As eligible voters in the West African nation of Togo prepare to take part in the Presidential polls scheduled for next month, the new Lomé-based Archbishop Nicodème Anani Barrigah-Bénissan used the occasion of his installation to call on those involved in organizing the election to ensure a credible process and on his compatriots to remain calm throughout the period of elections.
“Divine Providence has willed that the inauguration of my ministry in the Archdiocese of Lomé should take place a few weeks before the presidential election, a crucial moment in the life of our country which rightly arouses an understandable effervescence,” Archbishop Barrigah told thousands of Christians including Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbé who witnessed his installation as the new Archbishop of Lomé Saturday, January 11.
Archbishop Barrigah underscored the value of general elections saying, “The unity, peace and development of a country depend very much on the personal qualities of those who govern it.”
Considering the February 22 poll imminent, the Togolese Prelate made an urgent call on “all those involved in the political game to demonstrate fairness, honesty and transparency” and on his compatriots “to remain calm throughout the electoral process.”
Citing Pope Francis’ address to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America last March, Archbishop Barrigah said, “Politics is not the mere art of administering power, resources or crises. Politics is not a mere search for efficiency, strategy and organized action. Politics is a vocation to service, a lay diaconate that promotes social friendship for the generation of the common good.”
Last month, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lomé, Philippe Fanoko Kossi Kpodzro launched an operation to solicit funds to aid a single Presidential candidate for the opposition with the view of ensuring a veritable democratic and competitive contest that would see the beneficiary contender “win this type of election.”
Since then, former Togolese Prime Minister Messan Agbéyomé Kodjo has been designated as the single opposition candidate to face off the incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé who is seeking re-election.
In his Saturday homily at Lomé’s Sacred Heart of Jesus cathedral, Archbishop Barrigah reminded those vying for his country’s top seat to look toward servant leadership saying, “He who freely and conscientiously decides to run for the office (President) should not forget that the privileged position he wants to conquer is essentially that of service to the people.”
He added in reference to each candidate in the February 22 presidential poll, “Let him consider his political opponents not as enemies to be crushed but rather as brothers and sisters with a different vision of development for the country.”
He called on voters to be “conscious of their rights and to exercise them freely with the good of the country in mind.”
To the institutions involved in the electoral process, the Prelate hopes “they play their role in complete independence, so that everything takes place in transparency, justice and peace.”
In addition, Archbishop Barrigah has expressed the wish to see the relations between the Catholic Church in Togo and the Togolese State strengthened with the two entities working toward the progress of the West African country.
“For my part, I sincerely hope that relations between us will always be characterized by frank and fair collaboration in the search for the well-being and integral development of our people,” Archbishop Barrigah said.
He was appointed last November as the fifth Archbishop of Lomé, succeeding Archbishop emeritus Komivi Denis Amuzu-Dzakpah who retired after reaching the canonical retirement age of 75.
Addressing his predecessor during the Eucharistic celebration, Archbishop Barrigah said, “I am happy and proud of the pastoral work you have carried out in the Archdiocese of Lomé for more than 12 years.”
“I have always admired in you the pastoral vigor deployed with unsuspected energy in spite of the overwhelming weight of the discreet and unobtrusive task, just as Saint Joseph fulfilled his mission by seeking fidelity to the will of God,” the new Archbishop added.
“On this day when I take a commitment before you to serve the Lord in this portion of His Church, I would like to commit myself in a special way to your prayers,” Archbishop Barrigah appealed and continued, “May God give me a docile and wise heart, courageous and faithful, humble and loving, so that I may carry out my ministry as He wills in a constant search for the good of the Church and of the whole people.”
He expressed his desire to work will all people in the cosmopolitan city of Lomé saying, “I wish to work with all men and women of good will for the good of all.”
He went on, “I want the poor to hear in my voice the echo of their cries and sufferings. And I want all those who are seeking a more fraternal society to find support and an ally in my commitment to peace, justice and truth.”
“I want all of us to work together in the service of the Gospel for the salvation of all and for the development of our country in harmony and peace,” Archbishop Barrigah concluded.