PRESIDENT John Agyekum Kufuor, yesterday joined thousands of Catholics and a cross-section of the public to give a fitting send-off to the Most Rev. Peter Akwasi Sarpong, Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Kumasi archdiocese, at the Golden Jubilee Park.
The ceremony, dubbed “Valedictory Eucharistic celebration,” marked the retirement of the Archbishop who was ordained a priest on December 11, 1959.
Archbishop Sarpong, born in February 26,1933, became the Bishop of Kumasi in 1970 and was elevated the Metropolitan Archbishop in 2002.
In a speech, President Kufuor described him as a patriot and unique among others, stressing that “he is not only a man of God, but also a scholar, a thorough-bred traditionalist and a veritable son of the soil.”
The President noted that in the past, evangelists sought to make people turn their backs on the traditional way of life, but in contrast, 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.
On the contrary, noted the President, integration gave a better understanding of what serving God required of everyone consistent with being Africans, because God made human beings in his own image and it could not have beenHis intention that in order to serve Him,” we must be other than African in our worldview.”
President Kufuor pointed out that over the years, the Catholic establishment entrusted Archbishop Sarpong with increasing responsibilities until he was elevated to metropolitan establish some six years ago.
Under Bishop Sarpong's watch, the liturgy acquired a distinct traditional flavour, he said, “and I dare say, worship is the more enjoyable for that reason”.
President Kufuor recalled that there had been times in the political history of this country when honest and fearless men were needed to speak for the voiceless.
“The nation found such a voice in Archbishop Sarpong, and in this respect, his stance on the 'Union Government' comes to mind.
“When it was being foisted on the nation as being more adaptable to governance in the traditional setting, Archbishop Sarpong disputed the thesis and was called nasty names. He bore the insults with grace, in tune with his conviction as a Christian leader.”
According to the President, “some of us were late-comers to the Catholic commission and to some extent, it is thanks to Archbishop Sarpong that we did not remain outside the pale of the communion forever.”
President Kufuor recounted his experience at the Usher Fort Prison after the overthrow of the Busia regime, saying that Archbishop Sarpong “visited us on a number of occasions, demonstrated Christian charity and we appreciated this immensely.”
The President said he first met Archbishop Sarpong in Oxford in the United Kingdom in 1962 to 1963 “when we were both students and I can say that we are kindred spirits.”
He said the Archbishop “has also contributed to the enrichment of spiritual life in Ghana by his palpable humanity and unpretentiousness,” adding that “our Archbishop's retirement marks not the end but rather the beginning of an epoch when the Christian way of life and tradition can stretch a hand of welcome to each other.
For that and much more we should be grateful for the life and distinguished career of Archbishop Sarpong.”
The Most Rev. Thomas Kwaku Mensah, who succeeds Archbishop Sarpong, praised his predecessor for a good work done.
He touched on the contributions of the retired Archbishop, saying that he had embarked on several projects to help in the socio-economic, educational, health and religious sectors of the country.
Quite apart from contributing effectively to the establishment of the Medical School at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Archbishop Sarpong founded eight secondary schools, a technical school, six vocational schools, one hospital, one minor seminary, one novitiate, seven rural health clinics and four village agricultural schools.
For more than 30 years, he said Archbishop Sarpong had had an education fund for needy children who otherwise could not have gone to school, for sick children and children without clothing.
Archbishop Sarpong, he noted, had written more then 1,500 articles in different journals, - national, continental and international - and among his selected books published are the 'Sacred Stools of the Akan', 'The ancestral stool veneration on Asante', The Martyrs of Uganda', 'Culture and the Kingdom'.
Agyewodin Adu- Gyamfi Ampem, Acherensahene who represented the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, also eulogized Archbishop Sarpong for his achievements and hoped he would not retire permanently but continue to contribute his quota to national development.
On behalf of the President, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah, donated an unspecified amount of money to the retired Archbishop.
Again, a street that meanders to TUC, a suburb in Kumasi, has been named after Archbishop Sarpong for his immense contribution to Ghana as a whole.