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SKETCH BIOGRAPHY AND CURRICULUM VITAE OF

MOST REV.DR.JOHN OLORUNFEMI ONIAYEKAN


CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF ABUJA-NIGERIA

BORN January 29th ,1944,in Kabba,Kogi State of Nigeria.

EARLY EDUCATION
1949-1956 primary school at Kabba,1957-1962 secondary school at Mt.St.Michael'S.

PRIESTLY FORMATION
Jan 1963-june 1965 study of philosophy at SS Peter and Paul seminary,Bodija-
Ibadan.

EARLY PRIESTLY FORMATION


Ordained to the the catholic priesthood at kabba ,Kogi state on the 3rd
August,1969.His first priestly assignment was in school and parish work.

HIGHER ECCLESIASTICAL STUDIES


September1971-feb 1973:Scripture studies at the pontifical biblical
Institute(Biblicum)Rome.
Feb 1973-Jan 1976:Doctorate Programme at the Pontifical Urban University,Rome in
Biblical Theology.

ECCLESIASTICAL APPOINTMENTS

JUNIOR SEMINARY IN LOKOJA:


January 1966:Rector of the St Clement’s Junior Seminary Lokoja Until August 1977.

MAJOR SEMINARY OF IBADAN:


September 1977:appointed to the major seminary of SS Peter and Paul,Bodija-Ibadan
as a Vice Rector, and a Teacher of Sacred Scriptures and fundamental Theology and
in February as a rector.

APPOINTMENT TO ILORIN:
November 1982: appointed Auxillary Bishop of Ilorin,Ordained Bishop in St peter
Basilica,Rome in January 6th 1983 by his holiness,Pope John Paul II and in October
1984 appointed Residential Bishop of Ilorin.

MISSION TO ABUJA:
In July 1990 Appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Abuja.
Became a Bishop of Abuja in November 1992.He was promoted Archbishop with the
elevation of Abuja to Archdiocesan Status.

SPECIAL HOLY SEE VATICAN APPOINTMENTS:


1980-1985:member of the International Theological Commission.
1981-1991: Member of the Methodist/Roman Catholic International Dialogue
Commission.
Many times member of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in the
Vatican.
March 1991-June 2006: Member standing Committee of the faith and order
commission of the world council of churches.

NIGERIAN NATIONAL HONOURS:


December 18th ,2001,conferred with the National honour of the Commander of the
order of the Niger(CON) by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

ITALIAN HONOUR:
May 2003:Grande Ufficiale (1 Classe):Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta
Italiana,Confered by president carlo A. Ciampi.

OTHER POST HELD:


1. President Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria,From March 1999-
March2006.
2. President Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West
African(AECAWA)-Since August 2001.
3. President,Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and
Madagascar,(SECAM)-From October 2004-January 2007.
4. Member of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council(NIREC)-Since September
1999.
5. Co-president African Council of Religious Leaders,(ACRL)Since June 2003.
6. Vice President of the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) From 1996-2003.
7. June 2007 till Date :Elected President of the Christian Association of
Nigeria,(CAN) and Co-President of the Nigerian Inter-religious Council.

BISHOP IN ILORIN.
His ecclesiastical career took a majorurn when in 1982, while being Rector of
the Major Seminary of SS. Peter and paul, Ibadan, he was appointed Auxillary
Bishop of Ilorin Diocese and Titular Bishop of Tunusuda. Thus, Rt. Rev. Dr. John
Olorunfemi Onaiyekan became the 34th and youngest Catholic Bishop in Nigeria. His
ordination which took place in Rome on the 6th of January 1983 was performed by
His Holiness Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica.
On November 24th 1984, the Vatican announced his appointment as the second
Bishop of Ilorin, in succession of His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. William Mahony, S.M.A.
While Bishop of Ilorin, Bishop Onaiyekan held various positions of responsibility in
the church and in the wider society in Nigeria and on the international scene.
Within the Nigerian Bishop’s Conference, he was elected Chairman of the
Biblical Commission from March 1985 till March 1990; and Chairman of the
Theological Commission from March 1985 to date. From 1989 until 1991, he was
President of the Kwara State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAC).
He has been, since 1990, a member of the National Translations Committee of the
Bible Society of Nigeria.
In public life, while in Ilorin, he was on the Kwara State Council for the
Prerogative of Mercy (1986-1991) and the Kwara State Christian Pilgrims Board
(1989 – 1991). He was also on some other Kwara State Government Advisory
Boards, especially in the area of public education.
His assignments for the Catholic Church on the International level include the
following.
1. In 1989 he was appointed among the 17 – member Council of the General
Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, charged with preparing the
“African Synod”.
2. At the 1990 Synod of Bishops in Rome, he was elected one of the three
Africans on the 15 – member Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod
of Bishops, for the ordinary universal Synods.
3. In 1991, he was appointed one of three Catholic members on the 30 – member
Standing Committee of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council
of Churches.

MISSION TO THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY


On July 7th 1990, His Holiness Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Onaiyekan,
Co-adjutor Bishop of Abuja, to work and eventually succeed His Eminence Dominic
Cardinal Ekandem, first Bishop of Abuja. At the same where he had been bishop
since 1983.
In March 1992, a new Bishop was appointed for Ilorin. With the ordination and
installtion of Rt. Rev. Ayo-Maria Atoyebi, O.P., as the new Bishop of Ilorin in May
1992, Bishop Oniayekan was finally able to leave Ilorin and take up full residence at
Abuja.
On the 14th of November 1992, it was announced in Rome that His Holiness,
Pope John Paul II had accepted the request of His Eminence Dominic Cardinal
Ekandem to be relieved of the pastoral charge of the Diocese of Abuja, by reason of
canonical retirement age completed. With that announcement, Bishop John
Olorunfemi Onaiyekan became the Bishop of Abuja.
On this occasion of his formal installation as the 2nd Bishop of Abuja, bishop
John request all to join him and the Diocese of Abuja in praying to God for continued
divine protection and guidance. The responsibility of being Bishop of the Federal
Capital of Nigeria is a heavy one indeed. But we rejoice that the Lord Jesus is in full
control.

THE HISTORY OF ABUJA CATHOLIC DIOCESE


A. PREAMBLE:
No other expression could better describe life in the young Catholic Diocese of
Abuja than the unspoken theme in shylock’s dramatic postulate:
“GROWTH IN DIFFICULTY”
The past few years have seen the emergence and plausible metamorphosis of
Abuja Diocese from obscurity to limelight in spite of some seeming insurmountable
problems. It is the history of the biblical mustard seed that has blossomed and
bloomed successfully under precarious germinating conditions that have been very
well articulated and tailored to meet the Flock’s need by His Eminence, Dominic
Cardinal Archbishop Ekanadem, Bishop of Abuja and His Lordship, Rt. Dr. John O.
Onaiyekan, Co-Adjutor Bishop of Abuja, now the Bishop of the Dioceses, the entire
catholic Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Federal Capital Territory.
The Diocese of Abuja corresponds territorially with the Federal Capital
Territory of Abuja, which is estimated at 8,000 square kilometers in area, is over
20,000 now.
The wish of the Nigerian Catholic Hierachy to have an Eccelesisastical
circumscription corresponding to the Civil Federal Capital Territory found expression
in the late 1979. There wish received the approval of the Sacred Congregation for the
propagation of the Faith and the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Independent
Mission of Abuja was established on 6th November, 1981. by a simultaneous decree,
His Eminence Most Rev. Dominic Ignatius Cardinal Ekandem, then Bishop of Ikot-
Ekpene Diocese, was appointed Eccelesiastical Superior of the New Jurisdiction,
with authority to perform all acts necessary for the rule of this Mission, according to
the prescriptions of Canon Law and the special Instructions of this congregation.

B. PERSONNEL:
by Apostolic Letter, dated 19th July, 1989, and signed by the Cardinal, Prefect
of the Congregation for the propagation of the Faith and by the Cardinal concerned
with the public affairs of the Church, the Independent Mission of Abuja was raised to
be Diocese, suffragan to the Metropolitan Church of Kaduna, and ‘the Episcopal
Throne of which we order to be placed in the Catholic Church of the same city,
commonly called Abuja’.
By an earlier Apostolic Bull, dated 11th June, 1989and signed by His Holiness
Pope John Paul II, His Eminence most Rev. Cardinal D.I. Ekandem was named Fist
Bishop of the New Diosese of Abuja, and given the Personal Dignity of Archbishop.
Cardinal Ekandem was enthroned as First Bishop of Abuja by the Apostolic Pro-
Nuncio in Nigeria and their Graces, the Archbishop of Kaduna and Lagos on 16 th
December, 1989.
The Episcopal ordination of Bishop John Onaiyekan took place on the 6th
January, 1983 by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.
After serving as an Auxiliary Bishop of Ilorin Catholic Diocese and later residential
Bishop in January, 1985, Bishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan was appointed the Co-
Ajutor Bishop of Abuja Catholic Diocese on the 7th July, 1990, and was subsequently
appointed the second Bishop of Abuja Diocese by The Holy Father, Pope John Paul
II, on Saturday, 14th November, 1992.
The cardinal Archbishop, most Rev. Dominic Cardinal Ekandem clocked 75
years on 23rd June, 1992. if there is anything to thank God for, we should say a big
thank you to God no less to His Eminence for a fruitful service. A pontifical Solemn
Mass took place on Saturday, 27th June, 1992 to mark the unique occasion. With the
attainment of 75 years, His Eminence now retires as Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic
Diocese of Abuja.
In 1981, after His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem had been appointed
the Superior of Abuja, both distance, bad road, and the running of his diocese in Ikot
Ekpene made it impossible for him to be in Abuja at the same time. He Immediately
appointed Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, a priest from the Archdiocese of Kaduna, as his
representative to the Newly created territory. A brief meeting was held between His
Eminence, Archbishop Jatau, Bishop Abba and Fr. Kukaah at St. Mary’s Catholic
Church, Suleja, in January, 1982.
It was resolved that Fr. Kuka’s Immediate assignment would be to liase with the
Federal Government to procure land and register the presence of the Catholic
Church in Abuja. The group paid a courtesy call on the then Minister of Abuja, Mr.
John Kadiya. Fr. Kukah was then formally introduced to him and his Land Officers.
Bishop Christopher Abba (Minna) than offered him a room at the parish house in
Suleja. However, preparation for the Pope’s visit that year and the fact that Fr. Kukah
was working full time as the Director of Social Development for the Kaduna
Ecclesiastical Provience, and National Secretary, Social Development Office, Lagos,
meant that for the first three months in 1982, he could only shuttle to and from
Kaduna. Fr. Kukah finally took up residence in Suleja in May, 1982 and worked in
the territory until March 1986 when he went to study at the University of London.
Before his departure, Fr. Kukah succeeded in obtaining registration of almost all the
churches which where later to form the pioneering parishes and institutions in the
Diocese of Abuja.
Cardinal Ekandem also had his pioneering personal like Rt. Rev. Monsignor
Dominic E. Iyang and Rev. Sisters Theresa Nwanruo and Mary Tuku of the
Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, who took resident in Abuja in 1982. the two
pioneering Priests, Monsignor D.E. Inyang and father Mathew Kukah were joined in
1983 by Rev. Fr. Willy Ojukwu and Sister Lucy Afangideh for the work in the new
mission.
Other pioneering priests who joined the Cardinal in Abuja mission and
facilitated the development of the young mission were very Rev. Fr. Richard Devine
of the society of African Missions (SMA) who supervised the building of the
National Missionary Seminary of St. Paul at Gwagwalada. Fr. Devine now mans St.
Patrick’s Parish in Karshi. Following in the line was the Holy Ghost Missionaries led
by Rev. Fr. Casimir eke who resided in Garki since 1983, before he finally moved to
open a new parish of St. Peter’s Abuja.
The History of Abuja diocese will not be complete without the mention also of
a reputable and highly spiritual and seasoned missionary priest, Very Rev. MC
Guiness SPS, whose untiring efforts with His Eminence pushed the young Abuja
mission from grass to grace.
A mention has to be made of very Rev. Fr. Kenneth Enang now Monsignor Enang,
who, although Vicar General of His Eminence in Ekot-Ekpene Diocese, his
connections and relationship with our benefactors abroad helped in the initial
establishment of the Independent mission now Diocese of Abuja.
While Monisgnor Inyang resided in Gwagwalada, Rev. Fr. Kukah later moved
to establish the first Catholic Church in Garki in Area One, and they both continued
with the rate of development with the availability of land from the then Minister of
the Federal Capital Territory. Today however, the Diocese of Abuja has well over 25
priests working in the territory with a total of 34 religious sisters drawn from the
Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, the
Immaculate Heat Sisters and the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Family Sisters
of the Needy who arrived to take up the Apostolate in Abuja in 1992. The Marists
Brothers of the School also take charge of the Boy’s Secondary School in
Gwagwalada.
The Faithful of Abuja was of a small number at the beginning of the mission.
Those who made up the early members of the Church were mostly from neighbouring
states and the Civil Servants who came from Lagos to start the planning of the New
Federal Capital. Soon, more Ministries started moving into Abuja and this meant that
the Apostolate of the Church had to be expanded as lay apostolate organizations were
also formed to take charge of the spiritual Life of the people.

C. DEVELOPMENT
Given the success of the Catholic Diocese of Abuja these few years, no
opportunity was missed, rather eagerly grasped, for Education, Health and Social
Development. Thus Nursery-Primary Schools, Medical Centres, Churches with
Convents and Presbyteries as well as Secondary Schools and the Handicapped Centre
have been established. These include the S.S Simon and Jude Junior Seminary, Kuje
for the initial training of future priests, The Regina Pacis Girl’s Secondary School
Garki and the Christ the King Boy’s Secondary School, Gwagwalada respectively.
Others are the Physically and Mentally Handicapped and Destitute Centre in
Gwagwalada, the Mercy Clinic also in Gwagwalada and the Health Centre already
built in Gawu which is now awaiting take off anytime Sisters would be available to
run it.
Land has been acquired for the erection of a befitting Cathedral in the Central
District Area and the establishment of Hospitals at Bwari and Gwagwalada
respectively. The first and second phases of the Pope John Paul II Social Centre
Maitama have been completed to provide both social amenities and accommodation
for Retreat, Seminars and recreational facilities for the Diocese. This Centre has been
handed over to the Holy Family Sisters of the Needy to manage.
As the last decade of the twentieth century and the second millennium begins
with thanksgiving to God, the prospects for further growth of the Church in Abuja
Diocese are pregnant with positive results. The Diocese can now boast of four
Nursery and Primary Schools namely, the Madonna International Nursery-Primary
School in Gwagwalada, the Handmaids International Nursery-Primary School in
Garki, The Redeemer Nursery-Primary School in Nyanya-Karu and the Holy Family
Nursery School in Kuje. More of such Institutions are in the making as the diocese
plans to reach out to the rural populace of the Territory.
That the unbridle growth of the young Diocese under the able leadership of His
Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem is no cosmetic show is buttressed by the fact
that over these few years, she has established, erected and sustained a number of
parishes and Presbyteries in the Territory. These include the Our Lady Queen of
Nigeria Pro-Cathedra which also accommodates the New Bishop for the meantime
and St. Paul’s Catholic Parish in Gwagwalada. The Holy Rosary Catholic Parish,
Wuse, Philomena Eze and Scholastica Nwokika respectively.
Other Parishes include, St. Mary’s Catholic Parish, Nyanya-Karu, St. Patrick’s
Karshi, St. Peter’s Abuja and St. Kizito’s Kuje. Over the years, St. Kizito’s Parish
Bwari was the first to be inherited from Minna Diocese and was later renamed St.
Therese’s Parish Bwari now with a Magnificent Church and Shrine. There is also St.
Theresa’s Parish Gawu-Yaba. This brings the total number of parishes to Nine. Just
last year, Cardinal Ekandem added three more parishes which have brought the total
number of existing parishes in the diocese of Abuja to Twelve, these new parishes
took off from January, 1992 and they are St. Jude’s Catholic Parish Zuba-Airport, St.
Mathew’s Catholic Parish in Gwagwa-Karmo and the Christ the King Catholic
Parish, Kubwa respectively.

D. CONCLUSION
In an apparent fulfillment of the maxim that “No man is an Island”, in this case
in a valid reference to His Eminence, Dominic Cardinal Ekandem, the then Cardinal
Archbishop of Abuja Diocese and the then Co-Adjutor now Bishop of Abuja Diocese,
His Lordship, Rt. Rev. Dr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, the priests and religious as
well as the efforts of the entire people of Abuja and their good work in the young
diocese couple with the abundant blessings of the Trinity, have made our celebration
possible today.