President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Tuesday stated that throughout history, there had never been an appropriate time to build a Cathedral, such as Ghana’s National Cathedral, whose intrinsic value would be evident when it is completed.
President Akufo-Addo posited that when great Cathedrals such as the National Cathedral in Washington DC, St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were being built, those societies that house them had not finished with the satisfaction of their major development needs – hospitals, schools, bridges, roads, homes needed to be built.
He said if those countries were to consider only those needs, there would never be a good time to build a Church, a Cathedral or any of the great buildings of faith around the world.
President Akufo-Addo said once those Cathedrals were built, they had proven to be instruments that brought people together and deepened their spiritual and emotional experiences of people.
President Akufo-Addo made those statements at the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra Tuesday.
The President’s comments come in the backdrop of the recent controversy surrounding the cost of building the National Cathedral and whether or not its construction should be a priority for the country in light of prevailing national and global economic challenges.
The construction of the National Cathedral in Washington DC took 83 years to complete; 150 years to build St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and 182 years to finish the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The reigning medieval monarchs of the time made significant contributions towards the construction of Notre Dame in Paris, and, in the case of the Basilica, construction began and was completed during the era of the Papacy’s greatest temporal power, again in medieval times.
President Akufo-Addo said if the history surrounding the building of these iconic cathedrals in these countries was anything to go by, then efforts need to be made both by the state of Ghana and the church, to ensure that the National Cathedral is built.
He said the government started the construction of the National Cathedral, with the hope that it would fill a missing link in the nation’s spiritual architecture, by providing a formal space for the religious activities of the state.
Designed by the Ghanaian global architect, David Adjaye, who had designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture Museum in Washington DC, President Akufo-Addo said Ghana’s National Cathedral would provide an interdenominational space for worship, “which would serve to insert God at the centre of our nation-building efforts.”
The Cathedral, according to the President, would provide an official venue of worship for state occasions in a nation that is predominantly Christian, “that is, a nation where more than 70% of the people are confessed Christians.”
President Akufo-Addo said the iconic religious edifice would also serve as a fulcrum for propagating the Christian faith, unifying the Christian community and serving as a tribute to religious liberty.
“But, more importantly, it will serve as our collective thanksgiving to the Almighty for the blessings He has bestowed on our nation, sparing us the ravages of civil war that have bedevilled the histories of virtually all our neighbours, and the outbreak of mass epidemics.”
He stated that “Just as the building of the Temple of Solomon was an epoch-making event not only in Israel but also in the whole world, we believe the building of the National Cathedral is an epochal event not only in Ghana but also in the rest of Africa.”
“Thus, although the National Cathedral was envisaged for Ghana, we have included elements to make it relevant to the African church,” he added.
The project, which had run into some controversy in recent times, specifically with regards to its funding, President Akufo-Addo maintained that though the Cathedral is a national institution, “the cost should be largely borne by the Christian community, with the state providing the land and initial funding to get the project off the ground.”
President Akufo-Addo expressed optimism that the Christian community in Ghana and beyond, would take up the challenge and join in the fundraising for the construction of the National Cathedral.
“I do not envisage that this project will take a century to complete like the great historical cathedrals of the world. Technology has transformed building methods dramatically and I am certain that, if the Christian community accepts the challenge, we shall construct this cathedral and quickly…and its value will be obvious to all,” President Akufo-Addo said.
The President urged all Ghanaians to help build the country’s National Cathedral to be the epicentre of “our lives, the place for our great celebrations, our thanksgiving, our funerals, the place for great moments of silence and introspection, the place that symbolises the place of faith in our national psyche.”
“I give my undertaking that the funds raised for the building of the National Cathedral will be treated with the sacred trust that they deserve, with transparency and accountability,” President Akufo-Addo added.
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) was born out of the wish of African Bishops during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to establish a forum in which they could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the Church in Africa.
The establishment of SECAM is therefore the result of the Bishops’ resolve to build a continental structure to bring forth the African vision to the whole Church.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD