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Cardinal Sarr in The Gambia

Jun 11, 2008, 6:22 AM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

Theodore Adrien Cardinal Sarr, the Archbishop of Dakar ended an historic visit to The Gambia that was not expected. The relationship between Muslims and Christians was seen at play by the warm welcome the Cardinal and his entourage received. The Gambian side had put everything in place to receive the Cardinal. Fr. Bruno Toupan, the principal of St. Peter's Senior Secondary School at Lamin, who doubles as the chairman of the committee responsible for the all important visitation of the His Eminence spent sleepless nights to make the visit a success. There were speeches made at Shalom during the dinner, there was one at the St. Peter's School grounds where thousands of Catholics and well wishers gathered to worship. His last public Mass was at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Banjul where the joy over flew. Let us see how all went as the entourage left their host virtually perplexed wishing for an extension of the visit.

His Eminence entered and received a hero's welcome by both Muslims and Christians. The streets were packed on both sides to see Cardinal Sarr. Different schools stood on road sides and waved heartily to the Cardinal. This came to the climax when a large number of Christians and well-wishers stood at the Shalom Retreat Centre to welcome the visitors into their home for the three days visit. Serrer Christians demonstrated their fishing skills.

A Dinner was hosted by the Bishop for the Cardinal and his entourage, which attracted high delegation from the government headed by the VP Isatou Njie Saidy, Hon Max Axi Gai, Hon. Chrispin Gray Johnson, Rev. Norman Griggs, Rt. Rev. Bishop Telewa Johnson, Imam Baba Leigh, Mr. Luntang Jaiteh Alkalo of Bakau, the Paramount Chief of The Gambia and others. Hon Max Axi Gai also spoke on the occasion.

Cardinal Sarr, the special guest says, "The publicity was enabled every body to be here. My being a Cardinal is not only for Senegal but for Catholics alone but for Senegal and The Gambia. The government is ready to receive visitors as part of their family. Everybody was involved." He said he visited the Vice President and they spoke for over three hours.  "The Gambia and the Senegal are one as there are intermarriages and the same religions in both countries.

Bishop Bob Ellison CSSp reiterated his joy and said they rejoice with Cardinal Sarr on the respect conferred on him by His Holiness, Pope Benedict X1Vth. "The multitude that followed you yesterday is an example of our unity. We thank you for honouring our invitation." He said within the one vocation there must be several calls from God. The life of Mary our mother is another; your call to be Cardinal is another. "We pray that what God has done in this visit will vring peace between Muslims and Christians. May God bless the farmers in all they do."

At Lamin, the Cardinal confirmed 23 candidates and urged them to love themselves. In line with the Gospel, Cardinal Sarr said, "Abraham was old without a child but had great faith. He obeyed God because he loved God. God asked him to leave his country to an unknown land and to leave everything including his friends and family members." He said Abraham did not get what he wanted but obeyed God and in the long run he got it. He urged everyone to believe, God must provide for him or her. Abraham had no child, he said but God gave his wife Sarah a child in her old age." The Holy Spirit provides everything, as you receive it today be witnesses to Christ. Gifts were presented to him.

The Cathedral celebration was the climax of all the celebrations. The church was over full with music coming from above. Fr. Edu Gomez got everything under control and it appeared so beautiful with Sisters in Christ miming and dancing a good song. Aunty Ya Sarah Goddard Joof says, "We are happy to be with our Cardinal. He is a symbol of Jesus among us. We are presenting him this vestment as our gift to him." Other church groups presented gifts to the Cardinal and his entourage. The day ended with merry making and buying of food and sharing.