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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Pope Appoints Archbishop Onaiyekan as a Cardinal

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday24th October 2012 in Rome, Italy, announced the appointment of Archbishop John Onaiyekan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja as a Cardinal-elect after the papal audience.  He was appointed amidst five other non-European prelates. The new cardinals-elect are the American James Michael Harvey, Lebanon’s Bechara Boutros Rahi, India’s Baselios Cleemis, Nigeria’s John Onaiyekan, Colombia’s Ruben Salazar Gomez and Filipino Luis Antonio Tagle. November 24 2012 will witness their official inauguration at the St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The unexpected announcement was to bring back the number of cardinals eligible for the next papal conclave back to the maximum of 120 after the death of several cardinals in the recent months. The choice from Non-European prelates was an attempt to incorporate other nationalities amidst emerging criticisms that Europeans dominate among the “Princes of the Church” with Italy having 30 elector cardinals, almost a quarter of the total, far out weighing any other country. 

The appointment was confirmed by The Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo confirmed who is alongside the Cardinal-elect among the representatives of the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in the ongoing Synod of Bishop in Rome. With this, the Number of Nigerian Cardinals rise to four: Dominic Cardinal Ekandem (Late), Francis Cardinal Arinze (retired), Anthony Cardinal Okogie (retired) and John Cardinal-elect Onaiyekan.

Confirming his appointment also, the Cardinal-elect in a telephone chat from his apartment in Rome thanks God for the honour given to the Church in Africa, in Nigeria and in Abuja. According to him “I see the elevation as a great honour to Africa, Nigeria, my country and (Nigeria’s capital) Abuja”. “It is an encouragement for me to continue the good works that I have been doing for humanity,” he added.

Archbishop Onaiyekan has been a notable figure in the Church in Nigeria. Born John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan on January 29 1944 in Kabba, present day Kogi State to Bartholomew and Joann Onaiyekan. He began his formal education in 1949 at St. Mary’s Catholic School, Kabba and attended Ss Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan from 1963 until 1965 before he was sent to Rome where he completed his religious studies in 1969 and was ordained a priest on 3rd August the same year.

He was offered a scholarship by the then Premier of Nothern Nigeria Ahmadu Bello to study abroad where he majored in Biblical Theology. Upon obtaining his doctorate in 1976, he came back home and became the vice rector of Ss Peter and Paul Seminary Bodija in 1977.

He was ordained a bishop on January 6, 1983, and became the Bishop of Ilorin, Kwara State. In 1990 he became Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Abuja, and when the diocese became a Metropolitan See in 1994, John Onaiyekan became the Metropolitan of Abuja. 

Archbishop Onaiyekan was elected to the position of Vice President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in 1994, and he later became the President of that organization in 2000. He was also the former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria. On Tuesday, September 18, 2012, Archbishop Onaiyekan was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as one of the papally-appointed Synod Fathers for the upcoming October 2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

We wish him the best of God’s graces in his new office.

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