President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said the National Cathedral, which comes with the largest Bible museum in the world, will provide enormous benefits for the country and Christians and urged all around the world to contribute to its construction.
He said it would provide an interdenominational space for worship, place God at the centre of nation-building efforts and also provide an official venue of worship for state occasions in a nation where 70 per cent of the people were self-confessed Christians.
He added that it would also serve as a fulcrum for propagating the Christian faith, unify the Christian community, serve as a tribute to religious liberty and a collective thanksgiving to God for His blessings for sparing the country the ravages of civil war experienced by its neighbours, as well as the outbreak of mass epidemics.
President Akufo-Addo was addressing the plenary assembly of the 19th Symposium of the Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) at the Christ the King Parish Hall in Accra yesterday.
The SECAM is an association of Catholic Bishops of Africa and its islands.
The six-day symposium has also attracted other Catholic bishops from around the world.
The President indicated that just as the building of the Temple of Solomon was an epoch-making event not only in Israel but the world, the construction of the National Cathedral was an epochal event for Ghana and Africa.
He added that although the cathedral was envisaged for Ghana, some elements had been added to it to make it relevant to the African church.
Largest global bible museum
The President said the project also included a bible museum of Africa which would be the largest Bible museum in the world, focusing on the role of Africa and Africans in the Bible, the history and contemporary place of the church in Africa and the African diaspora.
“It will house the Bible translated into African languages, tell the story of the Church in Africa and the African diaspora and provide a convening platform for discussions on the role of faith in Africa’s transformation,” President Akufo-Addo added.
He said it would also contain the biblical gardens of Africa, which would include the trees, shrubs and flowers of the Bible, and serve as a major resource for Christians all over the African continent.
Touching on the history of cathedrals in the world and how long they took to complete, President Akufo-Addo said the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, took 83 years; the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome took 150 years, while the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris took 182 years.
He added that the reigning medieval monarchs of the time made significant contributions towards the construction of the Notre Dame in Paris, noting that in the case of the Basilica, its construction began and was completed during the era of the Papacy’s greatest temporal power, also in medieval times.
He indicated that he did not foresee Ghana’s cathedral being completed in a century, like the others, because technology had transformed building methods.
He expressed the certainty that if the Christian community accepted the challenge, “we shall construct this cathedral quickly, and once completed, its value will be obvious to all”.
“When these great cathedrals were built, the societies that house them had not finished with the satisfaction of their major development needs – hospitals, schools, bridges, roads, homes that needed to be built,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“I dare say, if one 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. But, once they are built, they have proved to be instruments that brought people together and deepened the spiritual and emotional experiences of people,” he added.
“Looking through the history of all the great cathedrals of the world, there has never been what can be called ‘an appropriate time’ to build a cathedral,” he said.
Referring to the Holy Scriptures to back his call, the President quoted Ecclesiastics 11:22 which states: "If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never sow anything and never harvest anything."
Touching on what he described as the controversy over the funding, President Akufo-Addo said his view was that even though the Cathedral would be very much 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”.
The representative of Pope Francis at the symposium, Cardinal Anthonio Tagle, expressed worry that securing the world had been misconstrued to be the provision of hardware military arms and ammunition, as well as ideologisation of the military.
Those, he explained, had rather made the world insecure and called for the fair distribution of the wealth in the world and respect for the values of all as the best means to attain lasting and sustainable peace.
Cardinal Tagle called on countries to have open arms policies for people seeking refuge in their nations and go the extra mile in integrating them into their societies because that was the only way to exhibit communion and provide security.
The Catholic Church in Ghana is hosting the 19th Plenary Assembly of the SECAM from Monday, July 25, to Monday, August 1, this year.
The symposium, which is taking place at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Accra, was originally scheduled to be held in Burkina Faso, but following the political unrest in that country, Ghana was chosen to host it.
The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference is the official host of the symposium, dubbed: "Ownership of SECAM: Security and Migration in Africa and its islands".
Accra, which is the headquarters of SECAM, which has eight regional conferences (regions), hosted the 15th Plenary Assembly in 2010 to mark the 40th anniversary of the episcopal body.
The symposium is expected to issue a communique to be presented by a new President of SECAM who will be elected on Saturday.
The closing ceremony of the assembly will be preceded by a Holy Mass at the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Adabraka, on Sunday, July 30.