FRANCIS ARINZE Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Francis Cardinal Arinze, (born 1 November 1932) is an African prelate of the                     
Roman Catholic Church. He has been Prefect of the Congregation for Divine                       
Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since 2002 and Cardinal Bishop of                   
Velletri-Segni (succeeding Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI) since                 
2005. Arinze was one of the principal advisors to Pope John Paul II, and was                     
considered papabile before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Benedict XVI.                 
Arinze was born in Eziowelle, Anambra State, Nigeria, Africa. A convert from an                 
African traditional religion,[2] he was baptized on his ninth birthday (1                       
November 1941) by Father Michael Tansi, who was beatified by John Paul II in                     
1998. His parents themselves later converted to Catholicism. At age 15, he                       
entered All Hallows Seminary of Nnewi from which he graduated and earned a                       
degree in philosophy 1950. His father was initially opposed to him entering the                 
seminary, but after seeing how much Francis enjoyed it, he encouraged him.                       
Arinze stayed at All Hallows until 1953 to teach. In 1955, he went to Rome to                   
study theology at the Pontifical Urban University, where he ultimately earned a                 
doctorate in sacred theology summa cum laude. On 23 November 1958, at the chapel                 
of the university, Arinze was ordained to the priesthood by GrĂ©goire-Pierre                     
Cardinal Agagianian, pro-prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation                 
of the Faith.                                                                                   
After ordination, Father Arinze remained in Rome, earning a master's in theology                 
in 1959 and doctorate in 1960. His doctoral thesis on "Ibo Sacrifice as an                       
Introduction to the Catechesis of Holy Mass" was the basis for his much used                     
reference work, "Sacrifice in Ibo Religion", published in 1970. From 1961 to                     
1962, Arinze was professor of liturgy, logic, and basic philosophy at Bigard                     
Memorial Seminary. From there, he was appointed regional secretary for Catholic                 
education for the eastern part of Nigeria. Eventually, Arinze was transferred to                 
London, where he attended the Institute of Education and graduated in 1964.                     
Francis Arinze became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world when he                   
was ordained to the episcopate on 29 August 1965, at the age of 32. He was                       
appointed titular bishop of Fissiana, and named coadjutor to the Archbishop of                   
Onitsha, Nigeria. He attended the final session of the Second Vatican Council in                 
that same year along with the 45 year old Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol                   
Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. Following the death of the Archbishop of                 
Onitsha in February 1967, Arinze was appointed to the position a few months                     
later, on 26 June 1967. He was the first native African to head his diocese,                     
succeeding Archbishop Charles Heery, an Irish missionary.                                       
The new Archbishop did not have much time to settle into his office before the                   
Nigeria-Biafra war broke out. The entire archdiocese was located in the                         
rebellious Biafran territory. As a result of the war, Archbishop Arinze had to                   
flee his see city of Onitsha and to live as a refugee, first in Adazi and then                   
Amichi, for the three years of the war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970.                         
Despite his own refugee status, Archbishop Arinze worked tirelessly for refugees,               
displaced persons, the sick and the hungry, offering support to priests and                     
religious, and giving the faithful hope for the future. With the help of foreign                 
missionaries, he supervised what one international relief worker called one of "the             
most effective and efficient distributions of relief materials" in history. He                   
also took care to keep the Church separate from the ongoing political conflict,                 
gaining the respect of all factions in the country.                                             
Francis Arinze was still Archbishop of Onitsha when the Nigeria-Biafra war ended                 
in 1970. Onitsha was a part of Biafra, and the region and its people had                         
suffered greatly in the three-year war. The homes and businesses of the people                   
had been devastated, and the already poor region was sinking deeper into poverty.               
The end of the war did not mean an end to the challenges facing the young                       
The Nigerian government deported all foreign missionaries stationed in the                       
archdiocese, leaving only the native clergy and religious, who were few in                       
number. The government also confiscated the Catholic schools, most of which also                 
served as churches or parish halls.                                                             
Impressed by Arinze's many accomplishments as the leader of an archdiocese with                 
few resources, and his ability to work side by side with Muslims in a country                   
that is 50 percent Muslim, in 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed Arinze pro-president             
of the Vatican's Secretariat for Non-Christian Believers, later renamed the                     
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Archbishop Arinze continued as                   
the ordinary his archdiocese, and was the unanimous choice of his brother                       
bishops for President of the Nigerian Bishops Conference in 1984.                               
A year later, the people of Onitsha organized a pilgrimage to Rome when they                     
learned that Archbishop Arinze would be named a Cardinal at the Consistory of 25                 
May 1985. At the age of 53, Francis Cardinal Arinze was among the youngest                       
members of the College of Cardinals.                                                             
On 8 April 1985, Arinze resigned from his post in Onitsha, and the Pope named                   
him a Cardinal Deacon, with the title of S. Giovanni della Pigna, little more                   
than a month later in the consistory held on 25 May 1985; he was raised to the                   
rank of Cardinal Priest in 1996. Two days following his elevation to Cardinal                   
Deacon, Arinze was appointed President of Interreligious Dialogue, holding the                   
office until 1 October 2002, when he was named Prefect of the Congregation for                   
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. All major Vatican officials                 
automatically lose their positions during a sede vacante, and so, the cardinal                   
lost his position on 2 April 2005 due to the death of the Pope.                                 
The Cardinal actively catechises via Familyland TV to the Americas, the                         
Philippines, Africa, and Europe. He has produced over 1,700 television programs                 
with the Apostolate for Family Consecration. The programs cover almost all of                   
Pope John Paul II's encyclicals and apostolic letters, Vatican II, and many                     
other topics. He is also the author of several books along with a complete "Consecration         
and Truth Catechetical Program" for children and adults.                                         
Styles of                                                                                       
Francis Arinze                                                                                   
Reference style His Eminence                                                                     
Spoken style Your Eminence                                                                       
Informal style Cardinal                                                                         
See Velletri (suburbicarian see)                                                                 
Arinze was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal                       
conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. He returned to his post as Prefect of                 
the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments when                   
confirmed by Benedict XVI on 21 April 2005. Four days later, on 25 April 2005,                   
he was advanced to Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, which had been vacated by                 
the ascension of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy.                                               
Arinze will be eligible to participate and vote in any future conclaves before                   
his 80th birthday on 1 November 2012.