President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed thanks and appreciation to the outgoing Vatican Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency George Antonysamy, for the services he and the Catholic Church continue to render Liberia.
“Thank you for the service to our country and thank you for all you’ve done to support the work of the Catholic Church in partnership with the Government,” President Sirleaf said.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader made the comments Thursday, December 20, when the Apostolic Enunciator in Liberia paid her a farewell courtesy call at her Foreign Ministry office.
President Sirleaf recalled that the Catholic Church and Government have been in partnership for a long time, which has enabled the Liberian population to benefit from its education and health services even during the difficult days of the country’s history. “You are very much appreciated, particularly in the rural areas, because that’s where the Government’s own resources – human and financial – cannot reach, but you have been there,” President Sirleaf pointed out.
She thanked H.E. Antonysamy for the care given the ailing retired Catholic Archbishop, Michael Kpalala Francis, noting that the Church has stood by him and that were it not for the love that the Church has for everyone within the Church family, the ailing Archbishop would not have been as cheerful as he is.
Said President Sirleaf: “Whatever new assignment you’re about to assume, you will enjoy it, and find it professionally and spiritually satisfying. We want you to know that Liberia will always be your home. Any time you want to come, whether for short periods of rest or to come back to find us, the Liberian people will be here to welcome you.”
The outgoing Apostolic Nuncio, who has served as the Vatican’s Ambassador to Liberia since April 2006, thanked President Sirleaf and, through her, the Government and people of Liberia for all they’ve done for the Catholic Church in Liberia. He added, “I present to you, in the name of the Holy Father, all the blessings and best wishes for you and for your mission in this country.”
H.E. Antonysamy, who also served as Apostolic Nuncio for The Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, vowed that the Catholic Church will always be a partner to Government, no matter what condition it finds itself. “We are with you and will continue to be with you,” he assured the President.
He acknowledged that perhaps the Catholic Church is not as outspoken as during the days of Archbishop Francis, but said that the Church is grooming a younger generation of priests to follow in his footsteps.
The departing Apostolic Nuncio came to Liberia in December 2005 to rehabilitate the Embassy premises and reactivate Catholic Church activities. He was one of the first Ambassadors to present Letters of Credence to President Sirleaf at the Executive Mansion in April 2006.
His next assignment, early next year, is in his native India. In the meantime, Fr. Viola Gabriel will serve as the Vatican Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires until a new Ambassador is named.