The celebration of 85 years in a country like Nigeria, where life expectancy is below 54 is great miracle, but for the former Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony OKOGIE, emeritus, it’s a miracle, plus the glory of God in whose vineyard he had laboured and toiled all these long years. His birthday usually on June 16, was another remarkable and important milestone in the life of a man who dedicated all to His creator who recognizes and blesses His servant for every good work. Cardinal Okogie was ordained as a Catholic Priest in December, 1966. He was not just an ordinary priest but one who understood his calling and has remained a voice for the voiceless and the oppressed people in the society. Recall that he celebrated 50th anniversary as Catholic Priest in 2016. He was proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul 11 in 2003 during which period he earned a reputation for exemplary priesthood, leading to his elevation to a position that made him eligible for the papacy, a reflection of his recognition in the Catholic Church that has well over 1.2 billion, if not more members world – wide. Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, is reputed as the third Nigerian to attain the revered position, being one out of four Nigerians that have been named Cardinals in the history of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
By this feat, Nigeria was indeed made proud by the achievements of this illustrious and worthy son and patriot. This revered position indeed qualified his Eminence, and he participated in the elections of two Popes. In 2005, Okogie was one of the Cardinal electors who featured prominently in the papal conclave that chose Pope Benedict XVI. And again in 2013, he was also among those that elected Pope Francis. His love and longing for God began with his study of sacred theology at a local seminary. During the Nigerian Civil war, he worked as a war front Chaplain after he was drafted into the Nigerian Army. He also taught at the prestigious Kings Collage, Lagos. Beginning from 1973 when he became the Archbishop of Lagos, his interest in Social activism was not hidden at all; again he was saddled with the responsibility of being the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in addition to heading the Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, between 1994 and 2000.
On many occasions while his office lasted as the Archbishop of Lagos, Okogie came down heavily on the military regimes in Nigeria. He also criticized obnoxious laws unmindful of whose ox is gored. The Cardinal has always remained a shining light and the defender of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who indeed called him to serve in His vineyard. He has become a beacon of hope especially for young priests and more also this period our country is going through tough times for want of true and God fearing leaders. As you mark your 85years birthday, the Church joins you to celebrate this epoch making event. Our prayer therefore is that the Good Lord who rewards will light your path as you age gracefully. Happy birthday and many happy returns to His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie