President John Agyekum Kufuor has praised the outgoing Metropolitan Bishop of Kumasi, Archbishop Emeritus Peter Akwasi Sarpong for his efforts at integrating African tradition into modern Catholicism, which has enriched the spiritual life of Ghanaians.
He said under his watch, the Catholic liturgy had acquired a distinct traditional flavour which had made worship more enjoyable for many Ghanaian Catholics.
Speaking at the Valedictory Eucharistic Celebration (Farewell mass) in his honour in Kumasi on Friday, President Kufuor described Archbishop Sarpong as an exceptional African religious leader who had not only sacrificed his life for the Church but his people as well.
“Bishop Sarpong is almost unique among others of his calling. He is not only a man of God, but also a scholar and a thoroughbred traditionalist, a veritable son of the soil. This is why he has remained one of us in every sense in-spite of having to live among the community of the religious away from the family,” President Kufuor stated.
He said at times when some evangelists sought to make their followers turn their back on the traditional way of life, Archbishop Sarpong undertook studies into Ghanaian culture first to confirm to himself and then his congregation that Christian life and life as a Ghanaian were not mutually exclusive.
President Kufuor also described Archbishop Sarpong as a patriot, honest and brave person who stood up for the voiceless during some tyrannical periods in the country's political history.
He also praised Archbishop Sarpong for his many contributions to the Ghanaian society, especially in the fields of academia, culture and tradition as well as humanitarian and said his retirement marked not only the end but rather, the beginning of an epoch, when the Christian way of life and the traditional could stretch a hand of welcome to each other.
Most Reverend Thomas Kwaku Mensah, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kumasi, said Archbishop Sarpong shown love and unity during his service and took great interest in national affairs, which made him an enemy of some people.
He said Archbishop had lived in the service of not only God, but the church and Ghanaians as a whole and called for continuous unity among Ghanaians.
Archbishop Sarpong on his part thanked President Kufuor, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and all those who helped to make his pastoral work successful, thereby contributing to the growth and development of the church in the Kumasi diocese.
Archbishop Sarpong was born in 1933 at Maase-Offinso in the Ashanti region and was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1959. He rose to become the Bishop of Kumasi in 1970 and was elevated into the status of Archbishop in 2002.
He is credited for the provision of many socio-economic and health facilities in the Kumasi metropolitan archdiocese and also integrated Asante traditions into the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Sarpong has also written many books on African culture and traditional religion.