Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, joins Onitsha, Nigeria, Archbishop Valerian Okeke and Nigerian pilgrims for a group photo after the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Oct. 25, 2015 file photo. Cardinal Arinze will be in the Diocese of Phoenix April 18-22. (Paul Haring/CNS)

Shepherd Series celebrating ‘Humanae Vitae’

Participation in the Sacred Liturgy
6:30 p.m., April 20
St. Paul Parish, 330 W. Coral Gables Dr., Phoenix
Cost: $10



Cardinal Francis Arinze at St. Anne Parish, 440 E. Elliot Rd., Gilbert

  • Solemn Vespers
    6 p.m., April 18


  • ‘Real Men — Living Authentic Masculinity’
    7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., April 21


  • High Mass 11 a.m., April 22

By Margaret Naczek
The Catholic Sun

While the Diocese of Phoenix routinely gets prominent Catholic speakers and religious men and women, having a cardinal come for a visit is an uncommon occurrence.

“I think anyone at that level of the Church, of the hierarchy, always will be enriching to everyone in the diocese,” Coleen Austin, the treasurer of Catholics in Action, said.

Catholics in Action with the Diocese of Phoenix and St. Anne Parish in Gilbert is hosting the Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze April 18-22.

Catholics in Action is a lay organization that stems from Catholic Action, which was started in the 1920s. The organization holds a variety of events in the diocese to grow in faith formation and help the larger community.

“We strive to live the call of the Gospel in our daily lives, which includes a deep prayer life, ongoing formation and service to others,” Austin said.

Chaplain of Catholics in Action and St. Anne pastor Fr. Sergio Muñoz Fita, helped to bring Cardinal Arinze to the diocese. The connection happened after Fr. Fita discovered that Cardinal Arinze’s nephew is a St. Anne parishioner.

“Cardinal Arinze just kind of fell into our laps,” said Cindy Leonard, coordinator of the diocese’s Natural Family Planning office, which is sponsoring a “Shepherd Series” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Humanae Vitae,” the groundbreaking encyclical from Blessed Paul VI that reaffirmed the Church’s position on artificial contraception. Cardinal Arinze will be the series’ second speaker, addressing “Participation in the Sacred Liturgy.”

Cardinal Arinze, who converted to Catholicism from a traditional African religion at age 9, was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria in 1958. At 32 he became the youngest Catholic bishop in the world in 1965, serving as coadjutor archbishop for his home diocese.

Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at his Vatican residence Feb. 12. Cardinal Arinze, who personally heard Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, said “I have no doubt about his wisdom….He doesn’t rush, he is not rash, he is gentle but he is also clearheaded and firm. So it could not have been an idea he got the day before.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Arinze is a member of the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. He was also a close advisor to Pope St. John Paul II, who elevated him to the cardinalate and appointed him head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 1985. In 2002 he was named prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which he now serves as prefect emeritus. When John Paul died, he was considered by many observers to be among the papabili, or someone who is considered a likely candidate to be elected pope.

“The sacred liturgy is Cardinal Arinze’s strongpoint,” Austin said. “Being that the liturgy is the central point of our faith, being able to listen and learn more from his expertise and his love of the liturgy, we are just very fortunate.”

Despite being 85-years-old, Cardinal Arinze will have a full schedule during his trip to the Valley.

As part of the Shepherd Series, Cardinal Arinze will speak on “Humanae Vitae” Friday, April 20 at St. Paul Parish in Phoenix. The cost for the event will be $10.

Leonard said she expects about 300 people at Friday’s talk. There will also be a Spanish translator for any non-English speakers who would like to hear Cardinal Arinze’s address. Registration spots are still available.

During his visit, he will also be a guest on “The Catholic Conversation,” hosted by Steve and Becky Greene.

At St. Anne, he will preside over a Solemn Vespers service followed by a talk on the sacred liturgy on Wednesday, April 18. On Saturday, April 21, Cardinal Arinze will give the keynote address at a men’s reflection, teaching about man’s role in society, as leaders in the family and as spiritual leaders of the Church. The discussion will include a question-and-answer portion with participants. The following day, Sunday, April 22, the cardinal will celebrate the 11 a.m. High Mass with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares concelebrating.

“Catholics in Action is so honored to be hosting him and grateful for Bishop [Thomas J.] Olmsted to allow Cardinal Arinze to come to the diocese and share his knowledge and experience with all of us,” Austin said. “I think it will be a huge blessing.”