New Democrat (Monrovia)

14 February 2013

Liberia: Bishop Francis Turns 77

Hundreds of people, including religious leaders of diverse backgrounds and government officials converged on Sacred Heart Cathedral on Broad Street and the Sinkor home of ailing Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Tuesday to show compassion and felicitate with him on the occasion of his 77th birth anniversary.

The congregation also gave recognition of the retirement from active pastoral leadership of the Most Rev. Francis, who was also an ardent promoter of social justice and the rule of law.

At Sacred Heart Cathedral where a special mass was celebrated, the celebrants recounted the unrelenting advocacy for social justice and human rights championed by Archbishop Francis during his active pastoral leadership of the Catholic Church.

Delivering a homily, the Most Rev Andrew J. Karnley of Cape Palmas, told the congregation that Archbishop Francis completed the purpose and cause of being a bishop, having served the church and his country well.

According to him, God showered abundant blessings upon Archbishop Francis and was given the Holy Spirit to serve his people. He then asked the parishioners to show appreciation for Archbishop Francis who, he said, stood for the rights of others and the abuses meted out to them by the power that be

"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," Bishop Karnley said of retired Archbishop Francis.

For Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the main purpose of the mass was to thank God for Archbishop Francis as he celebrated his 77th birth anniversary and God's persistent blessings and mercy on him for being what he has been.

"After eight 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 ever one. Let me appreciate you for supporting him and the church," he told the congregation.

For his part, Sheikh Kafumba Konneh of the Liberian Muslim Council said he has known Archbishop for over 40 years, and pleaded with the Catholics to forgive him for his inability to make regular visits to his "friend and brother."

He usually shed tears when he visits the home of the ailing Archbishop, he said. But he has decided not to visit his "friend and brother" any longer based on an advice of his doctor who feared that the Sheikh would suffer a physical breakdown as a result.

"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 has advised to stay away for now because it increases my temperature. I have come to make this open confession and ask the church to forgive me for this act," he pleaded.

Sheikh Konneh said his relationship with Archbishop Francis was beyond bounds. They were once regarded as enemies of the state during the turbulent political period. He then urged Liberians to repent and forgive one another, warning that if they do not do so, the reconciliation process will be a mirage. "We must disarm ourselves mentally; otherwise, we will arm ourselves again," he warned.

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