Hundreds of Catholic worshippers from Ghana and beyond are converging on the Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Minor Basilica also known as the “last mud Cathedral” at Navrongo in the Upper East Region for the centenary celebration of the structure today.
Dignitaries expected to grace the occasion include the Apostolic Nuncio to Ghana, the Most Reverend Henryk Mieczyslaw Jagodzinski, the Catholic Bishop of the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese, the Most Reverend Alfred Agyenta, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and the Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Stephen Yakubu, among other invited guests.
The centenary celebration is themed “100 years of existence of the church of the minor Basilica, celebrating our membership of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
Briefing the Daily Graphic on the celebration at Navrongo last Thursday, the Rector of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Minor Basilica, Reverend Father Paul Kapochina, stated that the significance of the celebration was to appreciate the faith of the founding fathers and missionaries, which was expressed in the construction of the Basilica.
The celebration is also to help showcase the “surviving mud cathedral spanning more than 100 years in the North,” he said.
Rev. Fr Kapochina equally observed that the event would be used to solicit for support for its maintenance for the benefit of posterity.
He expressed gratitude to the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board for exposing the Basilica to the outside world through the internet and other social media handles.
The Rector further explained that tourist arrivals to the minor Basilica had been encouraging, with an average of 100 arrivals recorded annually from Israel, Germany, Spain and England.
A few Ghanaians had also been trooping to the Basilica as part of domestic tourism until the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic last year slowed down arrivals.
Rev. Fr Kapochina indicated that the Navrongo-Bolgatanga Diocese hoped that the celebration would eventually draw the needed awareness of the existence of such a magnificent building, as well as its spiritual benefits.
He emphasised that apart from the minor Basilica’s contribution to tourism, it also had spiritual profits.
He said for instance that people could visit the minor Basilica as a form of pilgrimage, saying “if you cannot afford to go to Israel or Rome for pilgrimage, you should be able to visit this Basilica for spiritual purposes."
Rev. Fr Kapochina, therefore, entreated residents, well-meaning people and the general public to patronise the Basilica and help support its maintenance.
A former Upper East Regional Industrial Relations Officer of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), Mr Agamu Rudolph, said the construction of the minor Basilica and the centenary celebration would further promote “inter religious dialogue between Catholics and Muslims."
He said the Basilica had so far promoted religious tolerance because “the Catholics and Muslims have come to realise that we all share and have the same great grandfather, Abraham".
The Basilica’s existence has also brought about formal education among both Christians and Muslims through the missionaries.
Mr Rudolp who is also a Member of the Knights of Saint John International in the Catholic Church and the Parish Chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission, a body set up to handle issues of conflict within the Catholic Church and beyond, said he was expecting patronage of the minor Basilica to improve after the celebration.
He equally expressed the hope that after the celebration more resources would be committed towards the maintenance and preservation of the minor Basilica.
Mr Anthony Apubeo, also a Catholic, for his part intimated that “As a Catholic, the celebration would be a reminder of the sacred spiritual healing that is hidden in the Basilica and the need to uphold it.”
“It would further remind me of the sacrifices of the early missionaries to inspire me to also serve my fellow humans selflessly,” he further explained.
When the Daily Graphic visited the premises of the minor Basilica last Thursday, preparations were ongoing to freshen up the structure including the Basilica Museum and the Grotto with new paintings.