Aug 1, 2008, 8:38 AM
The Cardinal Archbishop of Dakar will visit The Gambia on Thursday 5th June, 2008 returning on 8th June, 2008 a press release states from Bishop Bobby Pat Ellison, the Catholic Bishop of Banjul recently.
The visit which would have fallen on 25th May was postponed due to the above date due to the death of another Cardinal in Benin. Cardinal Sarr had sent message that the late Cardinal's burial coincides with his visit, meaning he would want attend the funeral and be in The Gambia from the 5th to 8th June with programmes remaining the same.
According to a Press Release, Robert Patrick Ellison CSSp. Bishop of Banjul, earlier in the year invited Cardinal Sarr to The Gambia. The Gambia and Senegal share the same traditions with many Gambian families having close relatives in Senegal. The customs and culture of both countries complement each other. Cardinal Sarr's family is a typical example of this kind of interaction.
Cardinal Sarr has been a frequent visitor to the country in past years. He visited as a priest and then as Bishop of Kaolack and again as Archbishop of Dakar. This will be his first visit since he was created a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XV1.
The release further stated that Bishop Ellison and his delegation attended a recent meeting with Honourable Ismaila Sambou, Secretary of State for Local Government, Lands and Religious Affairs. The Bishop is grateful for the warm reception afforded him and his delegation by Honourable Secretary of State and his staff. His comments to Bishop were encouraging and further strengthen the already strong relationship between the government of The Gambia and the Catholic Church in The Gambia.
The release said the suggestion of the Honourable Secretary of State for the involvement of all sectors of the community in the visit of the Cardinal demonstrates the close relationship between the Muslim and Christian Communities of our country. The visit will deepen our appreciation of our commitment to this special relationship of understanding and respect for each other. The President of the Republic of The Gambia is promoting religious tolerance as an element of development. All parishes will organize parish groups to line the route displaying their banners and all Catholic Schools will line the route from Banjul International Airport to Shalom Retreat Centre, Fajara.
The visit of the Cardinal from Senegal also puts into focus the ability for the African church craving for self reliance as in the case of The Gambia who recently ended their meeting on self reliance church. Their church is now in their hands and is known that being a self-reliance church things have to come from the indigenous in line with development and sustainability. The Church in The Gambia is expected to produce priests, religious and build and maintain structures and further improve on them. The Gambia is big enough for such to happen provided the many poor people are made to understand what it takes to be living for self in the midst of extreme poverty. The church is expecting that over the years with Missionary activities to now many of the Catholics would have been educated and blessed enough to stand on their own and to be able to help their church. The Missionaries put in a lot money and things in days gone. These people got the help from oversea donors who had earlier seen the dial need of the church in The Gambia. They still see the need but it is not as though they will continue to be donors and the recipients are not able to stand on their own. To see ones recipient stand on his/her own makes the giver happy.
The Cardinal's visit also symbolizes the unity between the church in Senegal and Gambia denoting the long spiritual ties between the two. We all know that Christianity came to stay in The Gambia with the establishment of a British garrison and settlement on the island of Banjul in 1816. And today the church is practicing self-reliance.
The good about the visit is embedded in the love the Gambian church is ready to lavish on the visiting Cardinal and his entourage. The Masses and receptions and the welcome by the students will surely be witnesses to the love the church shares with their brothers and sisters in Senegal.