Former Anambra State governors, Peter Obi, Willie Obiano and the incumbent, Charles Soludo, were yesterday at the nineteenth birthday celebration of Francis Cardinal Arinze at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Onitsha. Also in attendance were ten bishops and three hun-dred priests and amidst cheers, the former governors exchanged pleasantries, a development that took away internal political differences among them. Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, yesterday described the former Prefect of Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, Vatican City, Rome, Francis Cardinal Arinze, as an outstanding legend and an icon of the universal church.
Onaiyekan, who spoke while delivering the homily during a concelebrated high mass to mark the 90th birthday of Cardinal Arinze, said the church of God celebrates Arinze in many ways, first as the Archbishop Emeritus of Onitsha, who led the church and its people out of the turbulence and ravages of the Nigerian civil war that lasted between 1967 to 1970.
He said Cardinal Arinze also distinguished himself in the service to God and humanity in his tour of duty while in Rome, noting that he was destined by God for a great mission on earth. Describing him as one of the living ancestors of the Catholic Church, Onaiyekan recalled that Cardinal Arinze’s intellectual prowess started during his seminary days and noted that Nigerians cannot forget the prominent role he played in the Beatification of Blessed Iwene Tansi in Nigeria in the year 1998 when Pope John Paul 11 visited Nigeria even as he expressed hope that he will remain alive to witness the final canonisation of Tansi. Also speaking, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, described Arinze as a man who has devoted himself to serve mankind. Obi said as the Cardinal clocks ninety years people should learn from him as a shepherd in God’s vineyard.