, 12 March, 2020 / 1:41 AM
Catholic Bishops in Ghana have, in a collective goodwill message, lauded Archbishop Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Emeritus of Kumasi in Southern Ghana for his contribution to the growth of the Church in the West African country during the Cleric’s close-to 40 years in office.
The pastoral achievements of Archbishop Sarpong, before immersing himself in authoring a book that details his experiences, were especially a key highlight of the March 8 celebration of the Episcopal Golden Jubilee Mass of the retired Archbishop at St. Peter’s Minor Basilica in Kumasi.
In his homily at the Golden Jubilee celebration, Bishop Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum of Koforidua noted, “Archbishop Sarpong has become a blessing to many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, Muslims and traditionalists.”
He added, “His long service gave birth to four other Dioceses and institutions such as the Catholic University College, Fiapre and Spiritan University College in Ejisu.”
In a goodwill message that was read at the celebrations on behalf of Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), the Bishops noted, “You became a member of the GCBC at an early age of 37 as the second native Bishop of Kumasi and with dint of hard work.”
Appointed Bishop in November 1969 after serving as a priest in Kumasi for 10 years, the Archbishop Emeritus is among clerics known to have been accorded the top leadership role in the Catholic Church at a youthful age.
Archbishop Sarpong proceeded to take up the role of Vice President of GCBC between 1983-1988, eventually becoming the President of the Conference between 1988-1991.
In his tenure, according to the Bishops’ message, Archbishop Sarpong saw the elevation of Kumasi diocese to the status of a Metropolitan See in 2002, with the then Bishop becoming the first ever Metropolitan Archbishop in the West African country.
Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum, who was a student of the retired Prelate at the St Peter’s Major Seminary in Pedu, Cape Coast, traced the achievements of Archbishop Sarpong to his role as the first indigenous African Rector of the seminary as well as his efforts in introducing Ghanaian tradition and cultural into the liturgy celebration, “an action that incurred him the wrath of some people who questioned his faith.”
“The opposition notwithstanding, the Prelate persisted with the inculturation which has become part and parcel of the liturgy in Ghana,” he added.
GCBC message praised the Ghanaian Prelate as a leader of the African Church which he served as a member of the Standing Committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in 1994 and President of Association of the Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) between 1995-2001.
He is celebrated as the longest serving Prelate of the Church in Ghana, whose retirement was accepted in March 2008 when he turned 75.
Highlighting Archbishop Sarpong’s stint in a Vatican role, the Ghanaian Prelates said, “As a result of your major contributions to the promotion of Justice and Peace, you played significant roles during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II in the area of Justice and Peace, even to the point of being appointed a Consultant to the Papal Commission for Justice and Peace in Rome from 1972-1976.”
The Bishops also noted that the Prelate, now 87, still attends Plenary Sessions where he contributes “with a depth of knowledge”.
The Ghanaian Bishops described the Jubilarian as “a prolific writer whose books explore relationships between Christian Religion and Culture.”
“Indeed, your love for tradition and culture made you to introduce a lot of the traditions of the Ashanti’s into the Catholic Liturgy, making you an ardent promoter of inculturation,” the Bishops in Ghana stated.
They added in reference to the Archbishop emeritus, “You ensured that the perception that African traditions and culture is ungodly is demystified and in your desire to project the African culture, you met a lot of opposition but you were never deterred.”
“It is our prayer that you will continue to enjoy good health in the years ahead of you so that we, your younger Brother Bishops will continue to tap from your vast experience in the Episcopacy,” the Bishops’ message added.
The Golden Jubilee celebrations were attended by Ghana’s President Nana Addo Darkwa Akufo-Addo who described Archbishop Sarpong “as a very great man of God whose works surpassed the borders of the country and a great pillar in the country’s socio-cultural development.”
Meanwhile, the Archbishop Emeritus on Thursday, March 5, 2020 launched his autobiography book titled, “From the hut to Oxford” at the St. Louis College of Education in Kumasi.
The 386-page book chronicles the life of the Archbishop emeritus from his natal village in Maase, near Offinso in the Ashanti region through his educational trajectory, which led him to one of the prestigious universities in the world, Oxford in United Kingdom and his working life as a priest till retirement.
It also talks about his working life as priest, Bishop and Archbishop, which spans a period of over six decades.
Addressing the audience, Archbishop Sarpong said it took him almost three decades to complete the book, which was started in 1991, adding that “along the way, I nearly abandoned the idea but through encouragement of some people, I managed to complete it.”
“People must be ready to either suffer vilification or glorification depending on what they decide to do with the life God has given them. One would be praised or criticized for what they choose to do in life,” the 87-year-old retired Prelate said.
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