Thousands of Catholics in Liberia yesterday assembled at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Broad Street in Monrovia to show compassion for Most Rev. Archbishop Emeritus, Michael Kpakala Francis, in anticipation of his Golden Jubilee of his priestly ordination and the occasion of his 77th birthday anniversary.
The special mass which was celebrated to thank God for the work and services rendered by Archbishop Francis brought together some members of the Inter-Faith Religious Council, the Muslim Council headed by Sheikh Kafuma Konneh, some members of the 53rd National Legislature and officials of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
In his homily during the order of the mass held, Most Rev. Andrew J. Karnley, Bishop of Cape Palmas recalled the unrelenting advocacy for social justice and human rights undertaken by Archbishop Francis during his active pastoral leadership at the time as head of the Catholic Church in Liberia.
Rev. Fr. Karnley told the congregation that Archbishop Francis has served the church and his country well and as such he has also served the purpose and cause of being a bishop.
Fr. Karnley acknowledged the blessing of God upon Archbishop Francis who he believes God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to serve his people and reminded parishioners to appreciate the bishop who stood for the rights of others and the abuses made against some Liberians.
"For all that he stood for, looking at our political history, Archbishop Francis has served the purpose and cause of being a bishop. He has kept the faith and served the church well. His life has spoken more about him," Fr. Karnley noted.
For his part, Archbishop Lewis Zeigler told parishioners that the mass was intended to say "Thanks to God" for Archbishop Francis as he celebrates his 77th birth anniversary and God's persistent blessing and mercy upon him for being the man he has been.
"After 8 years of illness, he is who he is. Let us be proud of him. Visit him whenever you have the time. His doors are open to everyone. Let me appreciate you for supporting him and the church," Archbishop Zeigler said.
Also speaking was Sheikh Kafuma Konneh of the Muslim Council. Sheikh Konneh, who has known Archbishop Francis for over 40 years appealed to the Catholic Church to forgive him for not visiting his friend and brother.
The Muslim Prelate explained that he usually shed tears when he visits the residence of Archbishop Francis. As a result of this, his doctor has advised him to remain quiet before he suffers from a physical breakdown.
"I have known Bishop Francis for over 40 years while in Nimba County. I have decided for sometimes not to go to his house anymore. When I visit him, it is all about tears and sorrow. My doctor advised me to stay away from now because it increases my temperature. I have come to make this open confession and ask the church to forgive me for this act," Sheikh Konneh disclosed.
He recalled that in the past, as members of the Inter-Faith Religious Council of Liberia, he and Bishop Francis were considered as enemies of the state by those who wanted to destroy the country. Sheikh Konneh used the occasion to remind the congregation that if Liberians do not repent and forgive one another and re-amplify themselves, the process of reconstruction would become meaningless.
"We must disarm ourselves mentally; otherwise, we will arm ourselves again," the Muslim cleric intimated.