FRANCIS CARDINAL ARINZE VISITS SIERRA LEONE
His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze landed at the Lungi International Airport, Freetown, on Friday the 29th of January, 2010, for a ten days visit to Sierra Leone.
He was received at the airport by His Lordship Bishop George Biguzzi, some members of the Clergy, Religious, and representatives of the Laity from the Diocese of Makeni in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.
He spent the night at Lungi. The next day, Saturday the 30th, the Cardinal was accompanied by an entourage to Makeni, where he was canonically received into the Diocese. That same day, the Cardinal ordained two deacon and two priests.
In his homily, the Cardinal drew attention to the Catholic Priesthood. He maintained that a priest must be morally and canonically disciplined. Priests must live up to the standard expected by the Vatican.
He later visited the Diocese of Kenema in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, where he was received by His Lordship Bishop Patrick Daniel Koroma, the Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Diocese of Kenema.
On the 4th of February he visited the city of Bo, the headquarter town of the Southern Province, which forms part of the Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo. He was canonically received at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Pro Cathedral in Bo followed by lunch with the Clergy, Religious and representatives of the Laity. In the evening he presided over the Eucharistic Celebration.
On the 5th of February, he left Bo for Freetown where he was received by His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Edward Tamba Charles, Archbishop of Freetown and Bo
On Saturday 5th February, he made a brief visit to the St. Paul’s Major Seminary at Regent and celebrated mass with the Seminary Community. In his brief homily, he emphasized his usual position that priests and seminarians must be disciplined. They must be academically sound and of high moral quality. In addition, seminarians must not only be studious but must be able to pass their exams well and they must exhibit good character. He admonished the priests and seminarians to demonstrate high pastoral zeal. Their spirituality must be paramount. On the issue of celibacy, he cautioned that: “Celibacy in the catholic priesthood is not for discussion but for action”. He also drew attention to the ‘Year of the Priest’ as proclaimed by His Holiness the Pope Benedict XVI.
At about midday, he was canonically received at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Freetown. In the afternoon, he visited the hospice for the poor and the sick of the Missionary Sisters’ of Charity at Parsonage Street, Kissy. In the evening he had supper with the Holy Rosary Sisters at St. Martins Parish at Blackhall Road.
On the following Sunday, 7th February, he was Chief Celebrant at the 10:00 a m Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The mass was attended by invited dignitaries, parishioners of Sacred Heart Cathedral and representatives from parishes in the western area. In his homily, he emphasized the role of the laity in evangelization. He also mentioned the need to encourage vocation in Sierra Leone as this will enhance evangelization. The present number of priests and religious is not enough. The Church in Sierra Leone needs to put premium on evangelization. We must encourage our brothers and sisters to take up the challenge and become priests and religious. Towards the end of the Mass, he was presented with a symbolic gift: an ornamented map of Sierra Leone.
In the evening, he had meeting and dinner with the Nigerian community in Freetown which was graced by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone and other officials of the diplomatic corp, at the St. Anthony’s Parish Hall at Brookfields.
The next day, Monday 8th February, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze departed for Rome. The Catholic Church in sierra Leone is filled with gratitude for this wonderful visit.