Posted by Karen on
05/25/2016 07:45:03 PM
Francis Arinze is a native of Eziowelle in Anambra State of Nigeria, born on
November 1, 1932. He was baptized when he was nine years old in the year 1941 by Blessed Cyprian Micheal Iwene Tansi, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
Despite opposition by his father, When he was 15 years old, Francis Arinze entered All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha, where he obtained a degree in philosophy in the year 1950. After his graduation, Arinze became a lecturer at the seminary where he taught until 1953. Later in the year 1955, Francis proceeded to Rome where he studied theology at the Pontifical Urban University, and eventually obtained a doctorate in sacred theology summa cum laude.
Francis Arinze was ordained a priest at the Chapel of the University on November 23, 1958. His ordination was officiated by Cardinal Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian, pro-prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
After his priestly ordination, Father Arinze stayed back in Rome, and obtained a master's in theology in 1959 and doctorate in 1960. Arinze’s doctoral thesis topic was on "Ibo Sacrifice as an Introduction to the Catechesis of Holy Mass". The thesis would later become the basis for his work, "Sacrifice in Ibo Religion", which he published in 1970. Between the years 1961 to 1962, Arinze was professor of liturgy, logic, and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu. While lecturing at Bigard Enugu, Arinze was appointed the regional secretary for Catholic education for the eastern Nigeria. From there, he was transferred to London, where he attended and graduated from the Institute of Education in the year 1964.
At the time he became a bishop on August 29, 1965 at the age of 32, Francis Arinze was the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world. Then, he was appointed titular bishop of Fissiana, and named coadjutor to the then Archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria. He took part in the final session of the Second Vatican Council along with the Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, who was then 45 years old. When the then Archbishop of Onitsha Charles Heerey died in February 1967, Arinze became the new Archbishop a few months later, on June 26, 1967. He was the first African to head his own diocese.
Not long after Arinze settled into his office as the new Archbishop, the Nigeria-Biafra War ensued. The entire archdiocese of Onitsha falls within the territory that answered Biafra during the war. Consequently, Archbishop Arinze had to flee from his see city of Onitsha and live as a refugee, first in Adazi and later at Amichi, for the three years of the war, which lasted from 1967 to the year 1970.
Despite being a refugee himself, Archbishop Arinze worked tirelessly, caring for refugees, displaced persons, the sick and the hungry, giving support to priests and religious, and offering the faithful hope for the future. With the help of foreign missionaries, Arinze supervised what was described as "the most effective and efficient distributions of relief materials" in history, by an international relief worker. He also was very careful to separate the church from the ongoing political conflict, which action gained for him respect of all the factions in the country.
Happy with Arinze's many accomplishments as the head of an archdiocese with few resources, and his ability to work side by side with Muslims, Pope John Paul II in the year 1979 appointed Arinze pro-president of the Vatican's Secretariat for Non-Christians, an institution that later became the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
On April 8, 1985, Arinze became a Cardinal-Deacon of San Giovanni della Pigna, little more than a month thereafter, he was raised to the rank of cardinal-priest. Two days after his elevation to cardinal deacon, Arinze became President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He served in various other related capacities including the president of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
On April 25, 2005, Arinze was advanced to Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni.
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