The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Bishop Francis Speaks in Silence

In observance of his 77th birthday anniversary and in anticipation of the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination of Archbishop Michael K. Francis, the Bishop of Cape Palmas, Most Rev. Andrew Jagaye Karnley has disclosed that Archbishop Francis is telling Liberians in silence not to allow "same sex marriage" to take place in the country and he has also asked why are Liberians silent and mute on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report?

Bishop Karnley said Archbishop Francis is telling Liberians that those who bear the greatest responsibility for war and economic crimes in the past and now must be held accountable and anyone who may escape human justice will ultimately face the justice of God.

Fr. Karnley was speaking when he delivered his homily message to thousands of Catholics at a thanksgiving mass held on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in central Monrovia. He used the occasion to thank God for the Archbishop and all those who supported the unparalleled leadership, vision and inspiration he provided the Church and this country, especially when Liberia was under the shadow of the cross.

With quotes to Liberians from the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "that there can be no future without forgiveness", Bishop Karnley told the congregation that Archbishop Francis is telling us in silence to uphold our religious and moral values and avoid abortion in reproductive health programs.

"The saying is true that silence at times speaks louder than words. And so what is the Archbishop telling us in his silence? He says to us in his silence that nothing has changed in all that he said, did and stood for. He tells us to work to build and develop a country that is reconciled and peaceful. Each Liberian should make the choice to forgive. He quotes to us the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "there can be no future without forgiveness". Archbishop Francis is telling us in his silence to uphold our religious and moral values and never allow same sex union as well as abortion in reproductive health programs to be practiced in our country. In his prophetic voice, he is asking why are Liberians silent and mute on the TRC? He is telling us that those who bear the greatest responsibility for war and economic crimes in the past and now must be held accountable. And let it be known that those who may escape human justice will ultimately face the justice of God". Bishop Karnley told Catholics at the thanksgiving mass.

Paraphrasing the words of St. Paul, Bishop Karnley said the Archbishop has fought the good fight of justice and righteousness; he has faithfully served the Church and country and he is still keeping the faith, but slowly and surely running the race to finish and only ask Liberians now for their love and prayers as he awaits the crown of righteousness.

Like many people, Bishop Karnley recalled that he was dumbfounded when the Archbishop suddenly fell ill with a debilitating stroke in March 2004. He could not comprehend that such could happen to him at a crucial moment in the country. But upon deep reflection he (Bishop Karnley) realized that the country was at the threshold of peace with the signing of the Peace Accord in Accra in August 2003, the inauguration of an interim government and the involvement of the UN Peace Keeping Mission. Perhaps his illness he noted is God's mysterious way of telling him and us that his mission is accomplished with the dawning of peace in Liberia.

Fr. Karnley said several months before the Archbishop got ill and perhaps one of the most important things that he did for this country in July 2003, was that he went on a diplomatic mission to London, Dublin, Washington DC and New York to engage policy makers not to leave Liberia to her own fate. He told them that they had the moral obligation to stop the blood bath in the country. A resolution was thus made at the UN in New York for the international community to intervene and save Liberia. And thank God that we are now in our tenth year of peace and development as well as the second term of democratic governance.

The Cape Palmas Bishop indicated that the Church is not only thanking God but also celebrating a man who was not only a prophetic voice but also someone who valued education, health care, progress and development. The Bishop outlined that Archbishop Francis built institutions of learning, health care facilities and initiated pastoral and social programs to improve the welfare of people. He did not stop there; Archbishop educated and mentored young Liberian men and women who are making a remarkable difference in the Church and society. The Catholic Prelate said Archbishop Francis' vision for education is that our educational system should address the human resource needs of the country and this vision led him to also establish the Stella Maris Polytechnic on Capitol Hill.

"For all that Archbishop Francis stood for, said and did during crucial moments of our political history, one cannot help but seeing him as the MAN for those times of our history. I am of the firm conviction that God raised and anointed him to a position of leadership in the Church to serve the purpose and cause of being the prophetic voice and moral guide when this country had arrived at the point of political crisis in the late 1970's of the rule of President Tolbert," Karnley said.

The eloquent Bishop told Catholics that the Archbishop can better be appreciated as the "MAN" for our times if we rightly place his leadership within the context of our political history. He recalled that the Archbishop began his episcopate in 1976 when there were rumblings of discontent as to how this country was being governed politically and economically. He added that Archbishop's advocacy for change and democratic governance was gradually becoming the order of the day on the part of some enlightened Liberians both outside and even within the government of President Tolbert. The resistance to peacefully change the direction of the political and economic governance of the country inevitably paved the way for the sad and bloody events of 1979 and 1980.

"We know that Archbishop Francis stood out as a leader of no small measure during those sad and bloody moments of our political history. His voice was clear and uncompromising against the abuses and excesses of the Doe regime in the 1980's.The glaring and gross failure of President Samuel Doe to address the perennial issues of political and economic governance led to Charles Taylor, his collaborators and leaders of other warring factions to exploit the aspirations of Liberians for change. Liberians got nothing better but murder and mayhem," The Bishop of Cape Palmas noted.

Bishop Karnley further mentioned that the Archbishop stood out as a leader of character and strong convictions during the bloody and corrupt regime of Charles Taylor and other warlords in the 1990's and into the New Millennium. He added that Archbishop's strong and relentless advocacy for social justice, respect for human dignity and good governance is common knowledge. He inspired and raised the consciousness of Liberians about human rights and their dignity. He thus established the Justice and Peace Commission in 1991 to foster the cause of social justice and human rights issues.

"In spite of being in the know of plots to defame his character and even murder him; Archbishop Francis continued to serve the cause of righteousness. The measure of who he is, all that he said, did and stood for can be captured in these timeless words of Martin Luther King Jr., "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and leisure, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy". "And it is common knowledge where the Archbishop always stood in challenging times," Bishop Karnley emphasized.

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