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Francis Arinze was born in Nigeria, a heathen (as was I), in a remote village, Eziowelle, on November 1, 1932; the third of seven children. He was converted to Catholicism at nine, and after attending seminary studies in Nigeria came to Rome, to attend Pontificia Universitas Urbaniana (a university run by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and thus also known as Collegio Urbano of Propaganda Fide given that the prior title for that Congregation was ‘Propagation of the Faith’ (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide)) in 1955. He was there for five years getting his doctorate, then doing a stint at the University of London (one of my alma maters). He was ordained a priest, while in Rome, in November 1958, three weeks after turning 26.
He became a titular bishop in July 1965, aged 32. He became Archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria in 1967, aged 34.7. He would hold that post for nearly 18 years. He was appointed Pro-President of the Secretariat for Non-Christians (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), April 1984. He was created a Cardinal Deacon in May 1985; which took away the temporary ‘Pro’ from his title. He moved to Rome, yet again, in early 1985.
Per jus optionis he opted to be a Cardinal Priest in January 1996, after 10.6 years as a Cardinal Deacon. We was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2002.
In 2005 the media, especially the English media, hailed him as a papabile, though this was not echoed in the scuttlebutt in Rome — and per the rumors he didn’t get any many, if any, votes at the conclave. Arinze’s primary claim to fame was that he, like today’s ‘Tanned Ratzinger‘, was an unquestioning, totally committed traditional Catholic that was 120% behind anything and everything said and done by the pope, John Paul II (#265).
Prior to 2005 he was asked by a journalist as to his position of maters doctrinal and responded, tellingly: ‘Where does Rome stand? There I stand‘.