The appointment of a Nigerian Catholic archbishop by Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican’s College of Cardinals Wednesday, has been described as “a great honour to Africa.” The recipient, John Olufemi Onaiyekan, has told the AFP.
Onaiyekan who is the archbishop of Abuja, was one of six non-European prelates nominated by the pope to the elite body that remains heavily tilted in favour of Europe.
“I see the elevation as a great honour to Africa, Nigeria, my country and (Nigeria’s capital) Abuja,” the 68-year-old told AFP by phone from Rome.
“It is an encouragement for me to continue the good works that I have been doing for humanity,” he added.
Onaiyekan has mostly won the heart and respect of his admirers for his efforts at ensuring peace and understanding among adherents of the two major religions in Africa’s most populous nation, where tensions have led to deadly clashes.
He has also used the pulpit as a platform to speak against misrule and build bridges between Islam and Christianity in a country almost evenly divided between the two faiths.
Onaiyekan co-chairs a key inter-religious forum with Nigeria’s top Islamic leader, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.
Joseph Faniran of the Catholic Institute of West Africa, has commended the appointment of Onaiyekan calling it a ‘richly deserved’ one.
The archbishop, who holds a doctorate in biblical theology, was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1969 and appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as a permanent member of the Synod of Bishops in Rome.