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.
Click here to Download full Letter
COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE
GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
AT THE END OF ITS ANNUAL PLENARY ASSEMBLY HELD IN HO IN THE VOLTA REGION OF GHANA NOVEMBER 6 – 18, 2017
Grace and Peace of God our Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, be with you all (cf. Eph. 3:14-15).
We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have held our annual Plenary Assembly at the Freedom Hotel in Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana from November 6 to 18, 2017 under the theme: “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia”. Our theme was inspired by Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family – Amoris Laetitia (AL), which literally means, “the Joy of Love”, released on April 8, 2016. We are equally motivated, convinced and therefore affirm that the joy of love experienced by our families in Ghana is also the joy of love experienced by the Catholic Church in Ghana (cf. AL, #1).
In the course of our Plenary Assembly, we had a five-day spiritual retreat facilitated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. We paid courtesy calls on the Volta Regional Minister, Hon. Dr. Archibald Letsa, Deputy Volta Regional Minister and some Staff of the Volta Regional Coordinating Council as well as the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State and President of the National House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede XIV and some of his sub-Chiefs and Queenmothers of the Asogli State. We also invited and interacted with Mr. William Darkwah, the Coordinator of the Free Senior High School (SHS) Programme. Among ourselves, we deliberated on our theme and appraised the socio-political situation of our country Ghana. In the context of our deliberations, we wish to share with you the following reflections.
THE SITUATION OF FAMILY IN GHANA
The Ghanaian family is experiencing emerging trends which are at variance with the ideal family image foreseen by the Church’s tradition of faith and morals. Some of these changes began and were noticed decades ago. Such changes include the increase in the proportion of “cohabitation and other sexual unions”, which were initially socially unacceptable, butare now gaining greater social tolerance. The phenomenon of teenage and single parenthood, poor or irresponsible parenting, separate household and distant marriages that make couples live apart are all aspects of contemporary trends in the Ghanaian family of today.
Children are influenced by the current social and digital experiences. Social media rule their lives and they must organize their experiences according to its dictates. Some must battle to find their orientation towards integral development amidst a myriad of alternatives with which they are enticed from different philosophies of life.
The urban elite live mostly in nuclear family systems that are by and large non-traditional in structure. Partners in marriage strive for self-development; they must sometimes maintain more than one job to sustain their desired standard of living and make sure that their children have the best of education and opportunity for growth and success in the future. Those that accept additional responsibilities towards extended family members experience more stress. Some families are in many practical regards alienated from their roots. Their children barely have any connections with members of their extended families and communities of origin. A good number of such children and youth may never have visited their places of origin.
SOME CONCERNS FOR FAMILY LIFE IN GHANA
The traditional vision of marriage and family life in Ghana attaches importance to procreation and sexuality. While social pressure is the same across the various models of family in terms of the place of sexuality and procreation in marriage, concepts, decisions, challenges and their solutions vary across the models. A general trend that seems to be affecting some youth across the social divide is their fixation on sexual functionality, particularly among young and middle-aged men.
The desire to be sexually active and effective among married men compels some to abuse popularly advertised alcoholic beverages, and what is worse, untested traditional or orthodox medication, believed to boost libido in men. Such young men come to realize after a few years, to their humiliation and surprise, that they have not succeeded in their adventure.
Most troubling, however, is the long standing traditional stigma associated with inability to give birth. In traditional Ghanaian communities, this inability is erroneously blamed on the woman, though there is increasing awareness to the fact that this challenge equally occurs in men. This challenge raises the additional concern for family pastoral care in Ghana. The many prayer requests from women and young couples seeking the blessing of fruits of the womb at various Church centres is evidence of the importance of childbirth in marriage and family life in Ghana.
Other concerns include the inadequate availability and involvement of parents in the direct upbringing of their children due to professional and busy-weekend engagements, the way couples and their respective families manage and resolve their differences which sometimes only breeds unforgiveness, instability, bitterness, disunity and consequently separation and the fate of young children in the face of such challenges. The increased monetization and exaggeration of customary marriages (erroneously named ‘engagement’) has become, in some cases, quite burdensome for the average young man in Ghana seeking the hand of a woman in marriage.
Apart from these specific realities of marriage and family life in Ghana, we recall some general experiences and challenges, identified in Chapter 2 of Amoris Laetitia, that may not necessarily be limited to specific cultures. These are extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, freedom of choice that lacks noble goals or personal discipline; and degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others, migration and its effect on populations, the ideological denial of differences between the man and woman, the culture of the provisional anti-birth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation, the canker of pornography and abuse of minors, inattention to persons with disabilities, lack of respect for the elderly, legal dismantling of the family and violence against women.
THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY
Despite the above situations, Christian marriages, as willed by God, are between one man and one woman. Such marriages are open to life and to the children that God grants them. The family remains the domestic Church, the vital cell of the society and it is in it that the Good News of God’s love is known and lived in our midst. Many Ghanaian families, by their witness to God’s will and love, build up the Church and society. We urge all Ghanaian families to remain united in true love and live in mutual understanding. Let us all contribute our best to inspire our society with the timeless values of family life.
INTEGRAL PASTORAL CARE FOR THE FAMILY
- Pastoral Care
We understand Pastoral Care to mean “any assistance offered by the Church – through her ministers or other trained and designated persons – to couples or families in their growth toward the model of family which God the Father Himself intended from the beginning (cf. Gen. 2:18-24) and which Jesus Christ renewed with His grace of redemption facilitated under the guidance of the Holy Spirit”. In making adequate provision for the pastoral care of families, we are conscious of the fact that “the Gospel of the family responds to the deepest expectations of the human person: a response to each one’s dignity and fulfilment in reciprocity, communion and fruitfulness. This consists not merely in presenting a set of rules, but in proposing values that are clearly needed today, even in the most secularized of countries” (AL, #201).
As Shepherds of the Family of God, we respectfully acknowledge that there are some difficult, irregular and imperfect situations of family life that need the most attention and care. Some of the difficult situations include families of migrant workers, families of those in prisons and in Psychiatric Homes, families of alcoholics, families with handicapped children and terminally-ill members, and single-parent families. Trial marriages, free unions, separated or divorced persons who have not remarried, customarily or civilly married persons who have divorced and have remarried, and homosexual unions are but some of the imperfect-irregular situations.
Given the importance of the family in the Church and society at large, the pastoral care of the family is a shared responsibility that involves the Clergy and Religious, Marriage Counsellors, the Parish-Church Community, Small Christian Communities (SCCs), Couples and Associations of Families. Special attention need to be given to the formation of special agents to accompany the youth at their various stages of development, to assist their understanding of the vocation of Marriage and Family-Life and the religious life and to prepare adequately for it.
- Pastoral Interventions
- a) Remote Care: Preparation for marriage begins from childhood; in fact from birth.
The experiences of children from their family of origin may be carried along to their own future families. Those best prepared for marriage are probably those who learned what Christian marriage is from their own parents, who chose each other unconditionally and renew daily that decision. Parents and pastoral agents must intervene to effect this mandate in the life of our children.
- b) Proximate Care: In preparing prospective couples for marriage, Pastoral agents and Marriage Counsellors should assist them to recognize the “good times” and “bad times” of marriage, encourage them to discuss honestly what each expects from marriage, what they understand by love and commitment and what kind of life they would like to build to The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment. In the light of the demands of this stage, we direct that all proximate preparations for marriage shall take normally six months in the Catholic Church in Ghana.
- c) Immediate Care: In their preparation for marriage, the couple must be encouraged to see the sacrament not as a single moment that becomes a part of a past and its memories, but a reality that permanently influences the whole married lif They are to be encouraged to make the liturgical celebration a profound personal experience and to appreciate the meaning of each of the signs. We stress that the words of consent (the marriage vow) cannot be reduced to the present; they involve a totality that includes the future: “until death do us part”. We encourage less-expensive wedding ceremonies.
- d) Post-Marriage Care: As the years of marriage roll on, a couple’s experience of love may grow stagnant and may lose the very excitement that should be its propelling f Those who accompany couples in their marriage are encouraged to teach them that love needs time and space: time to talk things over, to share plans, to listen to and appreciate one another and to build a stronger relationship. Through these, couples learn how to plan and spend free time together, share moments of recreation with the children, celebrate important events together and share opportunities for spiritual growth. In all these, family prayer and spirituality will reap the greatest fruits; ‘for the family that prays together, stays together’.
- e) Care for Difficult and Irregular Situations: Special discernment is indispensable for persons in this category. Care givers shall regard such persons as part of the ecclesial community; not as excommunicat Avoid language or conduct that discriminates, show them respect, make efforts to reconcile and mediate through neutral and impartial interventions. It should be noted that the Christian community’s care for such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity.
GENERAL PASTORAL GUIDELINES
- In cases of civil marriage or even simple cohabitation (in our context, customary marriages), we adopt the recommendation of Pope Francis that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage” (AL, 293)
- In dealing with irregular situations in the case of Marriage and Family Life, “two ways of thinking have been dominant in the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement… The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart… For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (AL, 296).
- “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine teaching of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. (cf. AL,
297). The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the Body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. (cf. AL,
- Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”. The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality. (cf. AL, 305)
ISSUES OF NATIONAL INTEREST
- Education and Free SHS
We commend the government for rolling out the Free SHS programme which seeks to make education accessible for many more graduates from the JHS level. We are aware of the teething challenges of this initiative. We urge that, as a matter of necessity, all stakeholders should help to ease the challenges of overcrowding in the dormitories, classrooms and dining halls of our Schools. A conducive teaching- learning environment is crucial for the effective implementation of the Free SHS programme.
- Phenomena of Land Guards, Political Vigilante Groups and Nomadic
We cannot ignore the fact that land guards, political vigilante groups and nomadic herdsmen have unleashed violence on Ghanaians for a very long time. These groups are employed by Ghanaians to protect their property but often terrorize fellow Ghanaians who have variant interests in the same property. Vigilante groups are creations of some politicians who use them for their political gain. While we commend Government for calling on the security agencies to stop the violent activities of land guards, vigilante groups and nomadic herdsmen; we state that we need more action than words. Government must walk the talk. We demand that our security agencies shall disengage these groups once and for all.
- Mob Injustice
The culture of mob lynching of perceived criminals is a sign of an impatient society that has no trust and respect for due process, rule of law and dignity of human life. We recommend a radical education that acknowledges that every human life in Ghana is sacred and ought to be respected from the moment of conception to natural death. We further encourage continuous education of every Ghanaian to respect due process which is a basic tenet of our democratic dispensation.
- Incidence of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable but sexual abuse against minors is not only evil, but also criminal and a serious indictment on society. Perpetrators of sexual abuses must face the wrath of the law, while we commend them into God’s mercy. We recommend further that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection should collaborate with the Ghana Education Service to put in place feasible structures for child protection in our Basic Schools. Our children should be
informed and formed on how to identify and report sexual predators. We have put in place and are running various interventions on Child Protection in the Catholic Dioceses in Ghana.
- Religious Leadership
We acknowledge with admiration the expansion of the Christian family in Ghana through the ministry of very renowned men and women of God of the new Religious Movements. We congratulate their genuine efforts of evangelization. However, we express complete disapproval for persons whose conduct and ministry only seek to worsen the dignity and capacity of the human person and exploit the resources of unsuspecting Ghanaians.
- Bribery and Corruption
Our previous directives on this issue seem to yield no positive result. We reiterate that corruption in every facet of Ghanaian life is not only perceived but very rife. This is unacceptable and must be dealt with at all times and at all levels of human endeavour. Since corruption is cancerous to the life and vitality of our nation, we call on every Ghanaian – individuals, Government agencies, service providers, public and civil servants – to stand up and to defend the cause of justice, probity and accountability. Ghana must lead and live the crusade against corruption.
- Galamsey menace
We commend Government, the Media, Civil Society and Faith-based Organizations for their tireless efforts in fighting the menace of illegal mining that has plagued our nation. Let us sustain our efforts to reverse the harsh consequences of this self- inflicted destruction. We remind Ghanaians that our natural resources belong to those gone before us, those of us living and those who will come after us. We must therefore refrain from selfish exploitation of our natural resources to the extent that generations after us will be deprived of their fair share of these resources.
- Sanitation and Waste Management
A recent UNICEF report (Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: July
2017 – Updates and SDG Baselines) perceived Ghana as one of the dirtiest countries in the world. This is a shameful record. Let us rally in support of the campaign to roll back our country’s unsavoury sanitation challenges. As a Church, we recently launched an E-waste Management Project to manage electronic waste through aggressive education in order to preserve a safe environment for future generations.
- Traditional Rulers, Values and Customs
Our culture defines and shapes our destiny. We have observed how some religious leaders and their followers show complete disregard for some of our cultural values and customs through the use of demeaning words on radio, television and in their churches. We caution all who engage in such conduct and urge them to show due respect and positive regard to our traditional rulers, values and customs. We, however, reject traditional customs that dehumanize the dignity and wellbeing of the human person.
- Eastern Corridor Road
We appeal to the Government to speed up the construction of the Eastern Corridor Road which is in a deplorable state. The poor state of the road is not only affecting economic activities of the areas concerned but has enormous health and development implications. The road poses great danger to the lives of motorists, traders and tourists.
- On-going Conflicts
We have expressed in previous Communiques our displeasure about the Nkonya- Alavanyo conflict. Various steps towards a peaceful resolution seem not to bear fruit. People continue to die on both sides of the divide; people continue to live in fear; farming and employment avenues are on the decline.
We reiterate our call on all parties, to the on-going conflicts in Nkonya-Alavanyo and Bimbilla, to smoke the peace pipe and work for reconciliation and peace. We entreat the government to open up employment avenues in these areas to engage the youth on both sides. This, we believe, will dissuade them from engaging in activities detrimental to peace efforts.
- Crisis in the Republic of Togo
We have observed with grave concern the destruction of life and property in our neighbouring country, the Republic of Togo; a situation that affects Ghanaian families directly and indirectly. We appeal to the President of Ghana, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to intervene urgently to ensure the safety of Ghanaians along the Ghana-Togo borders. We encourage all to treat refugees from Togo with love and warmth.
WORLD DAY OF THE POOR
We entreat all Catholic Parishes and Church-communities in Ghana to join the Catholic Church worldwide to celebrate the first annual World Day of the Poor scheduled for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sunday, November 19, 2017 – on the theme: “Let us love, not with words but with deeds” (1 Jn. 3:18).
May the Holy Family of Nazareth – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – grant that the families of all Ghanaians may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and may all who have been hurt or wounded find ready comfort and healing through the balm of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Issued on Friday, November 17, 2017
in the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Kpevele in the Catholic Diocese of Ho.
ADDRESS FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE CELEBRATIONS OF THE 125TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC MISSION IN ACCRA ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017, AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHEDRAL, ADABRAKA, ACCRA.
O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
For his great love is without end.
Let the House of Israel say it:
‘His love is without end!’
Let the House of Aaron say it:
‘His love is without end!’” (Ps: 118:1-3).
And now, let the Archdiocese of Accra say it: His love is indeed without end!
- Greetings and Welcome: My dearly beloved sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, all you of the Archdiocese of Accra, nearly five years ago, precisely on November 24, 2013, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, it was with these words of the Psalmist that I joyfully began and pronounced the official closing of the year-long celebrations of our 120th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission in Accra, at the Black Star Square in Accra, and I inaugurated with great hope and expectation the 125th Anniversary celebrations for 2018.
Surely, we all thought, well, let us see when that will be! Today, thanks to the unfathomable graces of God, here we are at the launch of the celebrations of the 125th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission in Accra.
Without any doubt, you and I can once again borrow from the Psalmist that beautiful hymn of the Jewish Pilgrim to Jerusalem which says: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’. And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Ps. 122:1-2.)
Yes, five or so years ago, we set off on this spiritual pilgrimage, a journey of preparation (individually, communally, parochially, and archdiocesan), and now our feet are truly standing on the threshold of the gates of our Jerusalem; our 125th Anniversary Jubilee celebrations. Yes, let the house of the Archdiocese of Accra say: God’s love is indeed without end!
I am happy to welcome you one and all to this event. Permit me to repeat ditto-ditto parts of my address at the launch some five years ago of the 120th Anniversary celebrations which took place here on July 02, 2013. I am saying this lest I be accused of plaigiarism of my own earlier address. I will give a short historical panorama, then I will highlight some of the events lined up for this Jubilee celebration, and I will end with some exhortation to you all.
Our 125th Anniversary celebrations will start on Saturday, December 02, 2017, and close on Sunday, November 25, 2018, on the Solemnity of Christ the King with Holy Mass to climax it all again at the Black Star Square in Accra, God willing. Again, this will be a year-long celebration throughout the entire length and breadth of the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra.
- A short historical panorama: For your information, the Catholic Church in Accra began with the first Holy Mass on the soil of Accra on January 31, 1893, by Rev. Frs. Otto Hilberer and Eugene Raes, two priests of the Society of African Missions (SMA) who were sent from the Elmina Mission that had started in 1880.
In the same 1893, the first Catholic Baptism in Accra took place of Mr. Louis James Buckle on May 25, and the first Holy Matrimony was celebrated between Herbert Cheetam and Rose Mary Quaye on August 12, 1894. However, in 1895, the Accra Catholic Mission had to be closed down for Frs. Hilberer and Raes to return to Elmina to take up priestly duty there as a result of the successive deaths of their SMA confreres in that Mission due to tropical illnesses of malaria and yellow fever. The Catholic community of Accra was, therefore, left in the care of a Church committee led by Messrs Andoh, Brown and Yankah.
It was only in 1924 that Rev. Fr. Joseph Stauffer SMA was posted to Accra, and he purchased an old cocoa shed situated on the Derby Avenue, which he later refurbished and turned into a chapel that was dedicated in 1925 as the Sacred Heart Church (of today), the premier Church and parish of Accra.
The SMA Fathers ministered to the growing Catholic community here until 1939 when they handed over the then Eastern Province of the Gold Coast colony to the Society of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD). Rev. Fr. Adoph A. Noser SVD became the first Superior of the Accra Mission.
In 1947, Fr. Noser was appointed the first Bishop of Accra, and on February 08, 1953, he laid the cornerstone of this magnificent Holy Spirit Cathedral. In the same year, Bishop Noser was transferred to Papua New Guinea to be the Archbishop of Alexishaven. He was succeeded as Bishop of Accra by Rev. Fr. Joseph Oliver Bowers SVD, JCL., an African-Caribbean from the Commonwealth of Dominica, who became the first black bishop of the Gold Coast.
After three decades of solid, foundational missionary work here, in 1971, Bishop Bowers was transferred to the West Indies, his hometown, and he was succeeded by the first Ghanaian Bishop of Accra that same year, in the person of the Most Rev. Dominic Kodwo Andoh DD., JCD, my predecessor. It was during Bishop Andoh’s episcopacy that the Catholic Diocese of Accra was elevated to the status of a Metropolitan See in 1992, and the Catholic Diocese of Koforidua was created by Pope (now St.) John Paul II. Archbishop Andoh, the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, led this Archdiocese to celebrate the Centenary of the Catholic Church in Accra in 1993, and he retired in 2005. The rest is recent history!
(Now, since the mortal remains of my two predecessors, Bishop Bowers and Archbishop Andoh, lie here in this Cathedral, let us rise and observe a moment of silence in prayer for the repose of their souls; one day, may they be counted officially among the saints of the Church as our patrons! *** Eternal Rest grant unto them o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them! May they rest in peace! Amen! Let us sit!)
- Theme and programmes for the Jubilee: The chosen theme of this Jubilee is “125 Years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing our commitment to Evangelization”. It was inspired by the theme of the Second Synod of our Archdiocese celebrated in February 2009. To refresh our minds, the theme of the Synod was: “Renewing the Church and fulfilling our Vocation and Mission in the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra in preparation for its 125th Anniversary”.
Here in my hand is a copy of the Acts of that Synod, and, for the past ten years almost, we have been implementing the recommendations that were given for the strategic development of our Archdiocese, spiritual, financial, material and institutional. Sometime during these Jubilee celebrations, I believe, we shall have to have an Archdiocesan Pastoral Congress in order to give account of the state of the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra to you, my dear People of God.
Again, for your information, after a lot of reflection and evaluation of our 120th Anniversary celebrations and our preparations towards this Jubilee, we decided to declare as our official Archdiocesan Slogan: “Arise Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!”
It was also decided to maintain as our Archdiocesan Logo a slightly modified version of the 120th Anniversary Logo. This will from now onwards be the official logo for the Archdiocese of Accra until another decision is made in the future.
My dear brothers and sisters, my dear priests and religious, here is a copy of the 125th Anniversary programme of activities! The celebrations should involve all Catholics of the Archdiocese in all our outstations and parish communities, in all our Church societies and pious associations, our apostolates and ministries. We are going to have celebrations on deanery as well as on Archdiocesan levels, of course. Parishes and deaneries are to put in place their own local organizing committees to work hand in hand with the Archdiocesan 125th Anniversary Celebrations Committee.
The year’s programmed activities aim at the three goals indispensable to the mission of the New Evangelization; they are to foster and deepen
- the spiritual growth in Christ (see Eph. 4:13) and the development of all our Catholics, children and youth, men and women, priests and religious, etc.;
- the correct knowledge and intellectual appreciation of the Catholic faith and doctrines (see Hos. 4:6);
- the spirit of fellowship and communion among the Church members, Church societies, parishes and in the Archdiocese, as well as with the universal Church (see Acts. 2:42-47).
Some of the programme highlights are:
- Monthly Focus of Archdiocesan intentions for prayer and talks in parishes/outstations/rectorates and to be included in the various society programmes;
- the Archdiocesan Opening Ceremony on Saturday, December 02, 2017; Deaneries are to organize Rosary Pilgrimages and Processions from vantage points to the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Accra, for the First Advent Vespers. This is to replace the usual monthly Marian pilgrimages to the Grottos;
- The Official Parish Opening of the 125th Anniversary Celebrations on Sunday, December 03, 2017 in every parish/outstation/rectorate of the Archdiocese;
- The whole of the month of December should focus on Children as God’s gift to the Archdiocese;
- Saturday, December 30, 2017, Archdiocesan Carnival at the El Wak Stadium to showcase the cosmopolitan nature and cultural diversity of our Archdiocese with very colourful ethnic pageantry and cultural display. Come, one and all! Let us have fun;
- The next event of importance is the Commemoration of 125th Anniversary of the First Holy Mass in Accra scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at 14.00 GMT to take place where the SMA missionaries first celebrated Holy Mass on the soil of Accra. We are hoping to celebrate the Holy Mass in Latin, and follow that with a candle light procession with the Blessed Sacrament through James Town to the Sacred Heart Church on the Derby Avenue, Accra.
Two other very important events in the year ahead of us are:
- the completion of the Restoration of our Cathedral,
- and the 125th Anniversary Jubilee Lectures in Accra and Tema Metropolises.
The rest are in this brochure for you to keep and observe. They will be communicated to you in the various parishes, outstations and rectorates.
- Conclusion: Yes, my dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, my dear Religious Sisters and Brothers, and dear brother priests and co-shepherds, our friends of the Media, print and electronic, let me conclude again with the Psalm that I started:
O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
For his great love is without end.
Let the House of Israel say it:
‘His love is without end!’
Let the House of Aaron say it:
‘His love is without end!’” (Ps: 118:1-3).
And now, let the Archdiocese of Accra say it: His love is indeed without end!
Yes, indeed, the Lord our God has been good to us in the Catholic Mission of Accra. In the last 125 years, He has blessed us and we have grown from a mission station into the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Accra, the Catholic Diocese of Koforidua, and the Apostolic Vicariate of Donkorkrom. We cannot enumerate the number of the Churches and chapels, educational facilities, from first cycle through secondary, vocational and technical to tertiary, hospitals, clinics and other health-care delivery as well as the many social services institutions, etc.
Yes, here and now, our feet are standing within the gates of our Jerusalem, on the threshold of the 125th Anniversary Celebrations of the Catholic Mission in Accra. It is our hope and prayer that we will complete this year-long celebration under the maternal protection and solicitude of Mary the Immaculate Heart, Patron of our Archdiocese, whom we have been celebrating as Our Lady of Fatima in this Centenary Year.
My dear People of God, it is with the utmost sense of humility and gratitude that I now declare officially launched the celebrations of the 125th Anniversary of the Catholic Mission of Accra, in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
St. Peter Claver, pray for us!
St. Martin de Porres, pray for us!
All you Holy Martyrs of Uganda, pray for us!
And may St. Matthew on whose feast day we launch our 125th Anniversary Celebrations intercede for us!
Arise Catholic Faithful! Rejoice and Renew!
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!”(Eph. 3:20-21).
Most Rev. Charles G. PALMER-BUCKLE,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra.
PRIESTLY ORDINATIONS FOR THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ACCRA ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 26, 2017.
- Sermon: “The Eucharist and the New Evangelization”, Mary, Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Priesthood are some of the various thoughts that come to my mind for today’s Ordination sermon.
SERMON FOR THE INSTALLATION OF
MOST REVEREND GABRIEL EDOE KUMORDJI, SVD.,
AT CHRIST THE KING CATHEDRAL, AKATSI
ON SATURDAY, MAY 13, 2017.
- Greetings and Gratitude: “At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation”.