By BRIDGET IKYADO
ABUJA- The Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, has commended Cardinal Okpaleke ,describing him as a “project in Progress.”
Okeke catechetised the congregation on the meaning of Cardinalate in the Catholic Church.
This is contained in a statement by Fr Mike Umoh ,the Director of Social Communications of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) on Sunday in Abuja.
He said this during his homily at the Holy Mass which was held on the open ground of the St. Joseph Cathedral compound in Ekwulobia, in Imo.
He said that the Cardinalate was one of the glorious heritages of the Church, which has existed from the late antiquity of the Church to the present time.
He advised, “always remember that you are still a project in progress being human, you are still vulnerable.”
Tracing the history and development of the Cardinalate from 6th century, the ex-Seminary Prof. and formator observed that initially, any baptised Catholic could be a Cardinal until the 1917 Canon set the minimum standard to be priestly ordination.
According to him, by the 11th century, the sacred college of Cardinals achieved institutional stability whereby, among other elements, creation of new Cardinals remained the duty of the Pope.
The prelate stressed that the red colour for Cardinals represented martyrdom because, ” Cardinals are specially called to witness to the faith with their sweat and blood whenever and wherever it is required,
” They are to show uncommon love for God beyond anything else and courage in matters of faith and moral without fear or favour.
” Thus, being a call to heroic service, Cardinals wear red as an outward sign of their willingness to die for Christ and his Church,”he said.
Okeke explained that the Church in Nigeria finds reason to celebrate Cardinal Okpaleke, following the tradition of the early Christians.
He said, “in spite of the human pain, families celebrated and thanked God when a member of their family was publicly executed for the sake of Christ.”
He said that today, we rejoice that Nigeria has been found worthy of honour of another Cardinal in our time.
” The elevation of one of us is an elevation of the local Church and our country Nigeria.
” Today, the choice of our brother Peter Ebere Cardinal -Okpaleke invites us to a deeper faith and greater commitment to witnessing to the Gospel of Christ.
” Positions and privileges in the Church go with responsibilities and duties.
“We therefore, rejoice with him as we promise him our prayers and unflinching support.” he said.
In his goodwill message, the President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria,( CBCN), Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji congratulated the “newest and youngest Nigerian Cardinal” whom he commended for witnessing to the faith.
“In trying times, as the storm was raging, you fixed your gaze in silent tears on Christ, crucified and risen, and witnessed to His long-suffering on the cross through endurance,”he said.
Ugoji assured him of the prayer and support of all Bishops of the Conference.
The CBCN President and Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese called on the Cardinal to “say ‘no to retaliation and exhibit a forgiving and long-suffering attitude.”(NAN)