Bishop Djalwana Laurent Lompo was ordained as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Niamey (Niger) on Sunday, 9 June 2013. He will assist Archbishop Michel Cartateguy SMA in administering this huge diocese which covers 200,000 sq kms (more than twice the size of Ireland). A second diocese, Maradi, is five times larger at 1 million sq kms! According to the latest statistics the two dioceses between them have just 20 parishes (and dozens of outstations) with 50 priests to cover them all.
Memebrs of the Society of African Missions from France were the founding members of the Church in Niger. The Redemptorist Congregation also work in the country. Today there are 13 SMA missionaries in the country, all working in Niamey Archdiocese.They come from Argentina, France, India, Italy and Spain.
The Coat of Arms of the new bishop features a calabash held in two hands (looks a bit like a pumpkin cut in half). It symbolises ‘welcome’ and during the ordination ceremony it was presented to the new bishop. It is filled with water and is offered to the traveler and to anyone who visits the house. The other features of his Coat of Arms are an open Bible and the yellow background of the Sahel with the words underneath: “There is more joy in giving than receiving“.
Bishop Lompo prayed for the gift of simplicity.
There was some anxiety before the celebration concerning security. But the civil authorities of this overwhelmingly Muslim country have great respect for the Catholic Church and the work it does among all the people and the security forces maintained a presence and ensured everything passed off peacefully in the Sports ground where about 3,500 people gathered.
The Archbishop of Niamey, Michel Cartatéguy SMA (from the Basque Region) presided over the ceremony which was attended by most of the bishops of Burkina Faso. The songs, the dances, the symbols and especially the atmosphere of unity turned the event into a celebration of life for all.
Bishop Lompo is from the Gourmanché people and is the first Catholic Bishop in Niger who is a native of the country. The Gurmanché people can be found in both Burkina Faso and Niger. There are Zerma / Sonhrai, Hausa and immigrants from Benin Republic, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia and other countries along the Atlantic coast living and working in Niger.
Niger has an approximate population of 19 million people, of which 25,000 are Catholics. Of that number only 20% are Nigeriens. The remaining 20,000 come from neighbouring countries. The presence of the Catholic Church is the “natte”, i.e. a sober, humble presence. Another way of celebrating the Gospel.
During the ceremony two white doves were released, as a symbol of peace. Establishing true peace is one of the challenges facing all in the Sahel area of Africa.