Cardinal-elect John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja participated in a Press Conference on the eve of the Consistory which will see him become the third living Nigerian member of the College of Cardinals though only one of two who are eligible, at this date, to participate in a Papal Conclave.
Cardinal Anthony Okogie, emeritus Archbishop of Lagos is also eligible to vote; Cardinal Francis Arinze, who recently turned 80 years of age, cannot participate in a Papal Conclave.
According to Agenzia Fides, the News Agency for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Abuja is the new capital of Nigeria, where all faiths and ethnic groups in the country are represented. In this sense it is a training ground for dialogue, according to Cardinal-elect John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja at the opening of the press conference held yesterday in Rome. Mgr. Onaiyekan said he was surprised by the appointment decided by Pope Benedict XVI, because becoming “Cardinal should not be a goal of a man of the Church,” but rather a commitment to work even harder to serve others.
The Archbishop of Abuja did not shirk the questions put to him, dealing with the situation in Nigeria, and in particular on anti-Christian violence carried out by the Boko Haram group.
Archbishop Onaiyekan stressed that relations between Christians and Muslims are generally good, but a group of about one thousand armed men is enough to create chaos in a country of 160-170 million people (“we do not know exactly how many we are, statistics is not our strong point,” he added jokingly).
The Cardinal-elect also revealed that among the victims of Boko Haram there are many Muslims (the number is probably higher than that of the Christian victims), including some religious leaders who condemned the crimes committed by the group.
“It is the State’s duty to defend us. We as Christians can take security measures to protect ourselves but we will not be armed. This is not our task,” said the Cardinal-elect, pointing out that the attacks against churches have not emptied them: the faithful do not escape from giving testimony of faith, even under the threat of an attack.
The Cardinal-elect finally believes that it is for the Police to deal with Boko Haram, arresting those who commit crimes and to establish dialogue especially with those who, though not belonging directly to the group, are sympathizers. (With thanks to Agenzia Fides 23/11/2012)