President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said Ghana looks forward to continuous cooperation with the Vatican to address vexed issues of the climate crisis, human trafficking and promoting health and human dignity.
President Akufo-Addo said as partners and friends, Ghana and the Vatican share the same principles of freedom of religion, adherence to the principles of human rights, democracy and the promotion of equality for all.
Speaking at a programme in Accra to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pontification of Pope Francis in March 2013, President Akufo-Addo this year (2023) marks two significant milestones of relations between Ghana and the Catholic Church.
Notably, the President said 10 years ago in 2013, Ghana established her first diplomatic mission at the Vatican and commissioned its first Ambassador HE James Kwame Bebaako-Mensah, as Ghana’s Ambassador to the Holy See.
President Akufo-Addo disclosed that 2023 marks half of a century since the creation of the separate Apostolic delegate office for Ghana and Nigeria from which the current Apostolic Nuncio (the Embassy of the Holy Sea) in Ghana was established.
Until the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Ghana and the Pontification, in 1976, he said Catholic missionaries arrived in Ghana, then the Gold Coast in 1828 for evangelical work.
That, according to the President, laid the foundation for the cordial relations “our two nations enjoy today. Relations are based on trust and mutual respect.”
More than a century of relations between Ghana and the Catholic Church had resulted in the Church being involved and supporting Ghana’s socio-economic development in various sectors of the country’s development.
The Catholic Church, President Akufo-Addo stated, has constructed some 5,000 basic schools, 80 senior high and technical schools, 40 TVET schools, 13 colleges of education, two university colleges and one autonomous fully fledgling university.
“Forty-nine hospitals, 94 clinics and 11 health training institutions also make the Catholic Church one of the nation’s leading partners in the development of the healthcare sector,” he stated.
On the celebration of his 10th anniversary as Pope, President Akufo-Addo said Pope Francis had clearly shown his abhorrence to discrimination and exploitation, particularly of people of Africa and the Middle East and had pleaded on several occasions for peace throughout the world.
Pope Francis, according to the President, had spoken out against the world filled with greed and had called for humanity to become a better garden of creation by protecting the environment.
He said “our present global situation challenges, all of us to leave up to his vision and conviction as a man of peace,” and congratulated Pope Francis as he celebrates a decade of his election as Bishop of Rome and head of the Universal Catholic Church.
President Akufo-Addo expressed Ghana’s appreciation to the Vatican for the support offered in the repatriation and to lay to rest the mortal remains of Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr who died on November 27, 2022.
He said the deaths of Cardinal Kuuia Baawobr and Cardinal Peter Dery had created a vacuum and his fervent hope is that other Bishops from Ghana would be elevated to take a senior post in the Vatican, including being called to the College of Cardinals.
Being a man of his word and in line with his advocacy for the poor, Pope Francis in February 2014, according to President Akufo-Addo, created 19 new Cardinals, several of whom were from the poorest countries in the world.
In October 2003, as then Foreign Affairs Minister, President Akufo-Addo had the privilege and honour to be part of the Government of Ghana delegation led by the Senior Minister, J. H. Mensah, accompanied by Peter Appiah Tuckson to Rome who was elevated by Pope John Paul II to the status of Cardinal.
“I am also looking forward to another visit to the Vatican, this time as President of Ghana,” President Akufo-Addo stated.
Ghanaians, he noted, still remember the visit to Ghana by Pope John Paul II in May 1980 as part of his inaugural Pastoral trip to Africa and the celebration of the centenary of Catholicism in Ghana.
“It is with the same enthusiasm that Ghanaians are looking forward to hosting Pope Francis’s visit in the near future on his round of visits to Africa,” he added.
On his part, Reverend Henryk Mieczyslaw Jagodzinski, Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana said as part of Pope Francis’s visit to DR Congo and South Sudan recently, he spoke against violence, human trafficking poverty and exploitation of Africans.
He said Pope Francis’s visit to these countries in Africa was to inspire hope and foster peace, particularly in these two wars-torn Africa countries to give peace a chance.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD