The Pope, who was represented by the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Augustine Kassuja at the Pontifical Mass at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, described Cardinal Arinze as God’s gift to humanity.
During the homily, the Apostolic Nuncio to Central Africa, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, described Cardinal Arinze’s spiritual milestones as an evidence of divine presence in his service to humanity.
“Good fifty years have gone by since Cardinal Arinze was ordained a Coadjutor Bishop, Titular Bishop of Fissiana to succeed Archbishop Charles Heerey.
“At his Episcopal consecration on 29 August 1965, at the age of 32, the young Francis Arinze became the youngest Roman Catholic Bishop in the whole world. Luckily for him, he was ordained just in time to join others at the closing session of the Second Vatican Council, and after the demise of Archbishop Heerey after a long period of illness, the young Francis Arinze succeeded him, on June 26, 1967.
“What we are celebrating today is a combination of fidelity, heroism, determination, endurance, faith and joyful service of the Lord We are paying honour to whom honour is due: first to God, and appreciation to his Eminence.
“Your Eminence, when in 2005, the whole world acclaimed you a worthy Papa bile, it was not by chance. It showed that your capacity was recognized. If on that occasion you were not chosen as a Pope, surely it is not because of your incapacity, but because our continent was not yet ripe for such an election. You have been a sign of hope to many, even those who have not met you in person.” .
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon described Cardinal Arinze as one of the great minds that contributed to the growth and spread of Christianity in the world.
“Cardinal Arinze, who is now 83 years old, has been very consistent in the service to God and humanity. I want to use this opportunity to urge him to continue being consistent in the service of God and humanity. He is a good sheppard that has been consistent in leading his flock. He is a true man of God and I urge him to continue, he is my elder brother, who is my senior with two years”.
Cardinal Arinze responded by thanking the Pope and the Vatican for giving him the opportunity to serve God from Onitsha to the Vatican, and Dr Gowon for attending the ceremony.
He described Gowon as a good Christian and a man full of humility.