Okogie Set To Retire

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Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos state, South-West Nigeria, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie may retire from active service as the head of the archdiocese any moment from now P.M.NEWS has learnt.

Okogie, who clocked the mandatory 75 years of age today having been born on 16 June, 1936, has reached the mandatory age for retirement.

Today also marks the 45th anniversary of his ordination as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Though the church has been silent on his retirement, sources within the church told P.M.NEWS that it is a policy that while the priests retire at the age of 70, bishops and archbishops are given the grace to retire at 75

However, it was learnt that his retirement would not have much effect on his duties as a Cardinal of the church as he would only be relieved of some duties to enable him focus more on other important tasks, one of the sources explained.

According to our source who asked not to be named, “except thought otherwise, expect his retirement to be announced in the next one month. And once the retirement is announced, an auxiliary bishop would be announced to take charge of things pending when they would either announce the person as a full bishop or appoint another bishop to oversee the archdiocese.” In a statement announcing Okogie’s birthday, the Director, Social Communications of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Msgr Gabriel Osu, said the cardinal’s priestly duties have been most exemplary.

The church described him as a “stickler for excellence and hard work,” adding that “he believes that nothing but the best is good enough for God. He condoles no frivolity amongst his flock, including fellow priests.

“It is difficult to catch him off-guard in his pastoral and administrative duties and never wavers in the midst of challenges. Even at the age of 75, His Eminence is still very strong and alert; paying attention to every detail that needs his attention.

“Some may perceive him as a saint and others as being too strict, but one thing you cannot take away from him is that he is a man of vision who knows what he wants and how to get there. Since his enthronement as Archbishop, the Archdiocese has witnessed remarkable growth in all aspects- be it pastorally, liturgically, provision of infrastructure and all-round spiritual development.

“This can be attested to by the quantum leap in the number of priests, over 85 parishes, numerous quasi parishes and mass centres spread across the nook and crannies of the state.”

The statement added that despite the challenges posed by Pentecostalism, the church in the archdiocese can still boast of over 2.5 million faithful, saying that this was no mean feat.

Since taking over the mantle of leadership in the church in Lagos, Okogie has also focused much in the area of infrastructure development as is evident in the building of modern edifices in the various parishes.

“The on-going Augustine University, Epe, is a clear testimony of his foresight and determination to ensure that the church remains relevant to its social responsibilities, even as it attends to the spiritual needs of the faithful. There is the on-going construction of a world class Catholic Hospital at Ijede, amongst others,” the statement added.

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Cardinal Okogie was honoured by Pope Benedict XIII, on October 21, 2003, when he elevated the Uromi-born prince among the revered Princes of the Church when he made him a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church making him the highest ranking Catholic Priest in Nigeria.

By that elevation, he became the third Nigerian to ever rise to this position after the late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem and Francis Cardinal Arinze who is retired.

Cardinal Okogie entered St. Theresa’s Minor Seminary, Ibadan in 1954 and later left for Rome in 1963 for further studies. He was ordained a priest at Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos on December 4, 1966.

Shortly after his ordination, the civil war broke out and he was sent to the war front to counsel soldiers. He rose to the rank of Major before his retirement.

Okogie was consecrated the Bishop of Oyo diocese on August 29, 1971 at St. Benedith’s Cathedral, Oshogbo. He was made the Auxilliary Bishop to the Apostolic Administrator of Lagos, the late Bishop Anthony Saliu Sanusi in 1972. He was enthroned as Archbishop of Lagos on June 17, 1973.

As a former Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, under the regime of the former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Okogie was a torn in the fresh of the government, check-mating their excesses and ensuring that Nigerians had a say on issues relating to their collective well-being.

Under the maximum ruler, the late Sanni Abacha, Okogie rose to the demands of the moment, refusing to be silenced or intimidated by the gun-trotting khakhi men.

During his tenure as President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, Okogie stood out like a colossus to ensure that the interest of the Church and indeed all Christians in Nigeria were protected.

Meanwhile, celebrations began this morning in the over 85 parishes, numerous quasi parishes and mass centres located in the state as part of the birthday.

—Eromosele Ebhomele