, 02 October, 2019 / 12:34 AM
The people of God in Gabon who just concluded the yearlong celebrations to mark 175 years of Catholicism in their country have been encouraged to maintain the pastoral and spiritual passion that they experienced throughout the year, the Papal delegate to the concluding ceremony, Archbishop Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso said Sunday, September 29.
“Spiritual and pastoral fervor will not stop at the closing of this jubilee year, but must enter permanently into the daily Christian life of all the baptized,” Archbishop Dal Toso who is the Adjunct Secretary of Congregation for the Evangelization of People has been quoted as saying.
The Church in Gabon marked the yearlong Jubilee celebration with activities that highlighted the role of the pioneer missionaries including the founders of Catholicism in the country the Spiritans, headed by Bishop Jean-Rémi Bessieux.
French-born Bishop Bessieux, a member of the Congregation of Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), was the first bishop to shepherd the West-Central African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean where he established the first mission in 1844.
“The jubilee year that ends today is an exemplary illustration of the glory of the Lord Jesus that was accomplished during the pontifical missionary work of (Bishop) Bessieux,” Archbishop Dal Taso said as he presided over the closing mass of the Jubilee celebrations in Gabon’s capital, Libreville.
“This jubilee reminds us of their apostolate, their courage, their passion and above all the love of God wanted to reveal to his people through them,” the PMS President said in reference to the missionaries who have evangelized Gabon during the last 175 years.
"It is to all these missionaries and their collaborators, your ancestors in faith, that we give a vibrant tribute through this solemnity to which from the top of the heavens unite their voices, their praises to the glory of God,” the Vatican-based Adjunct Secretary of Propaganda Fide.
The Jubilee celebration for the Gabonese Church ended just before the start of the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 (EMMOCT2019) which the Universal Church will observe in the month of October.
Archbishop Dal Taso encouraged the people of God in Gabon to actively participate in EMMOCT2019 saying, “The Extraordinary Missionary Month event will be lived in the local Church of Gabon as a natural extension of this 175 years,” observed the Archbishop.
“Just like this Jubilee, which is closing, the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 is an occasion of intense and fruitful grace to promote initiatives and intensify ways and means to awaken in every Christian the awareness of missionary responsibility,” the Prelate added.
“Baptized we are sent to witness Jesus Christ,” he said, speaking directly to EMMOCT2019 theme.
He related theme to the ministry of the missionaries in Gabon saying, “If today we are gathered on this great day of solemnity, it is because one day Christians in the name of their faith and their baptismal commitment decided to bring the Good news to this Gabonese land. They obeyed the mandate of Christ.”
The Sunday colorful event was also marked by the ordination to the priesthood of 16 deacons, among them diocesan, Spiritans, and Claretians.
Gabon was the first country to open the door to Christianity in Equatorial Black Africa, South of the Sahara.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Gabon with Catholicism accounting for 42.3% of the population.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa