human person or object should take the place of Christ as object of worship.
- Christians should put their faith in Jesus Christ alone to meet all their needs even in times of difficulties.
- Christians and all citizens should cherish the values of hard work, patient endurance, moderation and contentment.
- We call on Christian leaders to intensify the faith formation of their members through teaching of the the Word of God in order to develop sustaining and sincere relationship with God, intimate prayer life and a life of selfless witnessing.
Fight against Bribery and Corruption
We commend the President of the Republic, His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for the call to fight and sustain same against bribery and corruption. We welcome the setting up of the Office of Special Prosecutor and congratulate those appointed to oversee the operations of the Office. We, however, urge strongly that this campaign cannot be another lip service. We call for transparency and integrity in investigations to ascertain corrupt practices and demand that culprits be duly prosecuted in accordance with the laws of our country. All Ghanaians, especially Christians, are called upon to work harder to eliminate the evil of bribery and corruption, to cherish fearless honesty, probity and accountability.
LGBT Rights in Ghana
We have observed, in the past months, that there have been strong calls and pressure by some international lobbyists on Ghana to consider the legalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights as well as same sex marriages and relationships. We commend the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Honourable Prof. Mike Ocquaye for his stance against the legalization of LGBT rights in Ghana. We call on Government never to be cowed down nor succumb to the pressure to legalize such rights.
As Christians, who uphold the Bible as our principal guide, we consider same sex unions as unacceptable unions that our God frowns upon (cf. Leviticus 20:13-16). In addition, we state unequivocally that same sex unions are alien to the Ghanaian culture and cannot be tolerated or accepted. Our cultural values uphold the family system as an integral part of the survival of communities and the nation at large. Therefore, we shall not and cannot accept the orientation towards same sex unions and relationships as a fundamental human right.
We, the members of the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, state that we shall resist any attempt, either latent or manifest, by any individual, Political Party, Civil Society, Human Rights’ Activist or Government to legalize LGBT rights in Ghana. We are however willing and available to provide the needed pastoral care and support to persons with LGBT tendencies in a non-condemning manner. We pledge to treat such persons with unconditional positive regard at all times.
2018 Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE)
We congratulate all the candidates scheduled to take part in the June 2018 BECE. We pray for God’s grace for each candidate and for success in the examinations. We call on the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to ensure that all challenges that had arisen in past have been dealt with in order to facilitate the smooth process of the examination this year. We urge the Examination Council, Invigilators, Parents and the candidates to take caution to avoid any embarrassment through examination malpractices.
Free SHS Programme
We commend Government for making secondary education more accessible and affordable to Ghanaians through the implementation of the Free Senior High School (SHS) programme. We are aware that the implementation is facing some teething challenges. There are incidents of some Senior High Schools in distress as a result of late disbursement of funds for food and accommodation facilities for the beneficiaries of the Programme. We urge the Ministry of Education to accept in good faith genuine feedback on the challenges facing the implementation. As stakeholders, we are ready for further engagement in the sustainability and success of the programme.
New Reforms on Colleges of Education
We welcome the efforts of Government to improve the quality of teacher training in the country. This move will convert Colleges of Education into Degree-awarding institutions as Affiliates/Satellite Campuses of some Public Universities for a transition period of four years.
While we praise Government for this reform, we wish to state that many of the Colleges of Education in Ghana are owned by the Churches. We repeat our earlier call for a comprehensive consultation and participation in the implementation of the new reforms. We cannot abandon Church-State partnership in education at this critical time. We state that:
- Government should continue to dialogue with the Churches that have Colleges of Education for mutual understanding on the affiliation of the Colleges to the Public
- Government should facilitate and even expedite the process of approval for the Presidential Charter for Universities owned by the Churches to enable them have the capacity to take charge of and manage their Colleges of Education as affiliate- institutions of such Universities.
Illegal Mining (Galamsay)
We have taken note of various efforts by some individuals, members of the Security
Services, Politicians and Chiefs to thwart the fight against illegal mining. We demand that
Government, the Media Coalition against Galamsay, concerned Agencies and Institutions, and all Ghanaians should be bold and courageous to sustain the campaign and deal ruthlessly with the perpetrators of the menace. Our sources of livelihood (water bodies, farmlands and livestock) are being sacrificed for selfish interests. While we ask God to change the hearts of these nation wreckers, we shall not tolerate such sinful acts against nature and posterity. We urge all Christian leaders to preach against the perpetration of the menace. Let us protect our common home – our water bodies and lands – from collapse and degradation.
Carnage on our Roads
Another very worrying concern is the spate of accidents and the resultant carnage on our roads. We cannot but agree that the best and most valuable asset of any nation is its human capital. We therefore plead with all who must ensure safety on our roads; the Motor and Traffic Police and Guards, drivers of both public and private vehicles, the DVLA, mechanics, pedestrians and, indeed, all road users in this country must endeavour to respect the rules and regulations regarding vehicular traffic, and maintain their vehicles to curb very drastically the high rate of accidents and deaths on our roads. Every human life is precious to God the Creator and is an asset to the person, to the society and to humanity as a whole.
Finally, we plead with the Government, Members of Parliament, Politicians and the Media to be decorous, guarded and timely in providing relevant information to Ghanaians on policies, initiatives and international engagements. The integrity of Ghanaians should never be taken for granted. We urge everyone to promote the peace, stability and development of our country Ghana.
We, your Christian leaders, renew our commitment to demonstrate true Christian leadership in all spheres of our lives. We encourage you to pray for us and support the spread of the Gospel especially in your life of witnessing. Be assured that we shall continue to provide support for the Government and the People of Ghana through our public education, advocacy and dialogue, social interventions and relentless prayer for the peace, stability and development of Ghana. We ask God to enkindle in us all the gift of the Holy Spirit and make us truly Christ-like.
REV. DR. CYRIL G. K. FAYOSE REV. FR. LAZARUS ANONDEE
General Secretary, CCG Secretary General, GCBC
- REV. DR. SETH S. AGIDI MOST REV. PHILIP NAAMEH
Chairman, CCG President, GCBC
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE CALL TO HOLINESS IN TODAY’S WORLD
- “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for his sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1)
- What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).
CHAPTER ONE : THE CALL TO HOLINESS
THE SAINTS WHO ENCOURAGE AND ACCOMPANY US
- The Letter to the Hebrews presents a number of testimonies that encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). It speaks of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon and others (cf. 11:1-12:3). Above all, it invites us to realize that “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1)
impels us to advance constantly towards the goal. These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.
- The saints now in God’s presence preserve their bonds of love and communion with us. The Book of Revelation attests to this when it speaks of the intercession of the martyrs: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge?’” (6:9-10). Each of us can say: “Surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God… I do not have to carry alone what, in truth, I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me”.
- The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This shows an exemplary imitation of Christ, one worthy of the admiration of the faithful. We can think, for example, of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, who offered her life for the unity of Christians.
THE SAINTS “NEXT DOOR”
- Nor need we think only of those already beatified and canonized. The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.
- I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
- Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”. We should consider the fact that, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.
But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed”.
- Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church. But even outside the Catholic Church and in very different contexts, the Holy Spirit raises up “signs of his presence which help Christ’s followers”. Saint John Paul II reminded us that “the witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants”. In the moving ecumenical commemoration held in the Colosseum during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, he stated that the martyrs are “a heritage which speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division”.
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2018 CHRISM MASS HOMILY BY ARCHBISHOP PALMER-BUCKLE AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHERAL, ACCRA
Sermon: My dearly beloved, the tradition of our Holy Mother Church recommends that today’s Liturgy take place preferably on Holy Thursday, the day in we commemorate the two inseparable gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ to his Church, namely, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and of the Ministerial Priesthood at the Jewish Passover.
Today’s Chrism Mass is taking place this Wednesday, as has become our tradition in our Archdiocese in order to enable all our priests (throughout the Archdiocese) to participate in this all-important liturgy, and be able to return thereafter to your parishes and your flock/parishioners for the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Paschal Vigil and Celebration of the Resurrection.
It is at this Holy Mass of Chrism, that the Bishop is required to bless the Oils, namely that of Catechumens, and that for the Anointing of the Sick, and then together with his priests, the Bishop consecrates the Oil of Holy Chrism. It is at this Holy Mass also that all priests, both Diocesan and Religious in this Archdiocese, are expected to make the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment.
Now, taking cue from the theme of our 125th Anniversary: “Renewing our commitment to Evangelization”, I see some connection or resonance with the Renewal of our Priestly Commitment that will take place soon after this sermon. But before then, a reflection on the readings!
1.1: My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the readings of today, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of St. Luke, all focus on God’s call to his service. In all three readings, we see how God anoints with oil and with his Spirit, those he calls to his service; making them into the priestly, kingly and holy people; and he also gives them a specific mission. This is how the Prophet Isaiah puts it:
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord…
Of those God has anointed, Isaiah prophesied: “you will be named ‘priests of the Lord’, they will call you ‘ministers of our God’… all who see them will admit that they are a race whom the Lord has blessed”.
1.2: This special calling and anointing and blessing and sending on mission as prophesied by Isaiah in the First Reading is what Our Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself at the start of his earthly mission, his sending by the spirit to bring the good news to the poor… his mission of evangelization. Yes, when God calls us for a mission, he empowers us in the Holy Spirit, conforming us to his Son Jesus Christ.
1.3: This is what today’s Second Reading, from the Book of Revelation, declares and emphasizes: “…Jesus Christ… (the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth…) has made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father…”
1.4: And so my dearly beloved, today we are celebrating, yes, our calling and anointing as the priestly, kingly and holy people of God. We are “priests of the Lord”… and “ministers of our God”… We are indeed “…a race whom the Lord has blessed”. This is what we become in Christ Jesus, thanks to the anointing with the oils, most especially the Oil of Holy Chrism.
The Oil of Catechumens which is used before Baptism gives the catechumen inner strength and grace to be victorious over sin and evil, and the anointing with the Oil of Holy Chrism configures the baptized to Christ, the Anointed One of God. That is what the title Christos means.
My dearly beloved, it is this same Oil of Holy Chrism that the Church uses in the Sacrament of Confirmation and especially for the Ordination of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops. It is also used for the consecration of Altars and Church buildings, making them holy and sacred to the Lord (see Ex. 40:9-10).
The Oil of the Sick is blessed and used for the anointing of the sick and the infirm as was done in the times of the apostles of Jesus at his behest, (see Mk. 6:13 and 16:18; and James 5:14ff.) It points to the fact of our faith that Jesus the Christ and the Lord, and Saviour of humanity is among us, and is still at work in our midst thanks to the sacraments of the Church.
1.5: Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is not only in the world thanks to the sacraments of the Church, but also in the very institution of the Church, the priestly people, kingly people and holy people of God, also known as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is to us all, anointed by the Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, and some of us ordained in the Holy Priesthood that the Lord God today gives the mission “to bring the good news to the poor…”
Christ’s mission of evangelization is for all, and this day calls on us all to renew our commitment to that mission. I began this sermon saying that I perceived a spiritual resonance in the theme of our 125th Anniversary and the liturgical rite that today all priests are required to perform religiously and conscientiously, namely, to renew our priestly commitment.
My dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, dear Priestly, Kingly and Holy People of God, my dear brothers in the Holy Priesthood and Religious Life, without any shade of doubt, I can say that “the spirit of the Lord is upon you and me, and he has anointed you and me, and he has sent us to proclaim the good news to the poor…” in the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra, as our theme says: “125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization”.
At the end of the Holy Mass, we all will pray the 125th Anniversary Prayer, asking God to “increase his gifts in us so that we may grow in holiness of life and be truly ardent disciples of Your Son..(to) Inspire us anew with a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit and (to) fill us with renewed zeal for the Church’s New Evangelization mission in our Archdiocese and beyond!”
1.6: Let me now, therefore, invite you, my dear brother Priests and Religious, to rise up and once more renew our priestly commitment supported by our beloved Parishioners, Religious Men and Women.
Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, may our renewal this year also be acceptable unto the Lord our God. Amen!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra,
Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
LENTEN PASTORAL LETTER FOR 2018
THEME: PERSONAL AND NATIONAL RENEWAL THROUGH OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, wish to use this Lenten Pastoral Letter to call for personal and national renewal as we all work towards a more peaceful and prosperous Ghana beyond 60 years of Independence.
Personal and national renewal cannot be realized without true obedience to God. Providentially, the Gospel reading of the First Sunday of Lent (Mark 1.12-15) serves as a point of departure for a sober reflection on our obedience or disobedience to God. The latter is, invariably, preceded by temptations. In a comparatively brief account, St. Mark, narrates the temptation of Jesus. The place of the temptation and the length of time Jesus spent in the desert are corroborated by St. Matthew and St. Luke in their accounts.
The scene of the temptation according to St. Mark sheds light on the Christian struggle especially during this season of lent. Every Christian is invited to tame within his or her heart the wild beasts of disobedience and to learn through the discipline of fasting, prayer and good works to incline our hearts like the angels to perfect obedience.
In the light of the above, we wish to reiterate and reflect further on a point made in our 2017 Lenten Pastoral Letter which was issued at the beginning of the 6oth anniversary of Ghana’s Independence. We mentioned that it is very significant that our national anthem begins with the word “God”. Unless Ghanaians and all other inhabitants of Ghana learn to obey God and actually remain obedient to Him, the realization of our national dream for Ghana @ 100 will be a mirage. The angelic posture of obedience to God, rather than the unruly nature of wild beasts, should characterize all aspects of our personal, familial, socio-cultural, economic, legislative, executive, judicial and religious lives if the dream of a peaceful, prosperous and highly developed Ghana is to be achieved.
In what follows, therefore, we wish to highlight a few instances of obedience and disobedience to God in various aspects of our personal and national lives. It is hoped that we would henceforth desist from acts of disobedience and progressively embrace the life of true obedience to God.
From the very beginning of creation, God designed marriage as the foundation of family life and families as the basic units of society. We obey God when our choices and actions promote and foster marriage and family life in line with the purposes of God. On the other hand, we disobey God when our chokes and actions break down marriages, reconstitute marriages as unions other than what God established between a man and a woman, children disobey parents, parents shirk their responsibilities, etc.
Socio-cultural Aspect of Life
Each people or nation has its cherished customs and cultural values; and our beloved country is no exception. Some of these customs and values may be modified or changed with time. The critical questions, however, are: does the original custom or value contradict the will of God? Is the modification or change in line with the will of God or it contradicts it? If we take, for instance, the cultural value of respect for the elderly, this certainly rhymes with the will of God. Therefore, the present trend of disrespect for the elderly is a social change which amounts to a disregard of the will of God.
Economic Aspect of Life
As mentioned on, temptations may lead us to disobey God. One of the temptations which befell our Lord Jesus Christ was to turn “stones into bread”. Happily, the Lord overcame the temptation by remaining obedient to His Father’s will because His actual “food is to do the will of’ His Father (John 4:34) and not physical bread.
The temptation to turn “stones into bread” is still with us today. As stones are not the natural raw materials for making bread, so any economic gain or advantage from an unnatural (illegal or illegitimate) source could be referred to as turning stones into bread. In other words, all actions of bribery and corruption amount to turning stones into bread.
Like the Lord Jesus, who overcame the temptation in His forty days of fasting and prayer, and remained forever obedient to His Father, we should use the forty days of Lent to seek the grace of mastery not over the hardness of physical stones or over our hunger for physical bread but rather over the desires of greed, discontentment and the like which lead to bribery and corruption etc.
Another temptation that Jesus experienced was a call to worship the devil (Matt. 4:8). But, once again, He set the records straight: only the Almighty God deserves worship. This temptation also implies any sort of compromise that goes against the will of God. For those who have the duty to make laws for our country, the question is: do internal (local) or external (foreign) pressures tempt them to compromise in the law-making process? How do they act when the voices of their consciences are loud and clear that such compromises contradict the will of God?
When our legislators thus compromise, it is the dreams of the pressure• givers that are likely to be realized and not our collective glorious dream of Ghana@ 100. Our legislators must, therefore, not allow such persons or organizations to set and drive the agenda for the future destiny of our country.
Like the members of the legislature, members of the executive arm of government in Ghana are not immune from internal and external pressures for compromise. On the other hand, the next temptation connotes sensationalism or the lure of the spectacular or achieving vain popularity or fame may be experienced also by the executive. Jesus was tempted by the devil to put His Father to the test by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and expect angels to hold Him up (Matt. 4:5-6). Once again, Jesus overcame the temptation by putting the will of His Father first, instead of putting God to the test.
Just imagine Jesus descending from the pinnacle of the temple and being surrounded by the majestic wings of angels in full view of the thousands in Jerusalem; if this had happened surely the saving mission of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection would have been thwarted.
Similarly, sensationalism or the lure of being spectacular or achieving vain popularity or fame by the managers of the affairs of the nation only leads to short-sighted decision-making often to satisfy apparent short-term needs which actually do not feed into achieving the long-term dream of Ghana @ 100 .. Members of the executive and legislature of our nation should therefore learn from Jesus and act only in accordance with the will of God.
Members of the judiciary, like the legislators and executive, are also not immune from the temptations of turning “stones into bread”, of compromising and of vain glory. In recent times, unfortunately, instead of choosing the path which portrays obedience to God, some have succumbed to one or more of the above-mentioned temptations. Our nation can make good progress only if, while the other two arms of government are complying with the will of God, members of the judiciary also do same. We, therefore, urge them as well as the members of the legislature and executive to emulate the excellent example of Jesus Christ in the face of temptations. In a word, the guiding principle of all should be always God, and by implication, His will for Ghana must be first.
Are religious leaders exempt from the three temptations mentioned above? Not at all! Unfortunately, many religious leaders have fallen prey to the temptations of turning “stones into bread”, sensationalism or vain glory and compromising in matters of faith and morals.
For instance, on the Christian scene in Ghana, Christian leaders are turning “stones into bread” by demanding “consultation fees” and selling so-called “anointing oil and water”, etc. Is this in line with the will of God? We certainly doubt that it is.
With regard to sensationalism, some pastors or evangelists or prophets “stage manage” miracles. We urge all those involved in such acts to seek true spiritual renewal. For, by their present actions, they are leading too many people astray.
This is clearly in contradiction to Christ’s mission of gathering together the scattered children of God and not losing anyone whom the Father had entrusted to Him.
As regards compromises by Christian leaders, may it suffice to mention the following: some married Christian leaders have divorced, some have allegedly obtained “miraculous” powers through unchristian means and others sometimes interpret the Bible in ways that contradict fundamental Christian beliefs. We urge, our fellow Christian leaders as well as ourselves to strictly follow the example of Christ who never compromised.
Indeed, it is very sad to note that because of the failure of many Christian leaders to overcome the trio of temptations, the “brand” of Christianity being paraded today in Ghana promotes all kinds of vices. Certainly, this trend, if it does not change soon, will make the dream of Ghana @ 100 a mere mirage even if the three arms of government play their part very well.
“Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord your God.“ (cf. Joel 2:12-13a). Dear beloved, as the Prophet Joel states, we appeal to all and sundry to use these forty days of Lent for personal and national renewal. We have underlined the fact that fundamental to this renewal is obedience to God.
We, therefore, pray that most (if not all) Ghanaians will embrace the call to obedience to God, so that our nation will steadily develop in the course of years and decades, and that those who live to see Ghana @ 100 will become great “exporters” of the unique Ghanaian product of “obedience to God is key to national excellence”.
Have a spirit-filled Lenten season.
Most Rev. Philip Naameh
Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale &
President, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
2018 LENTEN MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS
“Because of the increase of iniquity,
the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.
With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.
Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.
They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!
False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.
A cold heart
In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6: 10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.
Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.
Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.
What are we to do?
Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!
The fire of Easter
Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.
One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.
During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”, and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.
With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.
HOMILY OF BISHOP ADANUTY ON 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST MASS IN ACCRA
31 JANUARY 2018
Exodus 13, 17-18, 21-22.
Hebrews 13, 7-16.
Luke 8, 22-25.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are celebrating today the 125th anniversary of the first Catholic Holy Mass in Accra.
As we gather here for this event, we cannot but think of the handful of people gathered in the house of Chief John Quartey on Accra High Street and try to imagine what was going on in their thoughts and imaginations.
The two SMA fathers, Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raess, sent by their religious superiors, were here to carry out the missionary mandate of Jesus Christ (Mt. 28, 19-20) to go and make disciples of all nations … They must have understood, already then, that the Christian Church is, by its very nature, missionary. They were convinced about the need of their work of evangelization and were not daunted by the fact that missionaries of other Christian denominations had preceded them to the then Gold Coast.
We admire their zeal, their courage to accept hardships, their readiness to embrace this mission in a territory where they were very likely to meet early death through yellow fever. We admire above all their faith in Jesus Christ and their commitment to promote his saving work.
Today we commend to the Lord the souls of all the departed missionaries, of the lay faithful who helped them settle down and facilitated their work in various ways to plant the seed that has grown to be the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Accra. We pay special tribute to the lay faithful whose perseverance kept the Church alive when, barely two and a half years after the first Mass was celebrated, Accra had to remain without resident priests for some 30 years because the two resident priests had to move to Fanteland where yellow fever had caused havoc among the missionaries in the older Churches around Cape Coast. There is no doubt that through those lay faithful the Lord assured that the torch of faith, lighted by the missionaries, kept burning.
Although this sounds like a vote of thanks, I can assure you that it is not meant to be so. I only want to draw our attention to the obvious fact indicated in Is. 26, 12 that all that has been accomplished by these people, each in their own significant and insignificant ways, have been accomplished by the Lord. To the Lord, therefore, be the glory and thanksgiving.
It is indeed the Lord who decides who should do what in this world and he enables his sons and daughters to carry out the missions assigned to them. He is the Lord of the past, of the present and also of the future, the Lord of history.
Let us look at the first reading from the book of Exodus. When God led his people out of Egypt towards the promised land, he did not lead them by way of the shortcut along the coast, but rather by the roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. The shortcut would have brought them very soon face to face with the warlike Philistines. With Egypt so near behind them, the temptation to go back there would have been too compelling for the people. That was one reason. Another reason, as we can gather from looking back on the past, was that God wanted to train them by means of all the experiences they went through in the wilderness. By following the long way chosen by God, the people of Israel have learned that the attainment of freedom and independence is a gradual, painful process through which God’s people must pass in order to appreciate freedom.
God made his presence felt during the journey, leading the people by a pillar of cloud during the day and especially by a pillar of fire by night. Lions would not have needed the pillar of fire in order to see. God satisfied the need of his people.
God is in control of our life, he is truly interested in our well-being and will help us achieve his goals in us.
Each generation in the Church must experience God’s presence and renew its faith in him. Each generation must experience the exodus and declare its faith in the God of freedom. Each member of God’s people, each one of us here, will be given the chance of realizing that God is not only our God, but my God, as Thomas did. Each will be educated by the Lord to come to the realization that it is he, the Lord, who accomplishes all that he, the creature, accomplishes.
The Gospel reading tells us of Jesus and his disciples crossing by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose, putting their lives in serious danger. We know very well that the gospel narratives are not newspaper reports of events, like the sort you would read in the Daily Graphic or Ghanaian Times. They are selected and reported in order to teach something relevant to the good news that Jesus has brought to the world.
Here we find the boat on a stormy sea; Mark tells us the crossing started in the evening; so they were now in darkness. They were crossing over into the territory of the Gerasenes, who could certainly not have been Israelites, because, for one thing, we know from the episode which follows today’s reading, that the Gerasenes were breeding pigs, which were unclean animals for the people of Israel. What happened that night was of great significance in the mentality of those days, because the sea was considered as the home of all the evil spirits; well, we in Ghana know that mammy water is also there.
In the interpretation given to this event the boat is seen as the Christian Church complying with the missionary mandate of Jesus and therefore going to the other side of the lake, into the territory of people Israel referred to as the goyim; since they did not know Jahweh, they were pagans. So the Christian community was going out to the whole world to proclaim the good news. The storm represents the various difficulties the early Church had to face: not only from outside but also from within its own ranks; from outside, such as suspicion, rejection, persecution and death; from within: weakness of some members, differences of opinion regarding the demands of the new life, etc.
The disciples of Jesus had to struggle hard in order to remain faithful to the Lord’s teaching; we know how they had to hold the first Council of Jerusalem to decide what demands to impose on the new believers who were not Jews; were they to undergo circumcision?
The strange situation of Jesus being fast asleep in the midst of all this turmoil shows how the disciples had to face the new situation in which the Lord Jesus was no longer physically present among them the way he used to be. They still had to come to terms with calling on Jesus as before, talking to him as before, in short, they had to remain in communication with Jesus, namely praying to him; the reproach of Jesus to the disciples about their faith indicates the need for Christians to express this faith in him always, not only in critical moments, not only to ask for miracles. It is an evil generation that knows Jesus only as worker of spectacular miracles.
Having faith in Christ does not show only when we are faced with troubles beyond us, not only when other helpers have failed us, not after we have vainly had recourse to humans and spirits who don’t know their right from their left.
Do we show faith only when God’s presence is seen through spectacular miracles? Or are we able to see also the miracles of every day and thank the Lord for them?
We learned from the first reading from the Book of Exodus that God is in control of our life, he is truly interested in our well-being and will help us achieve his goals in us. In the same way, we learn from the gospel episode also that Jesus, the Lord, is in control. He is the God who alone has power over the sea and the waves, over all evil forces. Our God does not sleep and does not need to be awakened.
The second reading of today, from the Letter to the Hebrews, brings us down to our Archdiocese, to our parishes and stations, where we try to give living expression to our faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ. The sacred author tells us, among others: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever…”
If we are gathered here today, it is also to honour those valiant leaders who spoke the word of God to our grandfathers and grandmothers. We are committed to imitating their faith, which was the driving force that enabled them to face and surmount all the difficulties in their path of evangelization. At the same time, we are committed to keeping intact our faith in the person of Jesus Christ who remains the same, yesterday, today and forever.
It is in this spirit that the Archdiocese of Accra is committed to continuing the work of evangelization, mindful that while the faith remains always the same, the manner in which it is presented and preached may vary according to the times and places. The way people think and communicate keeps changing
It is also for this reason that the Archdiocese has been holding synods periodically in order to make sure that in carrying out the missionary mandate, she presents the unchanging Christ to a world that keeps changing. In Jn 14, 26 Jesus said to his disciples: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” In this context I see the task of the Spirit as one of reminding the Church of the unchanging truth and teaching her how to present that truth in the changing world. An example is what emerged from the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.
Five years ago, when the Archdiocese of Accra celebrated its 120th Anniversary, the theme was: 120 Years of Catholic Mission: Honouring the past, Celebrating the Present, Building the Future.
This year, as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary, the theme is: 125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing Our Commitment to Evangelization.
In both celebrations, the motto/slogan is the same, namely: Arise, Catholic Faithful, Rejoice and Renew.
We have to conclude that the Archdiocese of Accra intends to engage all her Catholic faithful in an effort to renew her commitment to evangelization and doing so in a joyful manner, precisely as our second reading advises in the verse following today’s passage.
My brothers and sisters, we have always to keep in mind that the work of evangelization has been entrusted, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to each and every member of the Church. It is our mission because the Church is, by her very nature, missionary. It is an honour for us to be asked by the Lord to fulfil this mission. It is not we who give the faith to another person; God is the one who gives faith. Ours is, first and foremost, to bring people to meet Jesus as a person, just as John the Baptist did with his disciples, just as Andrew did with his brother Simon, just as the Samaritan woman did with her townspeople. Jesus knows best what to do with them. Ours is only a work of collaboration with God; and let us take note and remember that God does not need our contribution in order to proclaim the message. This is no heresy. We all remember that at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, God used an angel to proclaim the good news to the shepherds. We all know that God used a star to proclaim the good news to the wise men from the East. We all know that both at the baptism of Jesus and at his transfiguration, God proclaimed who Jesus was through a voice; and, finally, we all know that it was Jesus himself who evangelized the hostile Saul on his way to Damascus. God does not need our contribution in order to proclaim the message. It is an honour for us to be asked by the Lord to cooperate with him in evangelization. Coming down to our own context, we know the important role played by the British Governor, the Ga Chiefs and perhaps other non-Catholics in facilitating the establishment of the Catholic Church in Accra. It was the Lord himself who planned and executed his plan, using various human instruments to achieve his purpose. To him be the glory and thanksgiving and to the human instruments our appreciation for the fact that they allowed the Lord to make use of them.
Now, let nobody start thinking that if the Lord does not really need us, then we should allow him to do everything. Pope Paul VI has a question for anyone who thinks that way; listen:
“It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” – or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.” (E.N. 80)
The Lord does not need us in order to proclaim the gospel, but he has given us the privilege and honour to share in its proclamation. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, first of all, we have nothing to boast about, if we have the faith in God and someone else doesn’t have it or doesn’t have it the same way: it is the Lord who gives the grace of faith to a person, not we. Again, therefore, we have no business looking down on anybody or ridiculing anybody who does not have the faith we have. What have we that we haven’t received?
So, the Archdiocese calls on all her faithful to once more renew their commitment to evangelization and to do so joyfully and cheerfully. What you are being called to proclaim is good news, glad tidings. At the birth of Jesus, the angel said to the shepherds: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
Therefore, Arise, Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Accra, Rejoice and Renew!
A M E N
REFLECTIONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE SILVER JUBILEE OF EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF MOST REV. CHARLES G. PALMER-BUCKLE, METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF ACCRA AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHEDRAL, ACCRA
Readings of the Solemnity of Epiphany
Is. 60: 1-6
Resp. Psalm: Ps. 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Eph. 3:2-3, 5-6
What return can I make to the Yahweh
For his generosity to me?
I shall take up the cup of salvation
And call on the name of Yahweh
I shall fulfill my vows to Yahweh,
Witnessed by all his people.
Costly in Yahweh’s sight
Is the death of his faithful.
I beg you, Yahweh! I am your servant,
I am your servant, and my mother was your servant;
You have undone my fetters.
I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And call on the name of Yahweh
With these words, my brothers and sisters in Christ gathered in this Cathedral, I greet all of you as I thank Archbishop Palmer-Buckle for asking me to be the homilist for his silver jubilee of Episcopal ordination. This was just when he was saying good bye to me in the bishop’s house in Koforidua after the climax of the silver jubilee of the creation of Koforidua diocese. I wish to assure you all that this may in the long run turn out to be anything but a homily. How could I have turned down this request? I took over the administration of CDK from him and more importantly he was the principal celebrant for my Episcopal ordination.
Charlie, please, have it already in mind if by God’s grace I am able to hit 25 you will surely be asked to say a few words for your younger brother, Agyaaku.
Twenty five years as a bishop/archbishop! Hmmm!! Many are the things that have happened for which time will not allow me to put them out here in this celebration. I will try and briefly highlight on some to make my point. I remember when he was ordained bishop of Koforidua, he had very wonderful black hair and beard. I still can picture you but look at what 25 has done to him. Please do not look at mine. It tells you that the ministry is not a simple one even though it is the work of God.
I recall very well when he started in Koforidua and for the first few years referred to himself as an apprentice bishop. He did his best to wean himself of this status and I think now you qualify to be referred to as a very seasoned Archbishop.
Whatever is the situation, we need to join him in thanking the good Lord for having sustained him in faith and in the ministry of shepherding His flock in both dioceses of Koforidua and Accra. We in Koforidua are proud that we prepared him for Accra.
We are using the readings of the solemnity of Epiphany, a feast that celebrates the visit of the Magi during which they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new born Saviour of the world. These were very precious and symbolic gifts. We join and walk in the footsteps of the Magi with the assurance that through our acts of faith in life we can also let others come to know Christ. Besides that, you will also agree with me Charlie, that, you have been presented to Mother Church as a precious gift and so will encourage you to use your gifts and talents in the continual development of the Church.
As chief shepherd and through all these years of ministry you have tried to serve the Lord in the people entrusted to your pastoral care. At the time that the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Chapters 60-62, Jerusalem was still in ruins, still a city forsaken. The prophet’s message was therefore to encourage them, to rise up in splendor because their light had come.
Our present society and for that matter, our world is struggling with all kinds of social evils, moral decadence of all kinds. Our nation is not exempt from these. For example, bribery & corruption is rife in every aspect of the Ghanaian society which is a concern to many, homosexuality, lesbianism, some negative aspects in partisan politics etc. Since becoming a bishop/archbishop you have not relented in speaking your mind about these and many there are who have applauded your courageous stand on such social cankers. I should be quick to mention here that there are others who have also not spared you and even gone as far as asking you to put off your clerical garb and wear a political colour. Like the prophet Isaiah you have at the same time encouraged your flock about the fact that the light of God will continue to shine upon them. This is what your prophetic role entails, to encourage and condemn where necessary. It was not surprising that the then President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency J. A. Kuffour appointed you as one of the eminent members of the National Reconciliation Commission (2002-2004). That, also, came with all kinds of criticisms even as you were asked to serve on this important national Commission.
Beginning your episcopate in Koforidua, certainly, was not easy. You had to build it all from the scratch, no permanent secretariat, accommodation, staff etc. you moved on slowly but surely until some of the main structures were in place, temporal office space, diocesan pastoral & training centre, etc. You went through the length and breadth of the diocese, including the present Donkorkrom Vicariate, riding in small boats in the night with Fr. Otmar Auinger, SVD, Fafanyo etc. on the Volta lake in the night and during the day. All this was your humble effort in bringing the Good News to the people far and near.
You did your best to bring the people of God together and to make them proud of their faith. Ma wani ngye se woye Romani, was one of your famous songs with the people. You were the one who introduced the regular catechesis in the St. George Cathedral and in all the parishes and outstations you visited explaining the Church’s teachings and the scriptures to the people. These made very positive impact on the people and many have benefitted from this practice of yours.
Besides this you also introduced the Bible Youth Camp around the Christmas season for young adults and students in second cycle institutions from the entire diocese. The impact has been tremendous. I cannot but mention your special love and charism in taking care of poor and needy children. Sometimes I could not understand your spirit of perseverance even in the face of some disappointing beneficiaries. Some of such children have even been named after you, full name.
With your brotherly, priestly love and affection you never relented in your efforts at uniting the presbyterate of Koforidua and this spirit, I can say to a large extent is still working. You will stop at every parish on your way to some place and just say hello to the priests; what we termed, stations of the cross.
You have still the following to your credit as far as the Koforidua diocese is concerned:
- Prepared the first baseline survey study of the diocese
- The introduction if the annual pastoral leaders’ meeting, also termed Mini Synod
- Organized the first diocesan synod
- Payment of school/hospital fees for poor children/students
Charlie, a devotee of Blessed Virgin Mary
Permit me to enter a bit into his personal spirituality. This is a pastor who does not go to bed until he has prayed all the five decades of the holy Rosary, no matter how late in the night. With all these you have positively influenced so many people unknown to yourself.
When it comes to your episcopate in Accra, I wish someone else would have continued from here. My dear brother, what I have said above apply as far as I can get the feeling from some of the parishioners and priests in Accra. Certainly Accra has its own peculiar pastoral needs and challenges as it is but you have not relented in placing your pastoral, administrative skills in running the Archdiocese.
I can mention without fear that quite a number of your priests are also receiving further education in different disciplines within and outside the country to enhance their pastoral engagements. I can see the springing up of new parishes in almost all the growing areas of the capital. You have in place a Youth formation centre, Catechetical training centre.
You organized the second Archdiocesan Synod to brainstorm on very pertinent pastoral concerns for the Archdiocese. The Acts of this Synod, I believe are helping and guiding in the pastoral drives of the parishes. It was during your episcopate that the Archdiocese celebrated her 120 years of evangelization and presently preparing to celebrate the 125 anniversary. You have embarked on the restoration project of the Holy Spirit Cathedral. I humbly entreat you, my dear People of God to put your weight behind this effort so that this very Cathedral can be refurbished to the greater glory of God.
As our Metropolitan, I would like to encourage you to leave no stone unturned in building up our Province. Be assured of your suffragan dioceses’ readiness to support all the positive moves in having a united province. On the National level, I wish to thank you sincerely for your wonderful contributions and the amount of knowledge you bring onto the floor of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference deliberations.
My dear People of God, our celebrant will be the first to admit that his calling to the holy Catholic priesthood has been through the grace of God. Left to him alone he accepts that he is even unworthy, but still the Lord who knows the hearts of His children has chosen him and ordained him for His work. He has been humble enough to admit his own shortcomings and ever ready to renew himself in the sacraments offered by Mother Church. He aligns himself with the mission of Jesus who came not to call the upright of hear but sinners to conversion (Lk. 5:31-32; Mk. 2:17). He has tried fervently to share his faith experiences with others.
I can hear you repeating with the Psalmist: “What return can I make to Yahweh, for his generosity to me? I shall take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh. I shall fulfill my vows to Yahweh ..” Ps.116:12.
The Church in Accra needs you still to strengthen them in the faith. A journey that requires enormous prayer and sacrifice! Strive relentlessly for the unity of the clergy & religious. I wish therefore to entreat all to intensify your prayerful support for our brother. Continue to show love to him, because I know he loves his Church and vocation. Continue to offer thanksgiving sacrifice on his behalf so that he can minister still well to the flock entrusted to his care.
Accra and its pastoral needs can be complex and can be demanding. May Mary, the Mother of priests and your patroness continue to intercede for you always! Congratulations and I wish you many more fruitful years in the episcopacy.
Most Rev. Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum,
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Koforidua.
6th January 2018.
2018 DIACONATE ORDINATION
AT MARY MOTHER OF GOOD COUNSEL PARISH,
“For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord!” (cfr. Ps. 89:1.)
Sermon: My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, I asked that we maintain the very readings of today, Friday, January 12, 2018 of the First Week in Ordinary Time. They teach us a lot for this year’s diaconate ordinations. Before I say something about the Diaconate, let me share a thought or two with you on the readings.
1.1: The First Reading taken from the First Book of Samuel selected verses of Chapter 8 recounts how the elders of Israel came to the Prophet Samuel at Ramah to demand a king to govern over them: “Give us a king to govern over us,” they said to him.
We are told that Samuel tried to dissuade the People of God, but they refused to listen to him: “No! We are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations…”
When Samuel reported to the Lord God, this is what God said in reply: “Listen to the voice of the people…for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them…set a king over them.”
Isn’t that very painful and hardhearted, how the Israelites whom the Lord God had chosen for his own had rejected him; they wanted to be like the other nations, no more the special people that God had set apart to be his own, the people chosen to show God’s goodness and uniqueness to the nations around them. They wanted to be ordinary, not special, not extraordinary. “No! We are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations…”
My dearly beloved, this is the temptation we always go through; God has chosen us and set up apart to sing his praises; to reflect his love to those around us; …and yet we are very often content to be just like the others. How often do you not hear Catholics ask, why should be we be different? Why can we not do just the same way as the other Churches are doing? How often do we not find it difficult to be truly the chosen ones of God, called to reflect the glory of God to the rest of the world!
My dear sons, today, you are going to be set apart as deacons of the Lord God through this ordination to the Order of Deacons; and later on in the year, God will elevate you to the Holy Priesthood. You are today going to be set apart in order to lead and serve God’s Chosen People in the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Please, do not be led astray by the temptations of the world out there. He, who has called you, today will set you apart for himself and for the service of his people. Please listen to the voice of the Lord and not that of the world around. Lead the people in a life of service as the Lord your God will require of you.
1.2: Today’s Gospel taken from St. Mark teaches us several very beautiful things also. Look at:
- the love of the four people for their paralysed friend;
- their show of faith in bringing him into the presence of Jesus Christ at all cost; even at the cost of “destroying the roof of the house in which Jesus was”;
- listen to what the Gospel tells us: “…when Jesus saw their faith…” NB: it is the faith of the friends, not the faith of the paralytic that elicits from Jesus the divine power to help the paralysed man…
In other words, your faith can help those around you or whom you know sick and needy of the help from Jesus Christ the Lord. Let us, therefore, never give up praying for and bringing into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ our friends who are sick and needy. Thanks to our faith, Jesus who notices everything can go on to do the needful for them. This is why we should always be praying for others, even non-believers or those absent from the physical presence of the Lord. Our faith can save them!
What else can we learn from today’s Gospel? Jesus who is God knows that sin impedes the grace of God from working fully in a person who may need God’s healing power to work in them. So Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who has power to forgive sins, goes on to say: “Son, your sins are forgiven!” Jesus forgives his sins.
My dear sisters and brothers, let us never take sin for granted; even a small sin can hinder the grace of God from being effective. That is why Jesus has given us in the Church the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, so that we can always be washed clean of sin and be properly disposed to obtain the full miraculous works and healing we need. Please when you go to confession, just do the penance you are given religiously, however very simplistic it may sound, so that the grace of God will be effective in you.
And for you my sons, you who are going to be made deacons this evening, never ever take sin for granted; go religiously for confessions so that the grace of God will be able to effect the miracles in and through you for the people of God. Always, bring the sick and needy to Jesus Christ like the four friends did and may God give them healing through your selfless service to the People of God.
1.3: Now to our diaconate ordination: the Holy Order of Deacon gives us the grace of service, the grace of Christ-like service. In the teachings of the Church, according to Lumen gentium 29, this is what the diaconate entails as duty and ministry in the Church: “…it pertains to the deacon: to administer Baptism solemnly; to protect and distribute the Eucharist, assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, bring Viaticum to the dying; read the Sacred Scriptures to the faithful, instruct and exhort the people; preside over the prayer and worship of the faithful, administer sacramentals, and officiate at funeral and burial rites.
“Dedicated to duties of charity and administration, deacons should be mindful of the admonition of Saint Polycarp: ‘Be merciful and zealous, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who made himself the servant of all’”.
(A little explanation!)
1.4: Permit me to give the following exhortation from today’s readings to you my dear sons about to be ordained to the Holy Order of Deacons:
- Like Samuel, always listen to the voice of the Lord God through prayer and personal contact; never however, overlook the demands of the People of God; bring them to the Lord God and listen to what the Lord God will ask of you through the teachings of the Church and the directives of the Bishop;
- Serve the people with all your heart and soul even pleading for them and their failings before God; he knows them better than you would even understand them;
- Serve the people of God especially the most needy and at all costs;
- Serve them in faith and bring them to Jesus Christ the Divine Healer and Redeemer;
- Serve God’s people selflessly, in fact in the footsteps of Jesus Christ through your promises of Obedience, Poverty and Celibate Chastity. These Evangelical Counsels make you Christ-like in your life of Pastoral Charity.
Only in this way will you be able to bring Christ Jesus to the People that God sends you and the People to Christ Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life.
1.5: My dear People of God, let us also pray constantly for your sons as God makes them his deacons that they truly serve like Jesus Christ who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life in ransom for the many (see Mt. 20:28).
May Mary the Mother of Deacons intercede for our sons and give us many more priests in the Archdiocese of Accra!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra
Friday, January 12, 2018.
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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