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Francis Arinze, (born 1 November 1932) is an Igbo Nigerian[1] Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is currently Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, having served as prefect from 2002 to 2008. He is also Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni (succeeding Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI) since 2005. Arinze was one of the principal advisors to Pope John Paul II, and was considered papabile before the 2005 papal conclave, which elected Benedict XVI.[2]


Early life

Arinze was born in Eziowelle, Anambra State, Nigeria, Africa. A convert from an African traditional religion,[3] he was baptized on his ninth birthday (1 November 1941) by Father Michael Tansi, who was beatified by John Paul II in 1998. His parents themselves later converted to Catholicism. At age 15, he entered All Hallows Seminary of Onitsha from which he graduated and earned a degree in philosophy 1950. His father was initially opposed to his entering the seminary, but after seeing how much Francis enjoyed it, he encouraged him. Arinze stayed at All Hallows until 1953 to teach. In 1955, he went to Rome to study theology at the Pontifical Urban University, where he ultimately earned a doctorate in sacred theology summa cum laude. On 23 November 1958, at the chapel of the university, Arinze was ordained to the priesthood by Grégoire-Pierre Agagianian, pro-prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and future cardinal.

As priest

After ordination, Father Arinze remained in Rome, earning a master's in theology in 1959 and doctorate in 1960. His doctoral thesis on "Ibo Sacrifice as an Introduction to the Catechesis of Holy Mass" was the basis for his much used reference work, "Sacrifice in Ibo Religion", published in 1970. From 1961 to 1962, Arinze was professor of liturgy, logic, and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary. From there, he was appointed regional secretary for Catholic education for the eastern part of Nigeria. Eventually, Arinze was transferred to London, where he attended the Institute of Education and graduated in 1964.

As bishop

Francis Arinze became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the world when he was ordained to the episcopate on 29 August 1965, at the age of 32. He was appointed titular bishop of Fissiana, and named coadjutor to the Archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria. He attended the final session of the Second Vatican Council in that same year along with the 45 year old Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. Following the death of the Archbishop of Onitsha in February 1967, Arinze was appointed to the position a few months later, on 26 June 1967. He was the first native African to head his diocese, succeeding Archbishop Charles Heery, an Irish missionary.

As archbishop

The new Archbishop did not have much time to settle into his office before the Nigeria-Biafra War broke out. The entire archdiocese was located in the secessionist Biafran territory. As a result of the war, Archbishop Arinze had to flee his see city of Onitsha and to live as a refugee, first in Adazi and then Amichi, for the three years of the war, which lasted from 1967 to 1970.

Despite his own refugee status, Archbishop Arinze worked tirelessly for refugees, displaced persons, the sick and the hungry, offering support to priests and religious, and giving the faithful hope for the future. With the help of foreign missionaries, he supervised what one international relief worker called one of "the most effective and efficient distributions of relief materials" in history. He also took care to keep the Church separate from the ongoing political conflict, gaining the respect of all factions in the country.

Francis Arinze was still Archbishop of Onitsha when the Nigeria-Biafra war ended in 1970. Onitsha was a part of Biafra, and the region and its people had suffered greatly in the three-year war. The homes and businesses of the people had been devastated, and the already poor region was sinking deeper into poverty. The end of the war did not mean an end to the challenges facing the young Archbishop.

The Nigerian government deported all foreign missionaries stationed in the archdiocese, leaving only the native clergy and religious, who were few in number. The government also confiscated the Catholic schools, most of which also served as churches or parish halls.

Impressed by Arinze's many accomplishments as the leader of an archdiocese with few resources, and his ability to work side by side with Muslims in a country that is majority Christian (the fearful refusal of mainly Muslims in the north not allow religion and ethnicity to feature in the recent census in Nigeria is viewed by analyst as an acknowledgement of the Christian numerical superiority)and with a strong and not-to-be-ignored Muslim population, in 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed Arinze pro-president of the Vatican's Secretariat for Non-Christian Believers, later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Archbishop Arinze continued as the ordinary his archdiocese, and was the unanimous choice of his brother bishops for President of the Nigerian Bishops Conference in 1984.

A year later, the people of Onitsha organized a pilgrimage to Rome when they learned that Archbishop Arinze would be named a Cardinal at the Consistory of 25 May 1985. At the age of 53, Cardinal Arinze was among the youngest members of the College of Cardinals.

As cardinal

On 8 April 1985, Arinze resigned from his post in Onitsha, and the Pope named him a Cardinal Deacon, with the title of S. Giovanni della Pigna, little more than a month later in the consistory held on 25 May 1985; he was raised to the rank of Cardinal Priest in 1996. Two days following his elevation to Cardinal Deacon, Arinze was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, holding the office until 1 October 2002, when he was named Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. All major Vatican officials automatically lose their positions during a sede vacante, and so, the cardinal lost his position on 2 April 2005 due to the death of the Pope.

The Cardinal actively catechises via Familyland TV to the Americas, the Philippines, Africa, and Europe. He has produced over 1,700 television programs with the Apostolate for Family Consecration. The programs cover almost all of Pope John Paul II's encyclicals and apostolic letters, Vatican II, and many other topics. He is also the author of several books along with a complete "Consecration and Truth Catechetical Program" for children and adults.

Styles of
Francis Arinze
CardinalCoA PioM.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Velletri (suburbicarian see)

Arinze was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. He returned to his post as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments when confirmed by Benedict XVI on 21 April 2005. Four days later, on 25 April 2005, he was advanced to Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, which had been vacated by the ascension of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy. On 9 December 2008 Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Arinze as prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship. His successor, who took office that same day, is Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera.[4]

Cardinal Arinze will be eligible to participate and vote in any future conclaves before his 80th birthday on 1 November 2012.

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue

Arinze's service on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue thrust the Cardinal into a position of increased visibility to the world public. This post is largely considered to have made Cardinal Francis Arinze's career. Arinze was created cardinal just before taking the post. He then served in various related capacities including the President of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Accordingly, leadership of the Council is seen by some as a career-maker in the global Church.

His status also rose within the Church. As a member of the Committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 he worked closely with individual bishops and priests throughout the world and further impressed Pope John Paul II, who on 1 October 2002, made him Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This is considered the fourth highest position in the Roman Catholic Church.

He also received honours in this capacity: On 24 October 1999 he received a gold medallion from the International Council of Christians and Jews for his outstanding achievements in inter-faith relations. He traveled extensively and became a popular speaker in the United States.

Cardinal Arinze became even more visible to the world public as a member of the Committee of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In that capacity, he worked closely with individual bishops and priests throughout the world in preparation for the rare celebration of the Church. Pope John Paul II was greatly impressed with the leadership of Cardinal Arinze and on 1 October 2002, he became Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. On 25 April 2005, Pope Benedict XVI further honored Cardinal Arinze by naming him Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni, replacing Benedict himself in that titular see.



Role of the family

"In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce." [5]

Intellectual liberals

On an attack on "intellectual liberals": "If a child refuses to accept its father or mother, that child is not a liberal, that child is a brat. And how much more important is God to us than a parent to a child?"

Modern music in the liturgy

"I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe," Cardinal Arinze added. "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc."

Legacy of Vatican II

"Vatican II brought many good things but everything has not been positive, and the synod recognized that there have been shadows,".

Holy Eucharist outside Mass

"There has been a bit of neglect of the Holy Eucharist outside Mass[...]A lot of ignorance. A lot of temptations to showmanship for the priest who celebrates facing the people."

Communion and abortion

In response to a question about American Catholic politicians receiving communion after voting for abortion: "You don't need a Cardinal to answer that question. You can ask a seven year old getting ready for first communion and they will say no. Personally opposed! Ok, you tell them, I am personally opposed but if someone wants to come in here and shoot you all, well... It's pro choice."

Altar girls

On altar girls: "Some bishops have asked about this and there is nothing against it and so we said It's alright. ... But if I had my way you know what I would do." said to imply that he would not allow the practice.


On kneeling to receive the Eucharist: "If the bishops of a country prefer to have the congregation stand to receive communion we said It's alright provided that those who wish to kneel are free to do so. The one who says you may not kneel to receive the Eucharist is wrong, no matter who he is. If we believe, if we truly believe that it is Jesus, the Son of God, then why don't we kneel, why don't we crawl."

1962 rite

On use of the 1962 rite: "Many of the same abuses we see so openly today were going on back then sixty years ago but the people had no idea the priest was doing something wrong because everything he said was in Latin"


  • The Family Catechism on Tape, Apostolate for Family Consecration
  • Divine Providence: God's Design in Your Life (2005)
  • Building Bridges: Interreligious Dialogue on the Path to World Peace (2004)
  • Cardinal Reflections: Active Participation and the Liturgy (2005)
  • The Holy Eucharist (Our Sunday Visitor, 2001) ISBN 0-87973-978-9
  • The Church in Dialogue: Walking With Other Believers (1990)
  • Meeting Other Believers: The Risks and Rewards of Interreligious Dialogue (1998)
  • Celebrating the Holy Eucharist (2006)
  • Religions for Peace (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2002)
  • God's Invisible Hand: The Life and Work of Francis Cardinal Arinze, Ignatius Press, 2006
  • Great Figures in Salvation History: David and Solomon, an interview with Cardinal Arinze and Roy Schoemann, Ignatius Press, 2006


  1. ^ Loyn, David (18 April 2005). "Profile: Cardinal Francis Arinze". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  
  2. ^ Carroll, Rory. 2003, October 3. "The Guardian Profile: Cardinal Francis Arinze." The Guardian.
  3. ^ God's Invisible Hand: The Life and Work of Francis Cardinal Arinze, an Interview with Gerard O'Connell, pp. 12–21 (Ignatius Press, 2006) ISBN 978-1-58617-135-3
  4. ^ "Rinuncia del Prefetto della Congregazione per il Culto Divino e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti e Nomina del Successore" (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 2008-12-09.  
  5. ^ Arinze Address Provokes Faculty Reaction, (The Hoya, 24 October 2003)

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
new title
Titular Bishop of Fissiana
1965 – 1967
Succeeded by
Leo Rajendram Antony
Preceded by
Charles Heerey, C.S.Sp.
Archbishop of Onitsha
1967 – 1985
Succeeded by
Stephen Nweke Ezeanya
Preceded by
Jean Jadot
President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
1984 – 2002
Succeeded by
Michael Fitzgerald
Preceded by
new title
Cardinal-Deacon of S. Giovanni della Pigna
1985 – 1996
Succeeded by
Raffaele Farina, S.D.B.
Preceded by
Cardinal-Priest of S. Giovanni della Pigna pro hac vice
1996 – 2005
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Joseph Ratzinger
Cardinal-Bishop of Velletri-Segni
2005 –
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Jorge Medina Estévez
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
2002 – 2008
Succeeded by
Antonio Cañizares Llovera


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