Cardinal in Nigeria Expresses Solidarity with Youth ahead of Dialogue with Pope Francis

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke speaking on the occasion of the thanksgiving Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral of Ekwulobia Diocese. Credit: Nigeria Catholic Network.

The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia in Nigeria has sent a message of solidarity with Catholic youths in Africa who are participating in the planned dialogue with Pope Francis, expressing hope that the young people will have a fruitful conversation with the Holy Father.

In the message circulated ahead of the Tuesday, November 1 dialogue, Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke exudes confidence that the Papal engagement with the young people will also lead to a renewal of the Church on the continent.

“I wish you a fruitful conversation with the Holy Father, and look forward to the renewal of the Church in Africa through your energy, creativity and resourcefulness,” Cardinal Okpaleke says in the message circulated by the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN), which has organized the initiative.

In his message, the Nigerian Cardinal expresses awe that technology has made interactions easy, noting that it is by virtual engagement that the young people from various African countries “separated by time and space”, will share insights, form networks and have a chat with Pope Francis.

“On this occasion of the African Youth Digital Synodal conversation with the Holy Father Pope Francis, we thank God, who through the creativity of human beings, many of who were young people, gave humanity the virtual space where the young people, separated by time and space, come together, encounter and interact with each other with signs and sound, share insights, build bridges and networks for good,” he says in the message circulated on October 29.


The Bishop of Ekwulobia who was among the 21 Cardinals named on May 29 adds, “As one contemplates the rapid societal changes in the last century, the possibilities opened by technological innovations, one cannot help but wonder what new ends would unfold through the imagination and ingenuity of people, especially young people.”

“But without quality education, many young people are cut off from the opportunity needed to make their contribution,” he further says, and adds, “These technical possibilities challenge us to cultivate deep and life-giving values, to enthrone a civilization of love, to guide the use of new capabilities made possible.”

The November 1 Papal encounter on All Saints Day brings together university students from institutions of higher learning in nine African countries.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Leonida Katunge who is heading the national steering committee for Kenyan participants in the dialogue estimated that over 3,000 people will follow the virtual event in which the youths will seek solidarity with the Holy father in the challenges they face on the continent.

Countries participating in the PACTPAN initiative are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. 

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Other countries will be roped in at the end of the six-month pilot project that is aimed at stirring the participation of the youth in the Synodal conversations, and to inspire them to be engaged fully in the “life of the Church and society”.

In his message circulated October 29, Cardinal Okpaleke thanks Pope Francis for his encouragement to the people of God undergoing various challenges, especially in Africa.

“We appreciate the Holy Father Pope Francis for his insistent challenge to the Church and to the world to rediscover ourselves as earth’s citizens destined by God’s eternal purpose to become citizens of heaven; to rediscover ourselves as God’s people journeying together, listening to, and supporting each other,” the Nigerian Cardinal says.

The Catholic Church leader who resigned in 2018 following sustained opposition to his Episcopal appointment for Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese adds, “Despite the seeming darkness and gloom, the Holy Father keeps challenging us never to lose hope because Jesus Christ is alive.”

He acknowledged the challenges of the youths in Africa, noting that while a majority choose crime and other vices to deal with the hardships, there are those who are engaged in activities to transform their countries for the good.


“For us in Africa, especially for you, young people, we have a lot to rob one of hope; the cycle of violence, lack of political will to do the needful, the harsh economic situation due to local as well as global processes, the neglect of quality education,” the Cardinal says. 

He continues, “Because of all these negative societal processes, some young people seek opportunities to immigrate while others escape into crime, drugs, and other social vices.  But there are those who engage in positive societal activities.” 

Cardinal Okpaleke says that the changemakers organize for positive societal transformation, adding, “To these, we offer our appreciation and extend our hands of partnership as Church, willing to learn and support whatever is good, especially good education.”

The Bishop of Ekwulobia expresses solidarity with young people undergoing various challenges, saying, “To the young people of Africa, I say, courage! Keep your hope alive… and by working together with people of goodwill, and cooperating with God’s grace, things can be turned around for good.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.