Accra, Jan. 4, GNA - The Bi-Annual congress of the National Union of Ghana Catholic Diocesan Priests Association (NUGDPA) opened in Accra on Tuesday with a call on all priests to re-enkindle the flame of the evangelical counsels so that they may continue to enlighten their way of life in the Catholic priesthood.
The Most Reverend Gabriel Justice Anokye, Auxiliary Bishop of Kumasi, said the lifestyle of a diocesan priest was of paramount importance if his vow of poverty was to lay claim to any relevance and credibility.
The four-day congress being held at the University of Ghana, Legon, under the theme: " The Evangelical Counsels: The Way of Life of the Catholic Priesthood," would discuss current challenges of the priesthood and afford them the opportunity to update their knowledge. They will also share their individual and collective experiences of enriching their spirituality and leadership.
Rev. Anokye said the lifestyle of the priest in whichever way has a bearing on his priestly identity and mission, and advised them to be circumspect and guide against pride and other social vices that could bring the priesthood into disrepute.
He mentioned indiscipline, disobedience and "materialistic spirit" as some of the social evils that were unfortunately creeping into the priestly fabric and tasked the congress to find a lasting solution to it.
"Today the priest cannot take things and peoples' critical views for granted anymore. Many people, today, mirror the priesthood by whatever we do, say and have.
"It is therefore, pastorally advisable and charitable for priests and future priests to be clothed in maturity and wisdom," he added.
Rev Anokye urged the priests to be modest, humble and selfless in consonance with the evangelical vow of poverty.
On Celibacy, the Auxiliary Bishop said it was meaningful only in the light of the kind of love, which inspired a priest to offer himself completely and absolutely to God, surrendering his body, soul, heart, feelings and every moment of his life for the sake of Christ.
He said the counsel of celibate chastity could become incomprehensible and difficult to practice if priests did not keep constantly and clearly in mind its basis, meaning and purpose. The Most Rev Dominic Kodwo Andoh, Metropolitan Arch Bishop of Accra, in a speech read for him, said the evangelical counsels should manifest a particular expression of God's call to holiness made to all Christians.
He said the theme for the congress was quite appropriate since there was a perception of a seeming decline in the spirituality among some members of the clergy and that the priests were involved in the acquisition of material things at the expense of their duties. Most Rev Andoh said he hoped that the deliberations would attempt to address those concerns of the Laity.
The Very Rev Father Richard Kyeremeh, President of NUGDPA, said the association was a unifying force that bound them into a strong and vibrant brotherhood.
He said by virtue of their ordination they were given the mandate to present Christ to the world, and to become Christ for others. He urged his colleagues to take up the mandate with absolute conviction and confidence, with the ultimate aim of leading God's people closer to His heart.
"Therefore, we ourselves must be filled with the very life and love of God and live what we teach and preach."
In a speech read for the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I.C Quaye said the theme could not have been more appropriate because "we live in a Ghana and in a global village beset on all sides by suffocating immorality and decay comparable, only, I think, to the situation prior to the biblical destruction of the world in Noah's day". He said against that background, the Catholic Clergy needed to be constantly reminded about the lifestyle of Christ contained in the Evangelical Counsels, which he hoped would be deliberated upon at the congress.
Sheikh Quaye said he believed that the congress would enable participants to re-examine themselves against the back-drop of the evangelical counsels to make amendment where they had fallen short of expectation, "bearing in mind that perfection is beyond our grasp, but knowing that by forever reaching out for it, we will attain our highest good."