Daily Champion (Lagos)

Nigeria: Choice of Pope Not Based On Race - Arinze

Onitsha — EMINENT cleric, Francis Cardinal Arinze, has said that he harbours no personal grudge against Pope Benedict XVI stressing that the Holy Spirit who guided his election does not discriminate against any contestant to the papacy on ground of race or region.

Arinze, the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacrament in the Vatican, was widely touted as likely successor to the late Pope John Paul 11.

But the incumbent formerly, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger emerged the new Pope at a Conclave of 115 Cardinals of the Catholic Church on April 19, 2005.

However, speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Champion in Onitsha, Anambra State last week Arinze said he was amused by speculations that he would clinch the papacy then because people forget that their Cardinal (Arinze) is just only one out of the 115 Cardinals who went into the conclave.

"So, just as you wanted the one you know to be a Pope, but of course the Holy Spirit has a totally different agenda and that is why I was laughing because I knew I would not be elected, but I also know that God directs the church and the church will get a fine Pope, so there is no problem" said Arinze.

He advised those thinking along primordial sentiment in electing a Pope to desist, as election into the papacy is not done along regional or ethnic sentiments as done here, rather the Cardinals were even praying not to be elected because of the hard work and enormous responsibility attached to it.

"In any case, the question of Pope is not a question of Africa, or Asia or Europe or America. What is important to the church is whoever can deliver the good will be chosen. We do not in fact examine where he is coming from. So, probably many Nigerians are thinking of their elections, their national election, and state election and local government election, so, they think we do like that. No" said Cardinal Arinze.

He said Pope Benedict XVI is an exceptional person, stating that he is the right person at the right place and time adding that the fact that he was elected within 24 hours attest to that fact as against prolonged days, sometimes one week, two weeks or up to four weeks in middle ages.

"Read what Benedict XVI says. He is really a treasure, but many people did not know him. They had no opportunity to know him the little they know him is the little they were told that he was in-charge of doctrine, but he was much bigger than that. People are beginning to see" he said.

On the lingering political crisis in his home, Anambra State, Arinze asked the stakeholders to do something very urgent to liberate the state from the shackles of backwardness occasioned by the crisis.

He said that the people of Anambra State have suffered in the course of the crisis and the development of the state has been much slower than it could have been because of the crisis.

Said he: "they should have made much more development. All those who have a voice and a hand in the crisis, please should do something so that Anambra State people will make as much development in all the senses of that word as they could and as they should because the people are very dynamic. They deserve much better treatment than what they have been getting for years".

The cardinal said that he wants a Nigeria where there is respect for human person, honesty and sense of justice not only from the political leaders but also from all Nigerians.

He said that if Nigerians could work honestly for six months, depend on their income, resist the temptation of getting extra naira through dubious means, and if our petrol money and allocations will be used to work for Nigerians, the country will be a small paradise within the six months.

The Cardinal said that this is his prayer and it is very possible that this type of system can work in Nigeria provided that every Nigerian should be ready to make effort to achieve it, Politicians he said should realize that all public office seekers cannot hold political positions at the same time and therefore should learn how to concede defeat.

"Will the others accept defeat and will those who are elected be honest?, nobody cheating, nobody rigging, nobody deceiving. If we do that, Nigeria will be a happier place because, Nigeria has personnel, more than any other country in black Africa, he said.

Cardinal Arinze said that if Nigeria is improved and all our personnel outside the country return back, the country will be a better place to live, saying "let no person tell me Nigeria is poor. Suppose, the whole petrol money, not one naira does not go into anybody's pocket unlawfully, don't you think this country will become better?", he asked.

Arinze said that Nigeria can be made better and that is the whole essence of the gospel they preach in the church. "The gospel is not only going to church on Sunday, but also living our lives on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and don't blame only the president and the governors. All of us, each of us, can do something and should" he said.

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