Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Leading By Example"... or "Pope Wants Vibrant Parishes"... or "Pope Calls Bishops to Islam"

Earlier today -- a month before he departs for his pontificate's first voyage to Africa -- the Pope received the Nigerian bishops as the body wraps its ad limina visit, now held on a septennial basis.

Praising God and thanking the prelates for the church's "generous growth" of both new Christians and priestly and religious vocations in the continent's most-populous country, B16 offered some pointers for the future, including this notable snip:
Expansion in the Church calls for special care in diocesan planning and the training of personnel through ongoing activities of formation in order to facilitate the necessary deepening of the faith of your people. From your reports I see that you are well aware of the basic steps involved: teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community. You yourselves, together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Now, it's worth pointing out that the Arabic term for "obedience to the will of God" is, of course, "Islam" -- Nigeria's majority religion, comprising half its 150 million residents, compared to 17 million or so Nigerian Catholics.

Also this morning, the Nigerian visit provided an apt springboard for the Holy See to announce the top lineup for October's Second Synod devoted especially to Africa, its theme dedicated to "reconciliation, justice and peace" on the continent.

To lead the three-week gathering as his presidents-delegate, the Pope named Cardinals Francis Arinze, the second Nigerian ever given the red-hat and recently retired Worship Czar, the Senegalese Theodore Adrian Sarr of Dakar and Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban South Africa's lone member of the college.

What's more, while the Roman Curia has no African dicastery-head for the first time in over three decades since Arinze's December retirement as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the coming Synod's all-important post of Relator-General went to Ghana's lone cardinal, Peter Turkson of Cape Coast.

Six languages under his belt and elevated to the papal "senate" in 2003, the appointment will showcase Turkson on the church's global stage for the first time. In itself, that bears watching: the lone Scripture scholar among the cardinal-electors, the Ghanaian's already considerable coterie of fans are unstinting in their near-evangelical zeal for the 60 year-old cleric... and, well, quite the high-profile opening to add to their number has come his way.

In the meantime, however, Benedict departs Rome on 17 March for his pontificate's longest overseas trip yet -- a week in Angola and Cameroon.