Members of the St Peter’s Basilica, Kumasi with the Apostolic Nuncio after mass
Members of the St Peter’s Basilica, Kumasi with the Apostolic Nuncio after mass

When Nuncio visited the Basilica in Kumasi

The Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, Henryk Mieczysław Jagodziński, was at St. Peter’s Basilica, Kumasi, on the Nativity of Jesus Christ which fell on December 25, 2022.

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His visit was characterised by a solemn liturgy, coupled with a military and cultural display.

The Apostolic Nunciature to Ghana is an ecclesiastical office of the Catholic Church established in May 1973. 

It is a permanent diplomatic position of the Holy See. The occupant represents the Pope in Ghana and works with the bishops and other stakeholders on the development of the Catholic Church. 

Jagodziński is Polish by birth and he was ordained a Catholic priest on June 3, 1995. His appointment by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, affirms Ghana’s cordial relationship with the Holy See. 

Celebration

The Basilica was filled with joy and celebrations on Christmas Day. Nuncio’s visit had been long anticipated and a lot of planning had gone into it; choir rehearsals, liturgical planning, etc.  

The Nuncio was welcomed by Archbishop Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye and a joint parade was held by the Knights of St. John International & Ladies Auxiliary and the Knights and Ladies of Marshall. 

The Mass was participatory with the congregation responding actively or joining in the songs of praise. 

The St. Peter’s Choir sang various Latin songs and gave the congregation a feel of how the angels sing praises to God. 

All societies were in their regalia, and the Nuncio wore a colourful kente-designed cassock.

He sat on an asipim (an Ashanti king’s royal chair), under an ombrellino, (red umbrella, historically used to shade the Pope). He was flanked by priests and Mass servers who also supported the liturgy.

Asante cultural display

Kumasi is the cultural hub of Asante and the seat of the Asantehene. History narrates that the Presbyterians pioneered Christian missions in Kumasi and the rest of Asante. Later when the Catholic missionaries arrived, there was no land close to Manhyia but the church accepted an area up the hill. 

The area was then christened the Roman Hill and it serves as the seat of the bishop. Vatican II encouraged the incorporation of indigenous values into Christianity, with the intention of helping the African Christians to identify easily with the new religion through its customs and traditions.  

Bishop Emeritus Kwasi Sarpong, with support from the then Asante Diocesan Liturgical Committee, worked assiduously to fuse “Asante way of life with Christian ritual practice”. He translated the Order of Mass from Latin to Asante Twi. He also infused Asante music and dance into the Catholic way of service. 

One hundred and forty years after the establishment of the Catholic Faith in Asante, there is a full manifestation of the implantation of Asante culture into Catholicism. 

There was drumming of kete (Asante king’s drum) and dancing of adowa (dance form) to welcome the Nuncio, during the consecration and offertory procession. The dance communicated special messages and the Nuncio nodded to the rhythms and movements.

The Nuncio later joined Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, in celebrating Akwasidae at Manhyia Palace.

Knights, Ladies

Papal Knights and Dames, Knights of St. John International & Ladies Auxiliary, and the Knights of Marshall were in full regalia at the event. 

These are semi-military orders that provide colour, security, and orderliness to the Mass. The Papal Knights and Dames are distinguished Catholics who are honoured by the Pope for their immense contribution to the development of the church in their spheres of specialisation; industry, education, governance, etc. 

They mostly flank the bishop(s) in processions. The Knights of St. John and Marshalls are also Orders in the church that support the church for God and country. 

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The Knights and Ladies jointly formed the parade and supported various processions and guards at the Mass. This brought order and safety to the celebration.

Population census concerns

The Nuncio also expressed concern about the declining number of Catholics in Ghana. According to the 2020 Population and Housing Census, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians were the largest religious group in Ghana, with a share of 31.6 per cent. 

This represents over 9.7 million of the entire population. This is followed by Islam with nearly 20 per cent of the entire population. 

However, Catholic statistics have decreased from 13.1 per cent in 2010 to 10 per cent of the entire population.

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In response, Archbishop Gabriel Anokye encouraged the church and the lay faithful to create opportunities for other Catholics to be engaged . 
That, he asserted, would empower Catholics.

The writer is a Communications professional/member of the Knights of St. John International and Ladies Auxiliary at the University of Ghana. 
E-mail: [email protected] 

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