Arinze, Francis A. 1932-
ARINZE, Francis A. 1932-
PERSONAL: Born November 1, 1932, in Eziowelle, Nigeria; son of Joseph Nwankwu (a farmer) and Bernadette Ekwoanya (a farmer; maiden name, Mgbafor). Education: Bigard Memorial Seminary, Diploma in Philosophy, 1955; Urban University, B.D., L.S.T., and D.D., 1960; London Institute of Education, Diploma in Education, 1964. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, reading.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, 00120 Vatican City, Italy.
CAREER: Bigard memorial Seminary, Enugu, Nigeria, lecturer in philosophy, logic, 1961-62; ordained Roman Catholic priest; auxiliary bishop, 1965-67, archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria, 1967-85, elevated to cardinal, 1985; Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Vatican City, Italy, president, 1984-2002; prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican City, Italy, 2002—; writer.
MEMBER: United Bible Societies (vice president for Africa, 1982-85), Society for Promotion of Igbo Language and Culture (patron).
AWARDS, HONORS: Honorary D.Litt., University of Nigeria, 1986; honorary Ph.D., Catholic University of America, 1998; honorary D.D., Wake Forest University, 1999.
Sacrifice in Ibo Religion, Ibadan University Press (Ibadan, Nigeria), 1970.
The Christian and Politics, Tabansi (Onitsha), 1982.
Answering God's Call, Chapman (London), 1983.
Living Our Faith, Tabansi (Onitsha), 1983.
Alone with God, Tabansi (Onitsha), 1986.
Africans and Christianity, Optimal Computer Solutions (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1990.
Church in Dialogue: Walking with Other Believers, Ignatius (San Francisco, CA), 1990.
Gospel to Society, Optimal Computer Solutions (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1990.
Motherhood and Family Life, the Blessed Virgin Mary,Christian in Christ, Optimal Computer Solutions (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1990.
Spreading the Faith, Optimal Computer Solutions (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1990.
Work and Pray for Perfection, Optimal Computer Solutions (Nsukka, Nigeria), 1990.
Il Concilio vaticano II: carisma e profezia, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (Vatican City), 1997.
The Bishop and His Ministry, Urbania University Press (Vatican), 1998.
Christian-Muslim Relations in the Twenty-first Century, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University (Washington, DC), 1998.
Meeting Other Believers: The Risks and Rewards ofInterreligious Dialogue, Our Sunday Visitor Publishers (Huntington, IN), 1998.
A dieci anni dall'enciclica Redemptoris missio, Urbaniana University Press (Vatican City), 2001.
The Holy Eucharist: Christ's Inestimable Gift, Our Sunday Visitor Publishers (Huntington, IN), 2001.
Religions for Peace: A Call for Solidarity to the Religions of the World, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.
Trust in Divine Providence, Tabansi (Onitsha), 2002.
Also author of Partnership in Education, 1965.
SIDELIGHTS: After a three-year civil war in Nigeria in 1970, Francis A. Arinze, then president of the Nigerian Council of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, became involved in an intensive effort to convert his fellow Nigerians to his religion. His success caught the attention of Pope John Paul II, and Arinze was called to the Vatican, the headquarters of his church. A year later, he was elevated to the position of cardinal.
Born in 1932 into a family that practiced a traditional Nigerian religion, Arinze, impressed by a local Catholic priest, was baptized at the age of nine. Four years later, he entered the seminary and in 1958 completed his formation to become a Catholic priest. It took Arinze only seven years to rise to the position of bishop and a leader in his community. When he was thirty-four, he was named archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria, his home state, and became the youngest metropolitan archbishop in the world.
Arinze, who shares many of Pope John Paul II's conservative views, was appointed by the Pope to head the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a role that allows him to act as spokesperson for the Church on issues that deal with cooperation among the religions of the world. His position has become more critical as conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Africa and in the Middle East continue to intensify.
In an effort to ease these tensions, Arinze is actively involved in the Joint Liaison Committee with Muslim leaders. Some people involved in the Church have speculated that Arinze's work with the Muslim population is one of the factors that would make him an ideal candidate for the papacy. If elected, Arinze would become possibly the second black Pope. There may have been other black popes in the early history of the church but St. Gelasius I, who held the office from 492 to 496 a.d., is the only one documented and is considered the first.
Arinze has written several books, many of them in reflecting his role as mediator between the Catholic Church and other religions, with a special emphasis on making a connection between his and his Muslim counterparts. In a speech given at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, DC (June 5, 1997), Arinze outlined his understanding of how the two religions might better understand one another. He began by pointing out that the combined number of Christian and Muslim people around the world represent over one-half the global population. "It matters very much," Arinze stated, "not only to Islam and Christianity, but also to the world, how the followers of these two religions relate to one another and how they envisage these relationships at this turning point in history."
Then Arinze listed five suggestions of how they might work together to help ease the historic tension between them. First he believes that both religions need to gain a better knowledge of one another. To do this, it is imperative that representatives from both groups engage in dialogue to recognize their shared values. "The Golden Rule," Arinze said, "which both religions teach instructs one to treat others as one would like to be treated." Then he added: "Christians and Muslims should not just coexist. They should also cooperate to build up society."
Arinze also believes that Muslims and Christians should work together to promote peace. "This dimension of Christian-Muslim relations is most important for the century which humanity is about to enter," he claimed.
The road to realizing these steps will be filled with obstacles, Arinze admitted. Factors such as the weight of the past are among them. "Relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been peaceful and serene," he stated. Both religions must also learn to promote a practice of self-criticism rather than pointing the finger at the other whenever one feels the need to blame. In addition, religions must not allow politicians to dictate their actions. "It should be required of such politicians," Arinze said, "that they respect the freedom of religions to determine their own goals and their activities in both the sphere of worship and that of service of neighbour."
Other hindrances to Christian-Muslim cooperation include religious fanaticism or extremism and different approaches to human rights. To both groups, Arinze points out they must accept one another and their right to practice the religion of their choice.
To allay the obstacles that exist on the path to full acceptance of one another, Arinze suggests that Christians and Muslims need to increase attention to the spiritual dimension of their religions. "This means that those who want to promote greater Muslim-Christian collaboration in the next century should encourage both sides to commit themselves to deeper spiritualities in attention to God, continue conversion of the heart in growing adherence to God's will, prayer, asceticism, sincerity of heart and love of one's neighbour."
Arinze's most recent publication, Religions for Peace: A Call for Solidarity to the Regions of the World, asks the following question: If the major religions of the world all have as a major tenet the promotion of peace, why is it that there are so many global conflicts being promoted in the name of God? According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Arinze here "reminds readers of the power religions have when they engage in prayer, joint initiatives for peace and other acts of solidarity." He also states that all religions must make their followers more conscious and understanding of other religions.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, May 6, 2000, "Cardinal Arinze says Jesus' Way Only Criterion of Right, Wrong," p. 5.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 11, 1999, Ron Goldwyn, "Nigerian Cardinal Could Become the Next Pope, Some Say," p. K1153.
Newsweek, May 31, 1999, "A Cardinal among the Deacons," p. 4; April 16, 2001, "The Next Pope?," p. 52.
Publishers Weekly, January 28, 2002, review of Religions for Peace: A Call for Solidarity to the Religions of the World, p. 288.
Sedos,http://www.sedos.org/ (July 24, 2002), "Cardinal Francis Arinze, 'Christian-Muslim Relations in the 21st Century'."