.- The Catholic bishops of Ghana called for “renewed zeal” to spread the Catholic faith, saying all Christians are called to participate in the New Evangelization.
“Ghana has in recent years been touted not only as a peaceful and an emerging stable democracy but also as a profoundly religious nation,” the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a communique.
The bishops cited the growing Christian population, the proliferation of religious movements, and the “obvious show of religious piety” in the public square where national days of prayers and thanksgiving “have become the order of the day.”
But despite these positive signs, they said, there is “urgent need of the New Evangelization” in the face of “growing indifference” and a lack of personal commitment to Jesus Christ among Christians in the western African country.
“In spite of her flamboyant religious garb, the changing social, cultural, economic and political situation in Ghana is making a deep and personal encounter with Jesus Christ very difficult,” the bishops said.
“Whereas our Churches are packed on Sundays with faithful worshipers the fruits of this religious fervor are yet to be manifestly visible in our socio-economic and political life.”
The bishops’ communique comes after their annual plenary assembly, which met in Sunyani from Nov. 8-16.
While Christianity has been present in Ghana for more than 500 years, the bishops stressed that there is still “an urgent need” for evangelization, which “always begins with the individual human heart.”
“It is fundamentally an act of faith which leads to a change of heart following a personal encounter with the Word of God,” they said. “It involves a conscious effort by the Christian, aided by the grace of God, to turn away from evil and to embrace a life of righteousness and holiness.”
The bishops highlighted the need for “in-depth knowledge of the Gospel” and catechetical instruction for the New Evangelization to succeed. More inculturation is necessary to help promote a Christian understanding of funerals, marriages, and leadership.
They praised traditional Ghanaian values such as love of neighbor, hospitality to the stranger, disdain for theft, respect for the elderly, and “love for moral rectitude.”
However, they voiced concern that Ghanaians “seem to have even lost these foundational values as a people.”
The bishops emphasized the need to evangelize in the area of the family, noting that parents and guardians are “the very first agents of the human and religious formations of their families and wards.”
In socio-economic life, Christians must embrace a role “as collaborators rather than exploiters,” they said, praising government and civil organizations’ work to protect Ghana’s natural resources.
They called on pastors to support advocacy on behalf of the people whose lands and livelihood are threatened by destructive activities, while denouncing corruption and greed, warning of the “huge social cost and untold suffering” caused by “the desire to make quick money and by whatever means possible.”
Ethnic diversity is “a treasured gift from God,” but is also threatening national unity and impeding the message of the gospel, the bishops continued, stressing the need to evangelize to counter negative perceptions of those who are not of the same ethnicity or tribe.
They also thanked God and praised Ghanaians for peaceful elections, urging further prayer to maintain peace and to make the New Evangelization possible.
“God often precedes the evangelizer by making the evangelized receptive to the message of the Gospel, the bishops’ communique concluded. “This means that evangelization must begin and end in prayer, asking the Lord to open the hearts of those who hear the message to receive it and bear abundant fruits.”