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Francis Cardinal Arinze, Papal Envoy for FABC 9th Plenary Assembly

Cardinal Francis Arinze, the former president of the PontificalCongregation for Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in the Vatican, is the special representative of Pope Benedict XVI for the 9th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) at the Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila August 10-16.

He will be the presider at the Eucharistic celebration on August 11 at 8:30 am at the Manila Cathedral. At least six Cardinals are expected to concelebrate with him They include Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales (Manila) and Ricardo Vidal (Cebu) from the Philippines;  two Cardinals from India – Telesphore Toppo (Ranchi) and Oswald Gracias (Mumbai); Joseph Cardinal Zen (Hongkong), and John Baptist Cardinal Phan Min Manh (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam).

Together with Cardinal is Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Pontifical Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples Propaganda) in the Vatican.  He comes from French Guinea.

All in all, some 120 delegates and participants are expected, representing the 18 member-bishops’ conferences of the Federation and 11 associate members.  The general theme of the assembly is “Living the Eucharist in Asia.”  This will be the second time that such a plenary takes place in Manila, after the foundation of the Federation in Manila in 1970, and the 6th Plenary Assembly in 1995. There will observers from outside Asia, the presidents of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania and Australia (ACBC), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) as well as the Secretary General of the Spanish Bishops’ Conferences and representatives from other Christian Churches in Asia.

The Mass will be followed by the official opening of the meeting at Pius XII Center, along United Nations Avenue.  The afternoon of the first day and the morning of Wednesday, August 12, will be devoted to the discussion of a working paper on the conference theme. Wednesday afternoon will be a discussion on the Statutes of the Federation, while Thursday, August 13, will see groupings of the participants according to regions; including a conference on “The Word of God and the Eucharist” by Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India.  For Friday, August 14, the workshop reports of the regional groupings will be presented as well as activity reports from the nine FABC offices, which carry out the basic activities of the Federation.

The morning of Saturday, August 15, will be open for interventions of individual bishops’ conferences while the late afternoon and evening of this day will distribute the participants to some 12 parishes in Metro Manila for a pastoral exposure and dinner with local communities.

The plenary will end on Sunday morning, August 16, with the final document of the meeting and the concluding Eucharist at the conference venue, Pius XII Center, Manila.

Cardinal Arinze is the Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Cardinal Arinze was born on 1 November 1932 in Eziowelle, a city of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria.  At the age of fifteen, he began his secondary studies at the All Hallowa (All Saints) Seminary of Nuewi, studies which he concluded in 1950 at Enugu.  For the following two years he taught at the same seminary until 1953, when he took up Philosophy studies at Bigard Memorial Seminary at Enugu.  In 1955 he began to take courses in theology at the Pontifical urban University.  He was ordained priest at the church of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome on November 1958.

From 1961-1962, he was professor of Liturgy and also taught logic and basic philosophy at Bigard Memorial Seminary at Enugu.  On 6 July 1965 he was appointed to the titular church of Fissiana and named coadjutor to the Archbishop of Onitsha.  On 29 August 1965 he was consecrated bishop.  Only two years after he was asked to take over the pastoral government of the archdiocese, and on 26 June 1967 he was named archbishop.

In 1984 Pope John Paul asked him to head as pro-president the Secretariat for Non-Christians (now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue).

He remained Archbishop of Onitsha until April 1985, while awaiting the nomination of his successor to assume the pastoral administration of the Archdiocese.  In addition, in 1982 he was elected vice-president for Africa of the United Bible Society.  He was President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, 27 May 1985 – 1 October 2002.  On 8 May 1994, he presided in the capacity of first President Delegate at the solemn closing of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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.”  On 1 October 2002 he was nominated Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments.

President Delegate of the 11th ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (October 2005).  Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 9 December 2008.

During Lent of 2009 he was called to preach the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia in which Pope Benedict XVI took part.  President Delegate of the 2nd Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, “The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.  ‘You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world’” (4-25 October 2009).