Process to declare Cardinal Dery saint on course

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
File Photo: Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, archbishop emeritus of Tamale, Ghana, is carried towards Pope
File Photo: Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery, archbishop emeritus of Tamale, Ghana, is carried towards Pope

A tribunal set up by the Catholic Church as part of the beatification and canonisation process to declare the late Archbishop of Tamale, Peter Cardinal Porekuu Dery, a saint, has so far interviewed 45 people who have experienced miracles through the intercession of the late cardinal.

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The tribunal has finished hearing witnesses in the Tamale, Yendi, Navrongo-Bolgatanga and Damongo dioceses and is expected to conduct its next session in the Wa Diocese as part of the process to elevate the late cardinal credited with the Africanisation of the Catholic Church in Ghana and Africa generally.

The Very Rev. Father Matthew Yitiereh, the Episcopal Delegate, who is the head of the tribunal, announced this at the second launch of the beatification process at the St Kizito Catholic Church at Nima in Accra last Saturday.

He rallied the Catholic faithful in Ghana to pray and contribute to the funds needed to complete the exercise.


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The cost

An estimated GH¢902,000 will be needed to complete the process, which, when successful, would lead to the declaration of Cardinal Dery as the first West African to be made a saint by the Catholic Church. 

“We are all excited about this process, but let us know that it will not come smoothly without challenges and hurdles. But we cannot afford to let the chance slip by.”

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“Now that the process has started, let us be even more committed to the cause, in all ways possible, especially spiritually and financially. Our enterprise will see the light of day by God’s grace,” Very Rev. Father Yitiereh said.

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, His Grace Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, in a homily (sermon), said all Christians were called to be holy.

He described the late Cardinal Dery as a man with the character of a saint who did ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

“He was a priest who did the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. That is why we all remember him,” he said.

According to him, sainthood was not limited to doing the extraordinary, including miracles and healing but rather doing the everyday things with dedication, zeal and love.

Recalling the work of the late Cardinal, he said his simplicity was such that even as a Bishop of Wa, he drove a rickety Datsun saloon car filled with foodstuffs from Wa to Accra on terrible roads, just to meet the families of his old parishioners in Accra.

The process of beatification and canonisation

The process of documenting the life and virtues of a holy man or woman cannot begin until five years after their death. This waiting period ensures that the person has an enduring reputation for sanctity. After the five years or earlier, if all or some of the period is waived, the bishop of the diocese in which the individual died can petition the Vatican to allow the initialisation of a cause for beatification and canonisation.

 If there is no objection from the appropriate institution from the church, the beatification process begins and involves a complex exercise that includes subjecting all miracles to scientific analysis, the analysis of all teachings and documents of the candidate of beatification to ensure that they conform to the doctrines of the church.

Cardinal Dery

Born in Nandom Ko in the Upper West Region on May 10, 1918, Cardinal Emeritus Dery was ordained into the priesthood on February 11, 1951. He became the Bishop of Wa on May 8, 1960 and was enthroned Archbishop of Tamale on November 27, 1977. He retired in 1994.

Cardinal Dery, who held a Doctorate in Divinity, was one time President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference for two terms, from 1982 to 1988. He was made a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in honour of the invaluable services he rendered to the church with exemplary faithfulness and admirable dedication even after his retirement. 

In 2006, Cardinal Dery received a state honour, as a member of the Order of the State of Ghana, for his immense contribution to the country.

He died in his sleep on March 6, 2008, at his Tamale residence on Ghana’s 51st Independence Day.