PRAYING FOR THE DEAD – WHERE IT IS IN THE BIBLE
Mere reason suggests there must be a purgatory. So many people seem to be good, but not so greatly good that they should be for Heaven at once. Again, not nearly all are so evil as to deserve Hell. So there should be a means of purification and paying the debt of temporal punishment for those not for Hell, nor for Heaven at once.
For many Catholics in English-speaking lands, belief in the ability of the living to help the dead through prayer and sacrifices often falls prey to cultural suspicion about the Church’s belief in Purgatory because most English-speaking Catholics live in countries whose culture is primarily Protestant. As a rule, Protestant Christians believe neither in Purgatory nor in the living person’s ability to be of assistance to the deceased. This is because at the time of the Protestant Reformation, among numerous other texts, Martin Luther removed from the Bible that section which teaches that there is great value in praying for the dead.
The text reads, “He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the Resurrection in mind; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin” (2 Mac 12:43-6). This text from Maccabbees, which Protestant bibles do not contain, conveys the scriptural basis for the Church’s belief that some of those who have died who will be saved have not yet achieved heaven (i.e. they are in Purgatory), and that the living can provide help for those souls by performing prayers and sacrifices.
Catholic faith holds that we can indeed continue to care, help and express generosity toward people even after they have died through prayer. Because the Book of Maccabbees ranks among those texts that Luther been [sic] edited out of the scriptural canon, Protestantism is bereft of this consoling ingredient of our Christian patrimony. In Christian lands that are primarily Protestant, the Protestant sense of the futility of praying for the dead has easily entered into the popular consciousness, regrettably causing even some Catholics to question the practice. It behooves pastors not only to clarify this belief for their flocks, but to encourage the growth of the Catholic observance of praying for the dead and in particular, of offering Masses of the dead.
It must be acknowledged that the Church has a very limited understanding of the specifics related to Purgatory, yet Church teaching on the existence of Purgatory is made clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church , articles 1030-32, which begins with “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (1030). The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned (1031) .
Ancient Christians believed in the practice of praying for the dead. Many locations in the ancient catacombs reveal passages marked into the walls reminding the living to pray for the dead. St Monica begged her son, St Augustine, to pray for her after her own death. In 1439, the Second Council of Florence acknowledged that some souls must still expiate for past sins after their death and they do so in Purgatory. The 16th-century Council of Trent, legislated “that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar”.
Catholic faith is unambiguous in its belief that those who die without mortal sin but with many of life’s imperfections still unhealed will experience a time of perfect healing from sin and brokenness and a time for whatever expiation from sin the merciful God requires of a soul before that soul may enter Heaven. Further, the Church has been clarifying for centuries that prayers, sacrifices and most particularly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, are of assistance to those souls who are in Purgatory.
Several extracts from the Mass reveal the Church as she understands her ability to be of help to the dead. In the First Eucharistic Prayer at Mass we pray: “Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen)” The Second Eucharistic Prayer reads: “Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face”. When Eucharistic Prayer 3 is used in Masses for the Dead, the following is prayed: “To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom. There we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord through whom you bestow on the world all that is good”. Each of these liturgical prayers officially acknowledges that some of the dead who will be saved are not yet in Heaven and that the Church’s prayers are helpful to them.
The understanding then, that prayers, sacrifices and particularly the offering of the Mass helps the souls in Purgatory, prompts one to ask why in the world a Catholic would choose to memorialize a deceased person by making a gift of flowers or a charitable contribution to an agency instead of arranging to have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for that person’s soul. Certainly flowers provide solace for the survivors, and the Church urges all toward acts of charity, so these are good and holy gestures that should not be eliminated. But they should not run competition with the pious practice of having Masses offered for the dead as well. The greatest favor anyone can make to a deceased person is to have the Mass offered for them; nothing surpasses this in efficacy.
The Catholic Church always Commemorate the feast of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls day) on November 2, it is especially important to recall the Church’s teaching that there is indeed a Purgatory in which the souls of the saved but imperfect are awaiting the fulfillment of their purification and healing, and that these souls can be greatly helped by the prayers, sacrifices and Masses offered by the living. This is an aspect of the Catholic patrimony that must not be forgotten or de-emphasized. Justice demands that our brothers and sisters in the faith who have died find in us faithful friends who acknowledge that It is indeed a good and pious thing to pray for the dead.
May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God always rest in peace. Amen
WHY CATHOLICS PRAY FOR THE DEAD – A VIEW
“But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob ‘? “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.” (MARK 12:26-27)
Catholics believe, as you rightly said, that through faith we have been immersed and “inserted” in Christ; therefore,
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (GALATIANS 2:20)
Precisely because Christ lives in me and I in him, I believe that I shall never die. I have passed from death into life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (JOHN 5:24)
Catholic believe that all who believe in Christ are ONE WITH Him. We are all ONE (Unum) WITH (Cum) Christ. Cum + Unun = Communion! We are the ONE BODY of Christ with Christ Himself as the HEAD.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Therefore Catholics believe that the Body of Christ that meets for worship includes all who have been baptized into Christ and are members of His Body. These form the COMMUNION OF SAINTS. This is why their Worship IN and WITH Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit far surpasses that of Moses on Sinai!!!
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (HEBREWS 12:18-24)
Go back and read these words again. Catholics take God’s Word in the Bible seriously.
Now listen to this also. These are Jesus’ own words. You should be good at debunking Jesus on what He says to Martha:
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (JOHN 11:24-27)
This is why if you took a little time with a little humility to listen and not presume to know more than Catholics about their own beliefs and practices, you might discover why the Lord’s Supper (Eucharistia, Anamnesis, Communion, Mass) is the most important and SUPREME act of WORSHIP. Just listen to Jesus’ own words,
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (JOHN 6:51-60)
My brother, does this sound like those who have bodily died in Christ are not spiritually alive in Him? They are dead in the flesh but alive in the spirit. They are alive in Christ. They are not spirits wandering and lingering all over the place but ALIVE IN CHRIST!! Notice also that Jesus Himself was put to death in the flesh (as his body l lay dead for three days in the tomb) but was made alive in the spirit so that He could descend into Hell and proclaim freedom to those dead since Noah!!
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Where are the Saints? They are with the Lord. This is glorious. In fact the Apostle Paul believes that death in the flesh meant “going to be with the Lord”.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)
Where is Christ? Is the Lord dead? Where are those who have believed in His, suffered for Him and patiently endured with Him? When they die, where are they? Apart from the Catholic Church, try and pose these same questions to fifty different protestant churches and any of the remaining thousands of groups, and you will get fifty different answers and thousands other conflicting responses – all claiming to be speaking faithfully from the Bible ALONE! It is no news therefore that a protestant disagrees with a Catholic. This is because, among themselves, they have all never agreed on ONE SINGLE thing except that they all don’t want to be Catholic!
The Book of Revelation is written symbolic futuristic (apocalyptic) in genre but actualistic (for present) in meaning says of the saints,
“After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. 10 They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures. Then they threw themselves face downward in front of the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!” One of the elders asked me, “Who are these people dressed in white robes, and where do they come from?” “I don’t know, sir. You do,” I answered. He said to me, “These are the people who have come safely through the terrible persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-14)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?
Do you believe in God?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Some even don’t know what they believe!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By: Rev. Fr. John Kofi Takyi
READINGS FOR NINE LESSONS & CAROLS
1st Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15, 17,19
2nd Lesson – Genesis 22: 15-18
3rd Lesson – Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7
4th Lesson – Micah 5: 2-4
5th Lesson – Matthew 1: 18-23
6th Lesson – Luke 2:1-7
7th Lesson – Luke 2:8-20
8th Lesson – Matthew 2: 1-12
9th Lesson – John 1: 1-14
God bless you.
WHY JESUS CHRIST IS THE FOUNDER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Christ established one Church with one set of beliefs (Eph. 4:4–5). He did not establish numerous churches with contradictory beliefs. To see which is the true Church, we must look for the one that has an unbroken historical link to the Church of the New Testament. Catholics are able to show such a link. They trace their leaders, the bishops, back through time, bishop by bishop, all the way to the apostles, and they show that the pope is the lineal successor to Peter, who was the first bishop of Rome. The same thing is true of Catholic beliefs and practices. Take any one you wish, and you can trace it back. This is just what John Henry Newman did in his book An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
He looked at Christian beliefs through the ages. Starting with the nineteenth century (he was writing in 1844), he worked backward century by century, seeing if Catholic beliefs existing at any particular time could be traced to beliefs existing a century before. Back and back he went, until he got to New Testament times. What he demonstrated is that there is a real continuity of beliefs, that the Catholic Church has existed from day one of Church history, that it is in fact the Church established by Christ.
Newman was not a Catholic when he started the book, but his research convinced him of the truth of the Catholic faith, and as the book was finished he converted. Fundamentalist leaders make no effort to trace their version of Christianity century by century. They claim the Christianity existing in New Testament times was like today’s Protestant Fundamentalism in all essentials.
According to modern Fundamentalists, the original Christian Church was doctrinally the same as today’s Fundamentalist churches. When Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 313, pagans flocked to the Church in hopes of secular preferment, but the Church could not assimilate so many. It soon compromised its principles and became paganized by adopting pagan beliefs and practices. It developed the doctrines with which the Catholic Church is identified today. Simply put, it apostatized and became the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, true Christians (Fundamentalists) did not change their beliefs but were forced to remain in hiding until the Reformation.
The trouble with this history is that there are no historical facts whatsoever to back it up. Distinctively Catholic beliefs—the papacy, priesthood, invocation of saints, sacraments, veneration of Mary, salvation by something besides “faith alone,” purgatory—were evident long before the fourth century, before Constantine. They were believed by Christians before this supposed “paganization” took place. Another difficulty is that there are no historical records—none at all—which imply an underground Fundamentalist church existed from the early fourth century to the Reformation. In those years there were many schisms and heresies, most now vanished, but present-day Fundamentalists cannot find among them their missing Fundamentalist church. There were no groups that believed in all or even most, of the doctrines espoused by the Protestant Reformers (e.g. sola scriptura, salvation by “faith alone,” and an invisible church). No wonder Fundamentalist writers dislike discussing Church history!
Since the Christian Church was to exist historically and be like a city set on a mountain for all to see (Matt. 5:14), it had to be visible and easily identifiable. A church that exists only in the hearts of believers is not visible and is more like the candle hidden under the bushel basket (Matt. 5:15). But any visible church would necessarily be an institutional church that would need an earthly head. It would need an authority to which Christians could turn for the final resolution of doctrinal and disciplinary disputes. Christ appointed Peter and his successors to that position.
Christ designated Peter head of the Church when he said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18). Fundamentalists, desiring to avoid the natural sense of the passage, say “rock” refers not to Peter, but to his profession of faith or to Christ himself. But Peter’s profession of faith is two sentences away and can’t be what is meant. Similarly, the reference can’t be to Christ. The fact that he is elsewhere, by a quite different metaphor, called the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:4–8) does not mean Peter was not appointed the earthly foundation. The apostles were also described as foundation stones in a sense (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14), meaning that Christ is not the only person the Bible speaks of as being the Church’s foundation. In one sense the foundation was Christ, in another it was the apostles, and in another it was Peter. In Matthew 16:18 Christ has Peter in mind. He himself would be the Church’s invisible foundation since he was returning to heaven, from where he would invisibly rule the Church. He needed to leave behind a visible authority, one people could locate when searching for religious truth. That visible authority is the papacy.
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COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE HELD AT BOLGATANGA, UPPER EAST REGION, FROM 6TH TO 14TH NOVEMBER, 2015 ON THE THEME:
“THE LAITY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE NEW EVANGELISATION”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13).
We, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have held our Plenary Assembly in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, also known as the “Sunshine” Region of Ghana, from November 6–14, 2015 under the theme “The Laity in the Context of the New Evangelization” and we wish to share with you some of our reflections on the theme. But first, let us give thanks to God for His abundant graces and blessings upon our land and our Church. We recall with grateful hearts the recent successful Synod of Bishops in Rome on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World and the historic two-day Pro-Life Conference in Accra which highlighted the need to defend and promote the sanctity and dignity of life at all times.
Let us praise God for these blessings on the Church and the fact that our country Ghana, even in the midst of some significant challenges, continues to enjoy peace, stability and good will among nations. We therefore call on all Catholics and citizens of our nation to join us to thank God and beseech His blessings for the Church and our nation especially in these times when we begin preparations for our presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the New Evangelisation
Constituting more than 98% of the Church’s population, the Laity are “All the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state sanctioned by the Church” (Lumen Gentium (LG) 31, Christifideles Laici (CL) 9). “The Church is not truly established and does not fully live, nor is it a perfect sign of Christ, unless there is a genuine laity existing and working alongside the hierarchy” (Ad Gentes (AG) 21). That is why the Laity should show active enthusiasm and support for the Bishops’ teachings, especially on temporal matters which is their proper domain.
The vocation of the Lay Faithful in the New Evangelisation is to give a coherent and authentic Christian testimony in the world. It includes the special role of “… so illuminating and ordering all temporal things that they grow in accordance with Christ and for the glory of the Creator and Redeemer” (LG 32). Grounded in their baptism and confirmation and in their charisms, the Laity are the ones who “make the Church present and active in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that the Church can be the salt of the earth” (LG 33). Since they live in the midst of the world and its concerns, the Laity engage in temporal and secular affairs to bring the Gospel into the family, work, profession, trade and commerce, politics, government, mass media, science, culture, national and international relations, etc. It was to raise this awareness, among other reasons, that we organised the 2nd National Pastoral Congress in Sunyani in 2014. We urge all Catholics to study the recommendations and Guidelines of the Congress and put them into practice.
One apostolate that is the prerogative of the Lay Faithful is the Family. They are called to witness to the sanctity of family life and to give a living witness to marriage and family life in the contemporary world. This irreplaceable role of parents in the family cannot be overemphasised because the Christian home constitutes the first school of virtue. It is in this respect that the Christian family becomes the domestic Church.
The Laity and the Year of Mercy
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has declared December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016 as the Year of Mercy. The Church in Ghana will climax this year on October 16, 2016 during the annual plenary of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to be held in Tamale. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year, we invite all our Lay Faithful to reflect on the mercy of God and endeavour to make the Church a credible sign of mercy as “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life” (Misericordiae Vultus (MV) 10). God reveals His love to the men and women of the world through the Church and so it is the Church’s primary task “to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy.” It is the task of our Laity as well as the Priests and Religious to use this Year of Mercy to forgive all wrongs and injuries at all levels of the Church and society. Societies must collaborate with one another, families and friends must come together in bonds of charity and peace. We strongly urge all Priests to fix days and times during the week to give the Laity an opportunity to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Challenges and Prospects of Laity Formation Today
As a Church, we do not fail to recognise that many Catholics are today inadequately instructed in the faith. It seems that the parish and our institutions are unable to do enough, generally speaking, to promote the faith, theological formation and the deepening of the spirituality of the Laity. Many of the Laity fail to make themselves available for these instructions in their respective parishes and institutions where these formation programmes are available. And yet, for the Laity to play their proper roles in the New Evangelization, only attending Holy Mass and receiving the other sacraments are not enough. In addition to these necessities, they need a significant spiritual and doctrinal formation and a better understanding of the Church’s Social Teachings. There is the urgent need, therefore, on the part of both the Laity and the Clergy as well as all teachers of the faith to address themselves to a well-organised formation and education programme to meet the needs, especially, of the Lay Faithful. To fulfil this duty the Clergy, Pastoral and Laity Councils and the Lay Associations need to come together to budget for and to raise the funds for all formation programmes and activities of the Laity in all our communities.
Adequate Christian formation of the Ghanaian Laity
Parishes and outstations must have a systematic formation programme for Lay formation. We strongly encourage all parishes to intensify the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Parishes should work with our Pastoral-Catechetical centres and Catholic Educational Institutions to continually find new ways and new methods of deepening the biblical, doctrinal and catechetical knowledge of the Laity. The respective centres of formation should work with the Laity Councils and Parishes to help the Laity develop love for Sacred Scripture, Church doctrine, Catholic Social Teachings and the Catechism of the Church. Dioceses, parishes, lay associations need also to reinvigorate biblical apostolate among the Faithful. Parishes must be made attractive and have recreational facilities for children and youth as well as qualified personnel for faith formation of the youth. Through daily participation in the Eucharist, and parish life, the Laity take on the apostolate of spreading the Gospel which becomes personal, continual and incisive.
Parish Priests and their Assistants have an important role to support and facilitate the formation of the Laity for the New Evangelization and should show special interest in this apostolate. They should help form Laity who have the missionary zeal to introduce innovative ideas for Lay programmes and implementation.
Lay Associations and Laity Formation
The Catholic Church recognises and approves associations of the Lay Faithful. These societies and associations constitute an important element in the life and mission of the Church. They are expected to strive to promote a more perfect life among members, foster public worship, and learn Christian doctrine. They should continue to animate the temporal order with the Christian spirit. We call on all Lay Associations to dedicate a significant amount of time of meetings to biblical, doctrinal and catechetical formation of their members. Further, societies in the Church should note that, we condemn the commercialisation of religion in no uncertain terms. We therefore urge them and all Catholic Faithful to guard against using any society in the Church for personal financial gains or giving in to the “gospel of prosperity” without the cross.
The Laity and Current Socio-Economic Situation in Ghana
In discussing the role of the laity in the Church’s New Evangelisation, we cannot fail to address ourselves to the numerous socio-economic challenges that confront present-day Ghana. These challenges and situations are the context for evangelization by the Laity in the temporal world in the spirit of Christ. It is the unique role of the laity to direct temporal affairs according to God’s will; being the leaven in the world, manifesting Christ to all in unity with their Priests and Bishops; engaged in their special vocation to make the Church present in the world; transforming the Church to become the “salt of the earth… and light of the world” (Cf. Mt 5:13,14); enjoying a principal role in secular society to spread the spirit of Christ and infuse culture and human works with moral value.
The Laity and Urbanisation
The increasing urbanization of Ghana has brought in its wake the problem of “streetism”. In effect, children who should be in the classrooms are found loitering and/or hawking on the streets of our towns and cities. With increased urbanisation, the practice of prostitution is on the ascendancy while the HIV/AIDS pandemic is still rampant in some parts of the country, particularly, in cities. There are cases of armed robbery attacks in our cities. Even though statistics show that such cases have gone down, we think that there is still more room for improvement in this area. The problems relating to urbanisation also include the fact that urban poverty has increased over the last few years compared with rural poverty. These problems relating to urbanisation may seem daunting but we are guided by faith and hope that united as one people we can surely surmount these formidable challenges. A section Laity is in positions where they can improve the situation. These are called to see such duties as a charge from God.
The Laity and Unemployment
In Ghana today, unemployment constitutes perhaps the biggest social issue confronting our country, a situation which has been worsened by the turning out of many unskilled graduates from our schools. The secondary and tertiary education has not been able to turn out the relevant middle level skilled human resources needed for the industrialization of the country even as large numbers of people, including school drop-outs, continue to throng our cities for non-existing jobs, ending up as head porters or “Kayaye” and “shoe-shine boys and girls”. This army of unemployed youth often engages in undesirable immoral behaviours like prostitution and armed robbery. To stem this tide of affairs, we recommend that the State turn some of the community secondary schools currently under construction into Community Vocational and Technical schools and continue to equip and resource the existing Vocational and Technical Institutes in the country. Parents Guardians should also encourage their wards to enrol in these schools.
While the idea of Technical Universities is good, care must be taken not to rush the proposal through without doing the necessary due diligence to ensure that the aim of the exercise will be achieved. Perhaps, the proposed Long-Term Development plan is a great opportunity to get this policy and programme articulation right. The Laity who are policy makers on education delivery are called upon to work with their co-workers to make Christ’s love felt here.
The Laity and Poverty
Poverty is a direct consequence of unemployment. Every Ghanaian must be alarmed at the abject poverty that stares at us everywhere in the cities, towns and villages. We regret to say that various poverty-reduction interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), Youth Enterprise Support (YES) and the like, though commendable, have not yielded the desired results. It is our strong conviction that policies and strategies aimed at reducing poverty must be pragmatic, realistic and home-grown. Over-reliance on donor-driven or directed programmes must be cut to the barest minimum. The resolve of the global community to bring extreme poverty to an end must challenge Ghana to work hard to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at an earlier timeline before 2030. We urge our Laity to educate themselves and be abreast of the contents of the bail-out package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All the Laity who are employers and business men and women are called by Jesus to help the poor and the needy as much as they can.
The Laity and National Health Delivery
We acknowledge that some attempts have been made to improve the health care delivery system in Ghana with the establishment of some Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds and the building of more health care infrastructure in some parts of the country. We are, however, concerned about the long delays in the payment of health insurance claims to health care facilities, a situation which is gradually leading to the collapse of many of such facilities. We call for an immediate and urgent review of the National Health Insurance Scheme not only to save it from imminent collapse but to position it to serve its intended purpose because we think that this health policy is far better than the cash and carry system of the past.
We also note with sadness and worry the alarming rate of strike actions and lock-outs by health care givers including doctors, nurses and paramedics, and encourage policy makers to do all they can to resolve these issues once and for all. The key to most of these issues, we believe, is the prompt payment of salaries and the formalisation of the Conditions of Service for Health Workers. “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25:36) is Jesus’ invitation to all the Laity to do what is necessary to save the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The Laity and Care of the Environment
Closely linked to the health of the nation is the issue of the care of the environment. Time and again, we have spoken about the need to take good care of the environment on which we depend. We regret to note once again the persistent pollution of our water bodies, the littering of plastic waste everywhere, the careless felling of trees in our forests and savannah area and the rampant illegal mining (galamsey) operations in our towns and villages. We call on our Laity and indeed all Ghanaians to rise up against this indiscriminate destruction of our environment and water bodies. The authorities charged with protecting our natural resources should be up and doing.
We welcome the idea of the National Sanitation Day on every first Saturday of the month as laudable and commendable and appeal to all Catholics and all Ghanaians to actively participate in this exercise as a Christian duty and a civic responsibility. We urge all Ghanaians to acquire the habit, not only to clean up our surroundings but most importantly let us all learn how not to make our environment dirty in the first place.
We also strongly recommend the recent encyclical of Pope Francis on the care of creation called “Laudato Si’ ” to our Catholic faithful and all Ghanaians because it provides a good resource for all, but most especially, policy makers on the care of our environment. We can certainly do with more education on the care of the environment. All the Laity who are charged with the protection of the environment should know that the environment is God’s handiwork. To protect it is being faithful to God.
The Laity, Bribery and Corruption
The twin evils of bribery and corruption have now overwhelmed our Ghanaian society and the recent exposure of alleged judicial corruption by Mr. Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye PI team has left all of us in no doubt that every fabric of our Ghanaian society today is pervasively corrupt. While we commend Anas and his team for this exposure, we reiterate our call for justice to be done in this and all other cases and we do express our confidence in the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council to bring this matter to a fitting conclusion and to reform our judiciary. Once again, we appeal to all Religious Bodies, to our Government, all the people of Ghana and all who dwell in our land to reflect soberly and sincerely on the canker of bribery and corruption and to accept that this is a weakness that is destroying Ghana and repent accordingly.
We appeal to all Catholics, other Christians and all who call on the name of God to bear good witness to their faith by resisting bribery and corruption knowing that there is reward for honesty and integrity. We urge all Ghanaians to join us to pray the Prayer Against Bribery and Corruption daily. While we appeal to all Ghanaians to refuse to give or take bribes, we also believe that all those who engage in acts of bribery and corruption must be made to face the consequences of their actions.
The Laity, Politics and Elections in Ghana
We bemoan the sudden surge in election-related violence in our body politic and call on all political leaders, activists and supporters to refrain from such misconduct. Inter-party and intra-party violence, particularly those witnessed in some parties, are threatening Ghana’s peace and democracy. These unfortunate happenings do not reflect the peaceful and non-violent nature of Ghanaians. We urge politicians to beware of their pronouncements and activities. We believe in the ability of the security agencies to deal swiftly with all reported cases without fear or favour. In the run-up to the 2016 Elections, care must be taken not to allow political activities to degenerate into chaos and violence.
We consider chieftaincy as a noble legacy of our traditions and cultures and expect our chiefs to be fathers to all their subjects, irrespective of the latter’s political affiliations, religious beliefs and economic standing. Chiefs who feel that their vocation lies in active politics can always give up their official traditional position to do partisan politics as the Constitution of Ghana demands. That is why we condemn in no uncertain terms the involvement of some chiefs in partisan politics and call on them to respect the laws of the land and refrain from such acts.
We also condemn the phenomenon of vote-buying and occultism creeping into our national politics, where voters are induced to swear to vote in a particular way, and call on politicians and the Ghanaian electorate to desist from such acts.
On the Voters’ Register and the call for its replacement or revision, we wish to commend the Electoral Commission (EC) for some of the steps it has taken so far to involve all major stakeholders in finding an acceptable solution to the issue. We reiterate our call that all who are involved in this process must be open, honest and truthful in their approach to this exercise. At the same time, the EC must be given the chance and the space to handle the issue dispassionately and objectively in the best interest of the nation.
According to our electoral laws, minors and foreigners should not register for electoral purposes in Ghana. We also propose that in the name of transparency the Electoral Commission display the current voters’ register on its website so that all Ghanaians can check the list of voters and know where their names are located.
On the way forward for a credible voters’ register for future elections, we are of the view that the National Identification Authority (NIA) must be resourced to deliver on its mandate to register all persons, Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, living in the country and to compile a reliable database which can be used by the Electoral Commission to compile a credible Voters’ Register. At the same time, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) must be adequately resourced with personnel and logistics to educate the citizenry on the rights and requirements of voters. We cannot repeat enough our call for an early release of the programme for the upcoming elections which must be the product of the consultations of all stakeholders including the political parties themselves.
The Laity and Ghana’s Education
We reiterate our earlier unchanging position that it is the inalienable right of parents and guardians to choose schools for their wards. We reaffirm our conviction that it is not the right of a computer, programmed by a prone-to-corruption human being, to choose schools for our students. This is why we continue to appeal to Government to abolish the Computerised School Selection and Placement System (CSSPS) and replace it with a more workable and transparent version. We will come out with details of the new proposal soon.
Unit schools have been pivotal in quality education delivery in Ghana. However, successive policies in educational reforms in recent times have systematically sidelined the Educational Units making them ineffective. Because of this the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and other Religious Bodies have for many years engaged the State to come out with clear policies with regard to the Partnership Agreement which has always existed between the Religious Bodies and the State in Education delivery. That is why we call on Government to be transparent in the on-going policy considerations on education reforms. We also urge that action be expedited on the formalization of the Partnership Agreement on Education, submitted by the Religious and other Bodies whose schools are in the public system. We call on the Laity to see the benefits of the Unit Schools and to commit themselves to their effective management as the contribution of Religious Bodies towards quality education delivery in Ghana.
The Laity and Public Financial Management
We are seriously concerned about reports of huge budget over-runs by some sectors, increasing public debt, huge arrears of statutory payments by Government, among many other issues, of poor public financial management. We know that some of these are the result of the absence of a prioritised national development plan which should inform national budget allocations. Others may stem from weaknesses in public sector financial management systems. We hope that the on-going comprehensive public sector reforms will take these into consideration for good financial governance. We pray that national budgets will be instruments for social protection, the elimination of extreme poverty and the promotion of citizens’ well-being.
The history of Catholic evangelization is replete with the missionary zeal of lay people especially teacher-catechists who collaborated with the early missionaries in planting the Catholic faith, in most of the dioceses in Ghana. In fact, most parishes in Ghana were originally started by Lay People using their homes as centres of prayers. These Lay Catechists would travel many miles with missionary priests on foot as interpreters and teachers of the faith to surrounding villages to plant churches. The Laity in the era of the New Evangelization need to rekindle this missionary zeal in the Church, in political and economic governance, in the legal and medical professions etc. In this way the Laity permeate all the areas where they have been sent by Christ with the Christian spirit of love, justice and peace. As you Laity take up their proper role in Church and society we wish to encourage you with the words of Cardinal St. Henry Newmann “We want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. We want an intelligent, well-instructed laity…” (Cardinal Newman, 1851).
Further, St Paul reminds us Priests, Religious and the Laity “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then you must put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Be helpful to one another, forgive one another … as God has forgiven you” (Col. 3:12-13).
God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong! Thank you.
MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU
(BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG &
PRESIDENT, GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE)
Latin Mass Concert (Christmas in Latin)
1. The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.
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1. To all those who shall recite my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and very great graces.
2. Those who shall persevere in the recitation of my Rosary will receive some signal grace.
3. The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against Hell; it will destroy vice, deliver fromsin, and dispel heresy.
4. The Rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies; it will substitute in hearts love of God for love of the world, and elevate them to desire heavenly and eternal good. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!
5. Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.
6. Those who shall recite my Rosary piously, considering its mysteries, will not be overwhelmed by misfortune, nor die a bad death. The sinner will be converted; the just will grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.
7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary will not die without the consolations of the Church, or without grace.
8. Those who shall recite my Rosary will find during their life and at their death the light of God, the fullness of His grace, and will share in the merits of the blessed.
9. I will deliver very promptly from Purgatory the souls devoted to my Rosary.
10. The true children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in Heaven.
11. What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.
12. Those who propagate my Rosary will obtain through me aid in all their necessities.
13. I have obtained from my Son that all confreres of the Rosary shall have for their brethren in life and death the saints of Heaven.
14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are all my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
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