MOST REV. JOSEPH OSEI-BONSU,
BISHOP OF KONONGO-MAMPONG AND
PRESIDENT OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE AD LIMINA VISIT TO ROME
OF THE GHANA CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
22ND-25TH SEPTEMBER 2014
Your Holiness, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, it is a great honour for me to deliver this address to you, on behalf of my brother bishops of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the entire Catholic Church of Ghana on the occasion of our visit Ad Limina Apostolorum. We bring you greetings of peace, blessing and good will from the leaders and citizens of Ghana and from the entire membership of the Catholic Church in Ghana.
We have come to visit the thresholds of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul to give an account of our stewardship of the dioceses and archdioceses entrusted to our pastoral care. The object of our visit is also to seek your wise counsel for the administration of our dioceses and archdioceses.
We are grateful for the opportunity of this Ad Limina visit, which comes eight years after our last visit in 2006, which took place during the pontificate of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Holy Father, the Church in Ghana wishes to congratulate you once again on your first anniversary as Pope. We, the Bishops of Ghana, joined the Faithful People of God to pray earnestly for you on the occasion of the anniversary. We reiterate the sentiments that we expressed in the congratulatory message that we sent to you for the occasion.
We wish to express our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to Your Holiness for the appointment of Most Rev. Jean Marie Speich as Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana to replace Most Rev. Leon Badikebele Kalenga who was appointed Apostolic Nuncio for El Salvador and Belize in 2013 after a 5-year duty tour in Ghana. We pledge that we will co-operate with the new Nuncio and support him in the discharge of his duties.
Ghana’s Embassy in the Holy See
We also wish to commend the Holy See and the Government of Ghana for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states. With the appointment of Sir James Bebaako-Mensah as Ghana’s first Ambassador to the Vatican, we believe that the already existing cordial relations between the Holy See and our country will be further strengthened.
Situation of the Church in Africa
Our continent Africa has great prospects for evangelization and contribution to the creation of a just and free society in the world. However, these prospects have not been realized because the continent is plagued by numerous challenges, for example, ignorance, poverty and diseases, including the dreaded Ebola disease, which has recently claimed more than 2,600 human lives in West Africa. We also face daily the problems of bribery and corruption, violence and ethnic strife. In recent times, we have had to grapple with the insurgence of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabab in Somalia, Kenya and Sudan, among others.
Holy Father, we wish to join your call for an end to all conflicts in the world, including those in Africa, and to pray that peace will prevail everywhere. We pledge our prayers and support for all efforts that may lead to a peaceful resolution of conflicts on our continent and elsewhere in the world.
Situation of Christianity in Ghana
According to the 2010 Population Census of Ghana, which put Ghana’s population at 24,658,823, 71% of the people profess to be Christians. Out of this number, the Catholic population is put at 13.1%. Significantly, this shows a 2% drop from the previous 15.1% in the 2000 Population Census.
Situation of the Catholic Church in Ghana
As far as the hierarchy of the Church is concerned, we can report that, at the moment, we are nineteen active bishops, made up of four archbishops, fourteen bishops and one Apostolic Vicar. In addition, we have three retired archbishops. We are most grateful to Your Holiness for the latest addition to the Episcopate in Ghana, namely, Most Rev. John Bonaventure Kwofie, CSSp, Bishop of Sekondi-Takoradi, whose ordination and installation took place on 13 September 2014.
Elevation of the Donkorkrom Vicariate to a Diocese
The Prefecture of Donkorkrom was erected in 2007 and was raised to an Apostolic Vicariate in 2010. During the last seven years, the Apostolic Prefect of the Vicariate, Most Rev. Gabriel Edoe Kumordji, has nurtured the People of God in that jurisdiction and has put in place the necessary pastoral and administrative structures for it to become a diocese. The Conference humbly appeals to Your Holiness to consider the possible elevation of the Donkorkrom Vicariate to the status of a diocese.
On the part of the laity, there is an increasing consciousness of the need to support the universal mission of the church through a greater commitment to the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies. We would like to use this occasion to express our debt of gratitude to the Pontifical Mission Societies for their immense support for and contribution to the growth of the church in our country.
In the light of the 2010 Population Census which indicates a drop of 2% in the number of Catholics, we have taken advantage of the New Evangelization to reach out to lapsed and lukewarm Catholics, while addressing the challenge of Catholics leaving the Church to join emerging Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches.
In line with this, we organized a National Pastoral Congress from 6th to 11th August this year with the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith in Ghana in the light of Africae Munus”. This Congress looked at evangelization in Ghana in the light of the recommendations of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome from 4th to 25th October 2009. It also made use of insights from Evangelii gaudium.
Support for the Training of Priests and Religious
In the last few years, vocations to the priesthood and the Religious life have been increasing steadily in our country. The increase in vocations to the priesthood has resulted in the decision to build two more major seminaries, namely, St. Augustine’s Millennium Major Seminary in Tamale and St. Gregory the Great Provincial Major Seminary in Parkoso, Kumasi. It is also worth mentioning that more and more young men are entering our minor seminaries.
While we thank God for the increasing number of vocations and pray for more vocations, the reality is that this places a great financial burden on us to put up more structures for the use of the seminarians and aspirants to the Religious life. Our lay faithful have been very generous with their support towards the running of the seminaries and we are grateful to them. In spite of this support, we continue to struggle to take adequate care of the needs of our seminarians and aspirants to the Religious life. We entreat individuals, groups and societies in the Church, both at home and abroad, to come to our aid in this regard.
Challenges Facing the Church in Ghana
Ghana is touted as a peaceful country, having gone through six largely successful and peaceful elections in the last 20 years. Our country is also acclaimed as a religious nation owing to the big number of people who profess to be Christians, the proliferation of religious movements and the manifestation of religion at public events. In spite of these positive signs, Ghana is faced with the problems of materialism, secularism and moral decadence, especially among our youth and young adults. The Church for her part is also faced with the threat of Islam and the exodus of her youth to emerging Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.
We are working hand in hand with our Government to find lasting solutions to the evils of secularism and materialism, while engaging with other Christian denominations to tackle the problems of moral decadence and the challenges posed by Islam.
With regard to Islam, we would like to draw attention to the relatively peaceful religious co-existence that we have nurtured and enjoyed with this religion to date in Ghana and our intention to pursue this line further for the good of the country, the sub-region and the whole continent of Africa.
Engagement with the Temporal Order
We see it as our responsibility to do all we can to promote integral human development through providing for both the spiritual and material needs of God’s children. In line with this, we have tried to cater for the educational and health needs of our people through the provision of educational and health institutions that are rendering invaluable service to our people.
In the political domain, we have contributed to democracy and peace in Ghana through the application of the Church’s Social Teaching to public life and through regular communiqués, pastoral letters and statements on pertinent national issues. We have regularly given advice to the political leadership and led efforts in the management and resolution of conflicts. We have also engaged in dialogue with government, Civil Society Organisations and Faith-Based Organisations.
To further enhance the application of the Church’s Social Teaching to public life, we have since October 2013 established the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO) to facilitate regular dialogue with the Government and Parliament on policy issues.
Monument in Honour of Pope St. John Paul II
On 27th April 2014, the Church in Ghana joined the Universal Church to praise, thank and glorify God on the occasion of the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. We recall with pride and affection that from 8th to 10th May 1980, Ghana had the honour and privilege to be visited by Pope John Paul II (now Pope St. John Paul II) during the celebration of the hundred years of Catholicism in Ghana.
I wish to inform you, Holy Father, that the Bishops’ Conference has decided to erect a monument in honour of Pope St. John Paul II in front of the Secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference in Accra, a building that was blessed by Pope St. John Paul II on his visit to Ghana in 1980. This monument is intended to be a constant reminder to us and to all the people of God in our country that a Pope who later became a saint once walked on our land and even kissed it and that the Church is called to walk the road of holiness following the example of the saints, not least Pope St. John Paul II.
Invitation to Visit Ghana
Your Holiness, as we have already mentioned above, your predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, visited our country in 1980 on the occasion of the centenary of the Catholic Church in Ghana. The visit gave the Catholic Church in Ghana a great spiritual uplift. We would be most grateful if your Holiness would visit your flock in Ghana and in other parts of Africa at your earliest convenience. Such a visit will give our faith a great boost and will be a source of inspiration to the Catholic Church in Africa.
Our prayer is that God will continue to bless Your Holiness with His peace and joy and grant you good health and the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit as you continue to steer the affairs of the Church.
We entrust you to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and pray that united ever more closely with you and with one another, we, the bishops of Ghana, will continue to lead God’s flock in Ghana towards the Kingdom of God.
On this note, we pledge our prayers and obedience to you and your successors. I thank you, Your Holiness, on behalf of my brother bishops and archbishops for the opportunity to meet with you at this year’s Ad Limina visit. May God richly bless you and I thank you for your kind audience.
Rose S Bonsu