Arinze absolves Gowon of malice in deportation of missionaries
FRANCIS Cardinal Arinze at the weekend absolved former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) of any evil intentions in ordering the deportation of foreign missionaries from Nigeria after the Nigeria Civil War, saying he did that so that the local church would grow.
Cardinal Arinze spoke in Onitsha, Anambra State, during the golden jubilee of his bishopric at the field of Basilica of The Holy Trinity, where a Pontifical High Mass was celebrated and feast held to mark the occasion.
The event was attended by thousands of Catholic faithful and well-wishers, tens of Catholic bishops, Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Augustine Kasujja, Apostolic Nuncio of Central African Republic and Chad, Most Rev. Dr. Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Gen. Gowon, Governor Willie Obiano and his wife, former national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, and others.
As Gowon was introduced to speak after the Mass, Cardinal Arinze recalled how he and one Monsignor Obiukwu visited Gowon at Dodan Barracks just two weeks after the civil war “and begged him not to send the missionaries away but discovered that the Federal Government had already taken a decision.”
Arinze recalled: “Gowon received us well and was kind to us. He told us that he was not against the church. He told us that the government wanted the local church to take charge of its affairs.” Cardinal Arinze said that indeed, he discovered that Gowon was not against the church.
While speaking, Gowon said he could not have been against the church as he is a child of a missionary. He thanked God for the life of Cardinal Arinze, saying that he brought pride not only to Nigeria but the entire black race with his rise almost to the peak position of the Catholic Church.
Thereafter, encomiums poured in for Arinze who retired in Vatican as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
The Catholic Bishop Conference led by Archbishop Ignatus Kaigama said the Catholic bishops were happy with Cardinal Arinze’s episcopal ministry, describing him as “warm, kind and generous” “That is why you are a world citizen,” they added.
Also, Apostolic Nuncio Kasujja commended Arinze for his good works and long life while Governor Obiano described him as one of the best, becoming a bishop barely after seven years of priesthood and “was almost a pope.”