Accra, April 7, GNA - The Government and the Catholic Church of Ghana on Thursday praised Pope John Paul II for his significant contributions towards the growth of the local Catholic Church, saying Ghana had good reasons to mourn his passing.
Vice President Aliu Mahama and Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle, Vice President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference, said in separate tributes that the local Catholic Church grew in leaps and bounds under the papacy of Pope John Paul II.
At a well-attended holy mass held at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra for the repose of the soul of the Pope, Vice President Mahama said: "Ghana, especially the Catholic Community, will forever remember the strides which the Catholic Church here made during the papacy of his Holiness...
"Perhaps the most memorable were the creation in 2003 of the first-ever Cardinal for Ghana; the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the country; the elevation of the St Peter's Cathedral in Kumasi to the status of a Minor Basilica and the creation of nine more dioceses in addition to the nine existing ones." Besides his contributions to the Catholic Church, Vice President Mahama praised the late Pontiff for his recognition of African traditional values, his advocacy for the cancellation of Africa's debt to free their economies to grow and also his support for victims of HIV/AIDS.
He described Pope John Paul as a veritable Vicar of Christ and a good shepherd of the flock, who gave the entire humanity equal attention.
Vice President Mahama said in the Pope's service to humanity, which took him to 129 countries, including a visit to Ghana in 1980, he met the low and the high, the oppressors and the oppressed, the rich and the very poor, Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Jews and others.
"No barrier proved too high or too difficult to deter him from the crusading zeal of bringing peace, love and justice to the world," the Vice President said of him.
He urged the Catholic world and the entire humanity to learn the great lessons taught by the man, who rose from humble beginnings to become a great inspiration to the world.
In his homily, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, who described Pope John Paul as a Colossus, said: "Africa will surely miss the Pope, who made us to stand tall among the other daughters and sons of the Church and gave us our place of pride and dignity.
"Ghana in particular has every reason to mourn the Holy Father because he indeed was a Father to our Church."
He explained: "From November 1992 to March this year, Pope John Paul had created nine new Dioceses, two Archdioceses and elevated as many as 14 new Bishops, three Archbishops, one Auxiliary Bishop and one Cardinal for our Church."
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, who is the new Bishop of Accra Archdiocese, said the Catholic Church across Africa also experienced tremendous growth with its population rising by 134 per cent from 1978 to 2000.
The number of African Bishops also increased from 432 to 601, while the population of priests also increased by 60 per cent from 16,926. Africa now has 11 Cardinals.
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle asked: "Who knows whether this extraordinary love for Africa would lead to the Holy Spirit's nomination of an African as the next Pope?"
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said though the Pope's passing was a great loss, the Catholic Church was comforted that he had been received in the Kingdom of Heaven in line with the belief in the resurrection of Christ. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop George Kocherry said he was optimistic that historians would honour Pope John Paul II in recognition of his respect for people of all races and backgrounds and his tireless service to humanity.
Meanwhile, President John Agyekum Kufuor is leading a high-powered Government delegation to Rome to attend the funeral and burial rites of the Pope, who lays in State at the Vatican, where millions have queued to pay their last respects to him.
The 84-year old Karol Jozef Cardinal Wojtila, who became Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978, died on Saturday, April 2. He would be buried on Friday.
His name would be imprinted in the sands of time as the first Pope to visit a Jewish Synagogue, a Mosque and a shrine in Benin. He also invited two Ghanaian traditional priests to pray with him in Rome. 07 April 05