Pope Benedict XVI has named the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Grace John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, as a Cardinal. He will join hundreds of others as high level spiritual heads of the Catholic Church globally, that will also vote to elect the next Pope. He was chosen in an elevation exercise by the Papacy that saw five others rise to become Cardinals.
John Onaiyekan, born January 29, 1944 in Kabba, Kogi State, was ordained priest on August 3, 1969, and Bishop on January 6, 1983 – becoming the Bishop of Ilorin. In 1990, he became Coadjutor Bishop of Abuja Diocese of Abuja, and was later appointed as the second Bishop of Abuja diocese by Pope John Paul II on November 14, 1992. He was a former President, of the Christian Association of Nigeria and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria.
He spoke on Vatican Radio after his appointment saying, “I see it purely as God’s grace, certainly not as any reward for any good action. I’m not the best archbishop in the world and God has chosen me. Also thanks to the Pope who has chosen to include me in this very special group of servants of the church. It means of course that I have a greater responsibility not only for the Archdiocese of Abuja but also as a collaborator of His Holiness.”
In a statement by the presidency on his elevation, he was praised, “President Jonathan believes that Bishop Onaiyekan’s elevation to the highest echelon of the Catholic Church by the Pope clearly shows that the exemplary diligence, dedication and commitment with which he has gone about his labours in the Lord’s vineyard since his ordination in 1969 has been recognized and appreciated.”