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23.08.2005 Diaspora (Canada)

Crisis At St. Andrew's Church -Toronto

Ghanaian News Canada / Roland Okyere, Church Secretary

THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT THE ONGOING CRISIS IN ST. ANDREW'S GHANAIAN COMMUNITY CATHOLIC CHURCH - TORONTO Below are the plain and unadulterated facts about events, decisions, actions and outcomes emanating from Fr. Stephen Acheampong's transfer and the temporarily cancellation of the Ghanaian Akan Mass. These facts have conveniently been hidden from most of the members of the Ghanaian Catholic Community by their so-called leaders - Augustine Opoku Agyemang, Michael Asante Nimako, Thomas Saah and others. These so-called leaders have used and continue to use misinformation, blatant lies, half-truths and intimidation, to trick and coerce some church members to engage in futile demonstrations and disruptions of Mass. These actions which are instigated and directed by these so-called leaders who are bereft of vision, positive ideas and compassion required of our Christian teachings, have resulted in the temporary cancellation of the Ghanaian Mass and, pitted family and friends against each other. Decisions, pronouncements and actions taken by these so-called leaders have shamed and bleakly embarrassed the whole Ghanaian Catholic Community. These so-called leaders are not guided by sobriety required of thoughtful leadership but are rather motivated by quest for power, destructive arrogance and self-interests.

The ongoing crisis in the Ghanaian Catholic Community is neither a community nor personality clash issue. The individuals whose names have been mention above and some names that will be named later in this piece have made poor decisions and taken actions which have hurt and adversely affected our community. These individuals have been named in this article because they are totally responsible for the temporary closure of our church and the current chaos in our church. And the entire Ghanaian Catholic Community is paying a needless high price because of their stubbornness, ego- trip and poor decision-making. Please read the following facts carefully:

* On March 5, 2005, Augustine Opoku Agyemang informed a meeting of Church Elders that he called to chat with Bishop Osei Bonsu in Ghana and Bishop Bonsu told him (Augustine), Bishop Richard J. Grecco had written to inform him (Bishop Bonsu) that Fr. Acheampong has been assigned new duties. Bishop Grecco's decision was based on the fact that Catholic Rules do not permit a priest to stay at one parish for more than 9 years and Fr. Acheampong had been at St. Andrew's Parish for over 13 years.

* Neither the specific date that Bishop Grecco initiated discussion with Fr. Acheampong regarding his transfer nor the date that Fr. Acheampong received his transfer letter was disclosed. However, according to Augustine after his conversation with Bishop Bonsu, he, Nimako and Saah decided to write to Bishop Grecco without consulting the other 10 members of the Church Elders Council (including the Church President - Charles Kusi-Appiah). Augustine requested from Bishop Grecco an extension of the Fr. Acheampong's transfer date and Bishop Grecco granted Fr. Acheampong one month extension. Bishop Grecco was supposed to install Fr. John Benedict Adde-Nweah (Fr. Acheampong's replacement) on March 6, 2005; instead he postponed the installation to April 3, 2005.

* Augustine requested and got a meeting with Bishop Grecco. On March 8, 2005 Bishop Grecco met with members of the Church Elders Council and a cross section of the Ghanaian Parishioners at his office to discuss their concerns. He listened to the concerns of the Ghanaian Community and promised to get back to them. Bishop Grecco later wrote to inform Augustine that he will proceed with the installation of the new priest on April 3, 2005 and will meet with the leaders of the Ghanaian Catholic Community later to discuss any concerns they may have after the installation. On March 20, 2005 Nimako and Augustine wrote and circulated copies of a petition among the Ghanaian Parishioners. The petition stated that "The Ghanaian Catholic Community will not accept or work with Fr. John Benedict (the newly appointed Ghanaian Community priest)". Sunday school children under 12 years old were made to sign copies of the petition. Nimako sent copies of the petition to Bishop Grecco and Cardinal Ambrozic. Augustine, Nimako, Saah, Appiah Berko (Choir Master) and others also clandestinely instructed church members to write unsavoury messages on empty offertory envelops and put them into the collection basket. St. Andrew's Parish office has the envelopes on file and Bishop Grecco and Cardinal Ambrozic are aware of this.

* On April 2, 2005, the Church Elders Council met to discuss what course of action to take on April 3, 2005 when Bishop Grecco was suppose to install the new priest. The following motion was tabled for a vote: BASED ON BISHOP GRECCO'S DECISION TO INSTALL A NEW PRIEST ON APRIL 3, 2005 SHOULD THE CHURCH MEMBERS ATTENDING MASS ON APRIL 3, 2005 BE GIVEN THE OPTION TO BOYCOTT THE MASS SERVICE? Vote results: Augustine Opoku Agyemang (Assistant Secretary), Michael Asante Nimako, Thomas Saah, Beatrice Agyekum, Martha Boachie, J.K. Obeng, Rose Nimo Mensah and Hanna Agyemang (Vice President)- VOTED YES (8);Roland Okyere (Secretary) and Charles Kusi-Appiah (President) - VOTED NO (2); Pauline Saah and Osei Kuffour - ABSTAINED (2); Karikari Ofori-Mensah was ABSENT (1).

There was no mention or discussion about disrupting Mass on Sunday April 3, 2005 at the April 2, 2005 Church Elders Council meeting. The members Ghanaian Catholic Community deserve truthful answers to the following questions? Who made the decision to demonstrate and disrupt the Mass Services? Who organized the demonstrations? When was the decision made to demonstrate and disrupt the Mass Service? What are the objectives of the demonstrators? Why do some members continue to demonstrate every Sunday when Bishop Grecco and Cardinal Ambrozic (who have jurisdiction over St. Andrew's Parish) have stated categorically that their appointment of Fr. John Benedict was final? Who benefits from all these demonstrations and chaos? Why do Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others actively encourage some church members to continue with these ill-advised and fruitless demonstrations every Sunday?

* Augustine Opoku Agyemang, Michael Asante Nimako, Thomas Saah and others wrongly think the St. Andrew's Ghanaian Catholic Community Church belongs to them. We want to state categorically and without any fear of contradiction that the Catholic Church is universal, bigger and more important than any individual. And nobody can prevent any church member who peaceful wants to attend Mass from doing so. Thomas Saah in referring to the installation of the newly appointed priest by Bishop Grecco stated "Obi ate asore for 13 years na ye se bra na wo ba. Se Bishop nno enim na wo ma no baa, ye be ye Zongo sem". We beg to differ. Not even the Pope can claim that he started Catholic Church. All Ghanaian Catholic Community Church members must realize that being a part of St. Andrew's Parish is a privilege not a right.

* Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others falsely claim this mess they have created is a vehicle to ensure continuity of the uniqueness of Ghanaian Catholic Community Church and our social programs. At no point has Bishop Grecco or any Catholic Church official stated that they intend to cancel any Ghanaian social programs. Bishop Grecco stated in a letter to Augustine Opoku Agyemang prior to the shameful April 3, 2005 incident that, he was ready and willing to discuss any concerns the Ghanaian Community may have after the installation of the new priest. We demand that Augustine releases copies of all his correspondence with Bishop Grecco, Bishop Osei-Bonsu and Cardinal Ambrozic to the Ghanaian Catholic Community so that all church members will know the truth and make informed decisions. Augustine (assistant secretary) received these letters on behalf of the Ghanaian Catholic Community therefore; it is right and proper for the community to know the whole and unalloyed truth. Charles Kusi-Appiah (Church President) and other Church Elders Council members who are not part of the "inner circle" were not shown all the correspondence Augustine received on behalf of our church.

* The demonstrators have been told to expect good news i.e. a new priest from Ghana soon - THIS IS A BLATANT LIE! All Catholic Dioceses are autonomous and nobody apart from Cardinal Ambrozic and Bishop Grecco who have the rightful authority can appoint a priest for the St. Andrew's Ghanaian Community. Pope Benedict is the only person who can intervene on their behalf, but is the Pope willing to get involve in this sordid mess created by Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others? They booed Bishop Grecco and disrupted Mass on April 3, 2005 when the Holy Father late Pope John Paul II was lying in state in the Vatican.

St. Andrew's Ghanaian Catholic Community is under the Toronto Diocese and NOT Konongo-Mampong Diocese. Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong Diocese cannot bring any priest to St. Andrew's Ghanaian Catholic Community without the prior approval of Cardinal Ambrozic and Bishop Grecco. And Cardinal Ambrozic and Bishop Grecco in their letter to the Concerned Members of Ghanaian Catholic Community dated May 6, 2005, stated categorically that their appointment of Fr. John Benedict was final, so how can Bishop Bonsu send them a new priest? Bishop Osei Bonsu has no power outside his Konongo-Mampong Diocese. Members should ask Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others what Archbishop Gregory Ebolawola Kpiebaya told them regarding anybody sending them a new priest. Please call or write to Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu and Archbishop Kpiebaya at the following phone numbers/addresses to verify the facts for yourself: (i) Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Tel - (561) 22101, (561) 22244; Diocese of Konongo-Mampong, P.O. Box 382 Mampong-Ashanti, Ghana; (ii) Most Rev. Archbishop Gregory Ebolawola Kpiebaya, Tel - (071) 22425; Archdiocese of Tamale, P.O. Box 42, Gumbehini Road, Tamale Northern Region, Ghana.

* Nothing in Fr. John Benedict's (newly appointed priest) actions justify the animus that greeted his appointment. He just like Fr. Stephen Acheampong was dutifully obeying the direction of Bishop Grecco. Members should ask Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others the following questions: (i) Why do they on one hand say Fr. John Benedict should defy Bishop Grecco by refusing to accept his appointment and on other hand insist that Fr. Stephen Acheampong can not defy the direction of Bishop Grecco? (ii) How are their actions on April 3 and 10, 2005 and subsequent actions (demonstration every Sunday at 3:00 PM at St. Andrew's Parish) going to help to end the temporary cancellation of the Ghanaian Akan Mass? (iii) Why do they insist that any priest who is appointed for our community should be acceptable to them or they will engage in actions that will lead to the permanent closure of our community church? (iv) What are their motives for engaging in this community-wrecking exercise?

* The Concerned Members of St. Andrew's Ghanaian Catholic Community Church are individuals who want to peaceful attend Mass Services. It is not our place to tell Bishop Grecco who to appoint as our priest and we are ready, willing and eager to worship with Fr. John Benedict who the Bishop has appointed for us. We currently attend the 12:30 PM English Mass due to the temporary cancellation of the Ghanaian Akan Mass. We entreat all Ghanaian Catholic Community members to come to the Sunday 12:30 PM Mass to show solidarity with other members and send a clear message to Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others that, we will NOT be intimidated because we are on God's side. On July 31, 2005 we donated $3,000.00 (Three Thousand Dollars) to Fr. Carlos (St. Andrew's Parish Priest) as our contribution towards the St. Andrew's Window Fund. Again, we ask all members to attend the Sunday 12:30 PM English Mass and ignore the people who call them to intimidate them and demand to know which "side" they stand. THERE IS ONLY ONE SIDE - GOD'S SIDE. And we are NOT afraid of any mortal human being. Augustine, Nimako, Saah and others can keep the Ghanaian Catholic Community money in the Bank but, we would like to underscore our grim determination that they can not stop us from worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ at St. Andrew's Parish. May God shine his merciful light on us all and, open our hearts and minds to the truth and love. Amen.

Written By: Roland Okyere and The Concerned Members of St. Andrew's Ghanaian Catholic Community Church - Toronto Ontario, Canada.