The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, has called for ‘social justice’ in the country in the face of what he describes as the unacceptable rate at which the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor.
He noted that there could be no peace in the society if the under-served who were in the vast majority continued to wallow in poverty while some people used their positions to illegally amass wealth.
Speaking at the opening of the 8th Re-union Conference of the Noble Order of the Knights and Ladies of Marshall in Kumasi on Saturday, Most Rev. Osei-Bonsu mentioned fairness in the sharing of national resources as one sure way of combating the disturbing development.
The three-day conference was on the theme, “Deepening the faith of the Marshallan for effective evangelisation.”
It attracted about 3,000 delegates from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Liberia and Great Britain, who deliberated on the activities of the society over the last five years and re-strategised towards effective delivery in the next five years.
The Noble Order of Knights and Ladies of Marshall is a Catholic friendly society founded in 1926, with two primary objectives.
First, to bring Catholic men and women together for effective lay apostolate and Catholic action, and second, to provide a friendly social forum for Catholics who might otherwise be attracted to non-Catholic lodges.
Named after Sir James Marshall, an English Judge of the Gold Coast in the colonial days whose untiring efforts led to the re-founding of the Catholic Church in the country in 1880 after nearly 250 years of the breakdown of the first attempt at establishing it, the society currently has over 6,000 members in Ghana, Togo, Benin, Liberia and Great Britain.
In his address, which drew occasional applauses from the gathering, Most Rev. Osei-Bonsu, who is also the Bishop of Konongo-Mampong in the Ashanti Region, mentioned corruption in public office as one of the greatest enemies of the nation.
“Corruption militates against national development,” he said, and admonished the church to be courageous to speak out when things were not going on well in the country.
He charged members of the Knights and Ladies of Marshall to get actively involved in politics to help change the nation for the better.
The bishop also touched on the vexed issue of homosexuality, which had become contentious in global matters of late, and said the position of the Catholic Church remained unchanged.
“We are strongly against the practice even though we accept that homosexuals have the right to live,” he said.
Expressing disquiet about the low level of attention given to the prevention of HIV/AIDS in sections of the church, the bishop said, “We should not allow people to contract the disease before we visit them in the hospitals with various items.”
The Chairperson of the Council of State, Madam Cecilia Johnson, who represented President John Dramani Mahama, noted with satisfaction the way the Catholic Church had remained a powerful agent for change and development in Ghana.
“The church has been responsible for the training of men and women who have contributed immensely to the development of our country,” she said.
Touching on the motto of the society – Unity, Charity, Fraternity and Service – she said, “Service to God and country is a service that can propel Ghana and the rest of Africa out of poverty, disease, squalor and ignorance.”
Madam Johnson challenged Ghanaians to break the artificial barriers relating to tribe, religion and politics, among other things, and unite to build the country.
The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Marshall, Sir Knight Victor Derx Baffour, in a welcoming address, said the Marshallan re-union conferences were held every five years for the family of marshallans worldwide to renew their solidarity and loyalty to the Catholic Church, the nation and the noble order.
The chairman for the ceremony, Sir Knight Dr E.S.K. Kwaw, who is the Supreme Director of the Noble Order, touched on a number of issues, including acceptance of faith, the sacrament of reconciliation as well as faith and good works, and indicated that in all these, the marshallan had the responsibility to combine the spiritual and physical abilities to work towards achieving them.