CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR PASTORAL LETTER FROM
THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE (GCBC)
“For to us a child is given, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’”. (Isaiah 9:6, RSV)
Dear Christians and all people of goodwill in Ghana, the celebration of Christmas and the New Year is an opportunity for taking stock, making resolutions and giving thanks to the Almighty and Providential God. Therefore, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, wish to take this opportunity to suggest to you, individually and collectively, some areas of stock-taking and resolution-making, while we urge all to thank God for His grace and mercies which we have enjoyed in 2018 and which we wish to enjoy the more in 2019.
Our reflection on stock-taking and resolution-making is based on the spiritual significance of the celebration of Christmas.
Spiritual Significance of Christmas
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Word of God became flesh (John 1:14) and was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary (cf. Matt.
1:22-25). This is a mystery with deep spiritual significance. In other words, Christmas is a profoundly spiritual or religious celebration.
Unfortunately, however, commercial activities and the over-emphasis on the social dimension of the feast has increasingly overshadowed the spiritual significance of Christmas. We, therefore, reflect on the spiritual significance of Christmas and take practical steps to live by it. We should firmly resolve to avoid or overcome any negative impact of the commercial or lopsided social activities on our lives and those of our families.
Christmas: A time of Sharing
Indeed, Christmas is a time to recall God’s ineffable love and to renew our resolve to love as He has loved us (cf. John 15:12). In this Season in particular, we express love by sharing our resources.
We, therefore, take this opportunity to urge all to share with others, most especially the needy. The Saviour, who was celebrated by the “poor” shepherds (cf. Luke 2:16-20) and the “rich” Magi (cf. Matt. 2:9-11) at His birth, wants both the poor and the rich to joyfully celebrate His birth.
Christmas: Peace to All
Christ is truly the Prince of Peace. He uniquely establishes peace between God and humanity and urges all humans to live in peace with one another. Thus, when Christ was born in Bethlehem, a choir of angels sang to the hearing of the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). He, whose birth necessitated this angelic melody of peace, urges all of us to be men, women and children of peace.
Peace in Dagbon
We thank the Prince of Peace for blessing our land with peace in the year coming to an end. In a special way, we should be grateful to Him for the state of the peace process in Dagbon. It is also proper to commend all His human instruments for advancing this peace process. Particularly, we commend the two traditional Gates of Abudus and Andanis, the Committee of Eminent Chiefs led by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, successive Governments and various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Faith-based Organizations (FBOs) and others for their efforts and commitment to ensure that the peace process in Dagbon achieves lasting success.
Furthermore, as the two Gates follow the long-drawn-out roadmap for peace, we pray for sincere observation of the laid down processes that are crucial for peace in Dagbon. We ask that the rightful process in the selection of new chiefs is observed. We also urge the people of Dagbon to ensure always that due and peaceful process is followed in resolving disputes.
Peace on our Roads
A very worrying concern of many Ghanaians is the high spate of road accidents or carnage on our roads. Indeed, peace is disrupted in the family, corporate, community and sometimes in national life when road accidents occur.
Therefore, during this yuletide and beyond, we appeal to all users of our roads to observe the rules and regulations to ensure safety on our roads. Let us avoid the temptation of drink-driving. Every human life is precious and an asset to the person, to the society and to humanity as a whole. We also call upon all the relevant state enforcement agencies to ensure that all road users comply with the road rules and regulations.
Christmas: Unity among All
Peace entails unity. Therefore, Christmas which celebrates peace among people calls for unity among them. Each of us has to take stock of the extent of unity in our families, churches, communities, corporate organizations and the nation as a whole.
We need to soberly look at the roles we can play to ensure unity at various levels and be firmly resolved to act accordingly. In the area of national life in particular, we should all endeavour to desist from the form of politics which divides the country and rather foster all that contributes to strengthening the bond of unity among all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and political affiliation.
Christmas: Justice for All
Peace and unity will be a mirage if we fail to promote justice at all levels of our nation. Justice entails giving to each citizen or person what is their due. That is, ensuring that each person enjoys the rights and benefits due them.
Justice: Hearing the Cry of the Poor
Christ began His “ministry of justice” with the words: “The Spirit of the
Lord is upon me; He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). And in His actual ministry, He fed the hungry and poor. If justice means giving to each person what is their due, then it obliges all of us especially those who have the responsibility for the distribution of the resources of the nation to ensure that this is done equitably.
As we mentioned in our recent communiqué issued at Techiman, during our Annual Plenary Assembly, “we are encouraged to know that Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world as indicated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, other studies and our own observations, show that there is still a widening gap between the rich and the poor”. In addition, the general living conditions in our country are getting unbearable for many Ghanaians. We, therefore, entreat our Government as a matter of urgency to pay more attention to this phenomenon.
Christmas: A call for Humility
Another deep spiritual significance of Christmas is the message of humility. If Jesus Christ who is true God became human (cf. Phil. 2:5-
11), then we cannot but learn that the virtue of humility is necessary to
one’s spiritual growth. This is one area that each of us (poor or rich, junior staff or management, church leaders or church members, traditional leaders or subjects, state authorities or ordinary citizens) need to soberly reflect and ascertain the true state of his/her sense of worth in relation to others and most especially in relation to God.
Christmas: Accept God’s Salvation
Primarily, Christ was born to save humanity (cf. Matt 1:20-21). The offer of God’s salvation should, therefore, re-echo in our hearts and minds at every Christmas. We should, then, renew our resolve to accept God’s offer.
In other words, Christmas reminds us to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. (cf. Matt. 6:33). The paramountcy of the message of eternal life or salvation needs to be re-emphasized in Ghana. This is because, since the turn of the new millennium, many new religious movements or groups have emerged whose teachings and practices run contrary to the primary tenet of the Gospel of Christ.
In this respect, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, have observed with very grave concern various abuses in some worshipping centres in Ghana.
Such abuses are being perpetuated in the name of spirituality, prophetic revelations and divine interventions. These happenings in the Christian fraternity discredit the Gospel and cause people to despise the positive influence of the Word of God. These negative trends must stop because they are unchristian.
Hence, as we celebrate the birth of Christ, we need to remind ourselves that no human person or object should take the place of Christ as the object of worship. Christians should put their faith in Jesus Christ alone (cf. Acts 4:12). Even in the most difficult times, Christ remains our only Saviour. Therefore, instead of pursuing illusive quick solutions, Christians and all other Ghanaians must keep their faith in God and cherish the values of hard work, patient endurance, moderation and contentment.
As God blesses us with a New Year, we the Catholic Bishops of Ghana entreat you all to join us to pray that in 2019:
- our love, especially for those in need, will be modelled on God’s
- we will enjoy peace and unity and endeavour to foster same in all spheres of our lives;
- we will enjoy the full benefits of justice and endeavour to promote it among others;
- we will be humble, responsible and disciplined citizens in all spheres of life;
- we will at all times seek first eternal salvation and encourage others to do the same.
Finally, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, wish you all a merry and
Spirit-filled Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year 2019!!!
Most Rev. Philip Naameh Metropolitan Archbishop of Tamale & President, GCBC.
The Holy See
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
- If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
- … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “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 the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
Vatican City, 20 August 2018
 “But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).
 Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (31 May 2018).
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
125th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC MISSION IN ACCRA ORDINATIONS TO THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD, Saturday, August 25, 2018.
- Sermon: “Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, these words of St. Paul to the Ephesians (1:3-4) fill my mind and heart as I praise and thank God for the gift of the Holy Priesthood itself and the Priesthood soon to be bestowed on these 18 deacons before us. Yes, we should bless God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because, in and through the gift of the Holy Priesthood, God in Christ blesses us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.
1.1: In today’s First Reading, God instructs Moses to take anointing oil and to consecrate the altar and everything that was to be used in his service; and then to anoint Aaron and his sons, consecrating them too. “Thus, by being anointed, shall they receive a perpetual priesthood throughout all future generations”.
Yes, today, by the prayers of consecration and the anointing with the Oil of Sacred Chrism, these sons of ours will be consecrated forever to God and to his service, and, in Christ Jesus they will become a blessing for all their lives to the Church and to all of humanity. Now, since God is holy, he requires of those for his special service like Aaron and his sons to be clothed in the holiness of a perpetual priesthood that finds fullness and fulfillment in his Son Jesus Christ, the Holy and Eternal High Priest (see Heb. 5:1-10).
Let us praise and give glory to God for these spiritual blessings in the heavenly places that he showers today upon us in our Archdiocese!
1.2: In today’s Gospel, we read that Jesus Christ “went up the mountain and called to himself those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons”.
St. Mark names the twelve apostles, and very interestingly we see that Jesus chose even Judas Iscariot, who would later turn traitor and betray him. God’s ways are truly strange and unfathomable!
According to the Gospels, Jesus was in the habit “of going up the mountain” to pray and to commune with God his Father. St. Luke emphatically states that Jesus “… departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk. 6:12).
And so, after communicating with God his Father, Jesus chose his twelve apostles, and in them, he also chose each and every one of his followers of old and of today.
My dear sons, today, Jesus Christ our Lord, is choosing you to be his priests in the same way. He has spent time in prayer to his Father and has chosen you. St. Mark, in his Gospel, gives the reason for which Jesus chose his apostles saying: “they were to be with him, so that he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons”.
My dearly beloved, Jesus Christ chooses us first and foremost to be with him, (literally in order to know him and to know everything that he has learnt from God his Father – see Jn. 15:15); and then we are to be sent forth (as his apostles) to preach his Good News, and to cast out evil in his name.
So, the priest is chosen not because he is the holiest or the best or the most intelligent, nothing extraordinary, but primarily to be with Jesus Christ; to know him intimately and so become the Sacrament of Christ in and to the world, going to preach Christ Jesus the Word of God and to rescue people from the power of evil and of the devil.
Yes, “Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4).
St. Paul in this passage says that God the Father “chose us in him (in Christ Jesus) even before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”. So we are all called and chosen to be holy and blameless before God always.
1.3: Our calling to holiness: This is the message of our Second Reading for today, being called to a life of holiness in Christ. St. Paul exhorts us all saying: “I…urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…”
Further on, he teaches us that “… grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift… he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ…”
Christ Jesus the Son of God is to be the measure and full stature of our holiness. In his Apostolic Exhortation “On the call to holiness in today’s world”, Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and be glad), Pope Francis also teaches us that holiness is not just our vocation, nor is it our mission, it is, in fact, our very nature, because the Lord our God who created us in his own image and likeness, is himself holy; and still more, God desires the sanctification all his sons and daughters (see GE 10; Lev. 11:44; 1 Pt. 1:16; and 1 Thes. 4:3).
My dearly beloved in Christ, please permit me to quote at length Pope Francis’ Gaudete et exsultate 14: “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious…We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.
“Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.
“Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”
According to our Holy Father, our calling to holiness is the fruit of our baptism saying in GE 15: “Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for you can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (see Gal. 5:22-23)”.
Another beautiful teaching from Pope Francis is that: “Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church” (GE 9). And emphatically, “At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life. It consists in uniting ourselves to the Lord’s death and resurrection in a unique and personal way, constantly dying and rising anew with him…” (GE 20).
“In the end, it is Christ who loves in us, for ‘holiness is nothing other than charity lived to the full’” (GE 21).
1.4: And now, my dear priests to-be, do not forget that holiness is first and foremost our nature; holiness is our calling; holiness is our mission. We are called to be saints, because “every saint is a mission,” teaches the Holy Father (GE 19). The Priesthood you will be invested with today is to be your path to fulfilling your call to holiness as enshrined in the questions you would have to answer and in the prayers that will be prayed for you soon.
From my own experience of 41 years as a priest and 25 years as a bishop, only the priest who is a true companion of Christ, constantly in his presence through prayer (devotions and the Breviary), through reading and meditating the Word of God, (literally sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ and listening to him with your heart and soul); only the priest who himself communes and communicates daily with Christ Jesus especially in the Holy Eucharist, and very regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation; only the priest who makes every effort to grow and mature to the full stature of Christ, he can truly be the Sacrament of Christ Jesus in the world, the Alter Christus. He it is who shares Christ with others, because as the saying in Latin goes: Nemo dat quod non habet! (No one gives what he/she does not have!)
This is your path to holiness my sons. My prayer for you and the prayer of all the faithful People of God gathered here today because of you, is that you will be holy priests so that you mirror Christ Jesus the Eternal High Priest to the world and witness to him by your very lives.
May your life be attractive to all you come into contact with! May Mary the Mother of all Priests always intercede for you so that you may become truly the Sacrament of her beloved Son Jesus Christ, for Mary loves all priests exceedingly well, since she sees in every priest her Son!
“O Almighty and Eternal God…increase the gifts you have given to our Church so that we…may grow in holiness of life and be truly ardent disciples of Your Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (from the 125th Anniversary Prayer).
Arise, Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Apostolic Administrator of Accra &
Metropolitan Archbishop of Cape Coast.
- A few remarks at the end of the Ordinations:
- About the Pope’s Letter to the People of God… Pope Francis says that “If one member suffers, all suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). And so he is inviting us all “…as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit… Together…every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion…”
- Our Holy Father says: “To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command (see Mt. 17:21). This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse”.
- I hereby direct that we spend the whole month of September in prayer and penance for forgiveness and healing, and especially for the conversion and change among us priests and religious in the Church universal and in our Catholic Archdiocese of Accra too.
- I ask that we hold 72 hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from Thursday, September 13 through Friday, September 14 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to Saturday, September 15 – Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. I ask the Liturgical Commission to come up with modalities for the Triduum, and some guidelines for the whole month of September.
- My next big concern is the Holy Spirit Cathedral Restoration; please my dearly beloved in Christ, I would like to be able to raise the Gh Cedis 10 million we have estimated for the Restoration. So far we have been able to raise just about Gh Cedis 3.5 million. I need a further 6.5 million. The Holy Spirit Cathedral fully restored will be my greatest legacy I pray you help me to leave to this Archdiocese.
- Finally, please do not forget the 125th Anniversary Prayer and the Climax, which, God willing, comes off on Sunday, November 25, 2018, Solemnity of Jesus Christ the Universal King, at the Black Star Square.
ON THE APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
“AMORIS LAETITIA” (ON LOVE IN THE FAMILY) ISSUED BY THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and all men and women of goodwill who live in our homeland Ghana, we, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, bring you warm greetings. May the grace and peace of God the ‘Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name,’ be with you (Ephesians 3:15).
The Lord God has been gracious to us and to our nation Ghana and her citizens. Last year, we had a very peaceful transfer of power from one political administration to another following successful and peaceful elections in December 2017. Within the same year, we also celebrated with joy and gratitude to God our nation’s 60th Independence Anniversary, and this year, we are blessed once again as we celebrate the gift of a new year after our Diamond Jubilee. For these and many other blessings, we join all Ghanaians, home and abroad, and all peoples who reside in our land, to thank God for how far He has brought us. We pray that God will continue to look with a serene and kindly countenance on us and continue to bless us with His peace even as we join hands in working together to build our nation in the years ahead.
The Joy of the Family is Our Theme
In 2014 and 2015, our Holy Father Pope Francis, convoked two Synods on the Family in Rome to bring the Church together to reflect anew on the vocation and mission of the family. In the light of the challenges that the present-day family faces, the Synods on the Family discussed new and fresh pathways and made recommendations on how the Church can best assist today’s family to overcome the challenges it faces so that the family can continue to play its God-given role as the basic unit of Church and society.
On 19th March, 2016, following the end of the deliberations of these Synods, the Holy Father issued a post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, under the title, Amoris Laetitia (the Latin for ‘The Joy of Love’). Containing the fruits of the discussions that went into the two Synods, Amoris Laetitia was intended to be used by both the Universal Church as well as Particular Churches as an important guide on the mission and vocation of the family in today’s world. In presenting Amoris Laetitia to the Church and the world, Pope Francis considered the diverse socio-cultural contexts of the global Church and emphasized the need to incarnate and inculturate the document. He states: “Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Church). For some questions, each country or region can seek solutions better suited to their culture and sensitive to their traditions and local needs” (Amoris Laetitia, 3). In this way, the Holy Father’s emphasis on the need to contextualize Amoris Laetitia is apparent and without doubt.
We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana, are not only grateful to the Pope for his post-Synodal Exhortation but we are also grateful to him for his invitation to apply the document in a way that suits our local context as Church-family of God in Ghana. In the light of this understanding and having studied carefully the rich contents of this recent Church document on the Family, we wish to share with our Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters, and with all Christ’s lay faithful and indeed, all people of goodwill, the joy of the family in this Pastoral Letter.
In issuing this Pastoral Letter, we are not only affirming the hope we have in the ability of the family to live up to its divine role amidst the numerous challenges it faces today, but we are also assuring all families in Ghana that they remain always in our prayers and can count on us and on our priests and other pastoral agents for the needed support and encouragement.
Amoris Laetitia in the Light of the Church’s Teaching on Family and Marriage
The post-Synodal Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is but one more addition to the Church’s rich patrimony of documents on Family and Marriage Life. Previous Church documents on the Family such as the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (On The Regulation of Births) and Pope St. John Paul
II’s Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), have all dealt with the vocation of the family according to the Gospel and as affirmed by the Church over time. Amoris Laetitia not only quotes extensively from these documents, but more importantly, upholds, reiterates and re-presents their perennial and unchanging teaching on the family based on the nature of man, but especially on Sacred Scripture and
Sacred Tradition. Faithfully following the Church’s traditional teachings on the Family and in conformity with these earlier Church documents, Amoris Laetitia emphasizes that:
- a) The family is the icon of God, when teaching that, “The triune God is Himself a communion of love and the family is its living reflection … for He has within Himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is l That love in divine family is the Holy Spirit” (Amoris Laetitia, 11). By stressing the family as the icon of God, the document at the same time invites all of us to recognize that everything that impedes the family from playing its role as this icon ought to be addressed appropriately.
- b) God ordained marriage to be between man and woman. The document teaches that when God made man and woman and blessed them, He (God) intended marriage to be an exclusive union of man and woman (Amoris Laetitia, 9). “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” to buttress this point (Genesis 2:24).
- c) God intended marriage to be open to life, when “He blessed them and said increase
and multiply” (Gen. 1:27-28).
- d) God determined marriage to be indissoluble as Jesus affirms: “What therefore God has put together let no man put asunder” (Mat 19:6).
With these teachings on Marriage and Family, Amoris Laetitia reaffirms the importance of marriage and family life, and reiterates the Catholic Church’s unchanging doctrine that marriage must be between man and woman, must be open to life, must be faithful and must be ordained to the good of the spouses as well as the procreation and the education of offspring. In these teachings then, we see that Amoris Laetitia bears great testimony to all the previous teachings of the Church concerning family and marriage life, a long, consistent tradition that cannot be overemphasised.
Applying Amoris Laetitia to the Concrete Context of the Ghanaian Family
Everywhere in the world today, the family is undergoing significant challenges, challenges which continue to rock the very foundation upon which Church and society are built. The Ghanaian family is not exempt from these challenges. As elsewhere, family life in Ghana today continues to face many crises, including the following:
- a) Philosophy of Relativism – The emergence of new philosophies that seek to redefine marriage as a free union between two people who are attracted to each other, whether they are of the same sex or not. This situation threatens to cloud the true meaning of marriage;
- b) Infidelity of Couples – The development and maintenance of sexual relations with other people outside of lawfully constituted marriages continue to afflict many marriages and families with potential break-ups and divorce;
- c) Domestic Violence – The situation in which both married men and women suffer violence and abuse by their spouses continues to occur in many marriages, often leading to fear, oppression, alcoholism, amorous relationships, escapism and refuge in work, injuries, and even sometimes, death;
- d) Cohabitation/Concubinage – Some people continue to cohabit for long periods of time without any concrete plans of going ahead to regularize their marriages;
- e) Divorced and Remarried Catholics – The situation where lawfully married couples are forced by circumstances to divorce from living and lawful spouses to marry civilly, which subsequently leads to their non-admission to the Eucharist, causing pain and suffering to the whole Church; and
- f) Childlessness – When marriage has been for some time without children, and undue pressure is brought to bear on the couples, but especially the women.
These are some of the challenges facing the family in Ghana as elsewhere, but we are not oblivious to the fact that there are many others besides such as migration of spouses, lack of housing, the threat posed by pornography, the abuse of minors and housemaids, lack of respect and attention to the aged and neglect of the disabled, the growing culture of death which promotes abortion, masturbation and homosexuality, among others. All these continue to plague the Ghanaian family.
In the face of these many challenges, we, your Pastors wish to assure you that God does not abandon His people in their difficulties and His Church on earth will not abandon you. The Church in Ghana will continue to accompany all families, especially wounded and distressed ones, to help them not to despair but to trust in God whose Son, Jesus Christ, heals all our wounds (cf. Isa. 53:7).
Some Pastoral Recommendations
Against the background of the numerous challenges facing the Ghanaian family today and the urgent need for the Church in Ghana to help all families to deal with these challenges, we wish to offer the following recommendations as relevant guidelines of the Church in Ghana on Family and Marriage Life:
- a) Evangelization of families: Evangelization first takes place in the family where parents by word and example become the first heralds of the truth to their children (Lumen Gentium, 11). Amoris Laetitia also recommends that families should not only be evangelized, but they should also evangelize (Amoris Laetitia, 200). The
Church in Ghana assures all families that she will continue to assist parents to play their role as first evangelizers through effective pre-marriage, proximate and post- marriage formation programmes.
- b) A Structured National Marriage Programme: It has become urgent for us to repeat the call we have been making all this while about the need for the Church in Ghana to have a well-structured and sustained national catechetical programme for the on- going formation of all prospective and married We repeat our call to the National Catechetical Commission to lead the efforts in this direction.
- c) Annual Celebration of Family Week: The proposal to celebrate Family Week annually remains important to us, if not more urgent today. In this vein, we encourage all Dioceses, Parishes and Rectorates to give the needed attention to this programme and plan to celebrate it annually in a fitting
- d) Pastoral Formation on Marriage and Family Life: In acknowledging that ordained ministers and other pastoral agents often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems the family faces today, we urge that formation in seminaries, novitiates and other houses of formation should help deepen their candidates’ knowledge in marriage and family matters while priests and religious should endeavour to update their knowledge on family and marriage issues through periodic on-going formation progra
- e) Ministry to Childless Couples: Marriages of spouses to whom God has not granted children present a challenge but they also radiate a fruitfulness of charity, hospitality and sacrifice. The Church in Ghana has a divine duty to minister to such couples, who must be encouraged to accept Amoris Laetitia’s broad understanding of family lif This includes “expanded fruitfulness” which appreciates and welcomes adoption as a good Christian way of welcoming new members into the family and promoting a culture of encounter with all (Amoris Laetitia, 178-179).
- f) Ministry to Divorced and Remarried Couples: Although the Church in Ghana does not intend to admit divorced and remarried couples to the Eucharist without first having had the opportunity for examining individual cases for pastoral and canonical remedy, she will not abandon Catholics who find themselves in this situation. She will continue to help them to understand that they are full members of the Church and very much part of the flock of Christ, the Good S The Church will continue to journey with them in a careful process of prayer and discernment to see the possibilities for rectifying such situations. Diocesan and inter-diocesan tribunals should be resourced and strengthened to deal adequately with these situations.
These recommendations are offered as general guidelines to help the Church in Ghana to make Marriage and Family Life issues one of the topmost priorities. We expect all our Parishes and Rectorates to adopt and use them as guideposts in their marriage formation programmes, and all Dioceses to help the National Catechetical Commission to develop a fuller and more comprehensive document on Marriage and Family Life for the use of the whole Church in Ghana.
Finally, the joy of the family is the joy of the Church and of the society as a whole. In the words of Pope Francis, all of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. The work of building the family as an oasis of joy is a work that is entrusted to the entire Church to do. Both Church and society need to build strong families that can withstand the challenges that today’s globalized world presents to the family. Counting on the support and collaboration of all of you, Christ’s faithful, Priests and Religious Brothers and Sisters and the laity in Ghana, we hope to journey together to build our families to stay strong and faithful to their mission and vocation in the very complex and challenging world of today. We recommend that Catholics in Ghana, particularly Catholic families, would study and familiarize themselves with the contents of Amoris Laetitia, and live it.
May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in whom we contemplate the splendour of true love, grant that our families may be places of communion and prayer and authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. May God bless us and grant us His peace. Amen.
Given on this Friday, June 29, 2018 (Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul)
from the National Catholic Secretariat, Accra
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