Thursday, 12 February 2009
Francis Arinze, is a 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.
Arinze was born in Oraukwu, Anambra State, Nigeria, Africa. At age 15, he entered All Hallows Seminary of Nnewi from which he graduated and earned a degree in philosophy 1950. 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.
After ordination, Father Arinze remained in Rome, earning a master's in theology in 1959 and doctorate in 1960. Arinze was transferred to London, where he attended the Institute of Education and graduated in 1964.
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. 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.
Arinze was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.