While the Catholic population in the world’s second largest continent, Africa, continues to grow a Bishop in the West African nation of Ghana has raised concerns over the declining number of Catholics in his country, describing the phenomenon as a challenge that seems to indicate that pastoral agents “are not reaching all corners of our country” and that requires the application of the “Shepherd’s approach and the Fisherman’s model of evangelization”
Referencing Ghana’s last Housing and Population Census, Bishop Matthew Gyamfi of Sunyani diocese observed, “The 2010 Population Census puts Ghana’s population at 24,658,823, with 71 percent of citizens professing to be Christians.”
“Out of this number, the Catholic population was put at 13.1 percent, a drop of 2 percent from the previous 15.1 percent in 2000,” he noted during his speech at the opening of the 18th Biennial Plenary Assembly of the Tamale Ecclesiastical Province Pastoral Conference (TEPPCON) in Tamale last week.
“The two percent might sound insignificant, but mathematically, it is a huge number and a big loss to the Church in Ghana,” the Ghanaian Prelate observed and added, “The dwindling percentage suggests that we are not reaching all corners of our country and our dioceses.”
According to Bishop Gyamfi, “One big challenge of the Catholic Church in Ghana is the exodus of the youth to emerging Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations. In our poverty, the preaching of prosperity Gospel seems to catch the attention of many Ghanaians including young Catholics. They desire to get rich overnight.”
The Pentecostal, Evangelical and Charismatic churches, the Bishop said, “have embarked on an aggressive evangelization, attracting many Catholic youths into their fold and we are steadily losing membership.”
He also noted conversions to Islam as one of the factors behind the decline of Catholics in his country.
“Islam (traditional, Shiites and Sunnis, and Ahmadis) wage a consistent campaign of presence and conversion of young men and women from the Catholic fold into Islam, mainly through marriage in some areas,” the Bishop said and added, “Conversions are promoted in the marketplace, through front house stores, on campuses of universities and institutions of higher learning.”
To address the declining number of Catholics in Ghana, the Prelate proposed “a renewed missionary discipleship and catechetical formation,” as well as the application of the “Shepherd’s approach and the Fisherman’s model of evangelization to make more converts and jealously guard those already in the fold so that none gets lost.”
“We should have a well-structured and aggressive faith formation program to inform, form and transform the Catholic youth through Catechetical instructions. Some Pentecostal and charismatic churches exploit this ignorance of the Catholic doctrine by the youth to their advantage,” the Bishop said and added, “Adequate catechesis should therefore arm the Catholic youth against such infections.”
Addressing the 150 delegates from the Ecclesiastical province of Tamale, the Bishop who is also the Chairman of Social Communication under the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) revealed that other challenges facing the Church in Ghana, and which the Bishops shared with Pope Francis during their 2014 Ad Limina visit include, “materialism, secularism, individualism and moral decadence, most of which are a result of the influence of western cultural practices and values.”
“It is true that the Church has many challenges in this moment of history, but these challenges are also signs of hope. They are opportunities for us to grow individually and collectively as we address the challenges. All of us should be involved in Faith Formation and the spreading of the Gospel to all people,” the Bishop concluded.