From La Croix:

When the Archdiocese of Abuja, located in the capital of Nigeria, was established as a “missio sui iuris” (independent mission) back in 1981 it had a fledgling Catholic community of only several thousand people.Four decades later it is moving quickly towards a Church membership of a million baptized faithful.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, who became the local ordinary only two years ago, recalled those who helped grow the Church here, during a Mass on November 6 to mark the Archdiocese of Abuja’s 40th anniversary.

He paid tribute to the late Cardinal Dominic Ignatius Ekandem (d. 1995), the first Nigerian to get the red hat, who was entrusted with leading the new independent mission in 1981.

The cardinal, who attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), was bishop of Ikot Ekpene at the time and would continue to jointly hold that title until 1989 when Abuja was made a diocese in its own right.

Ekandem, who had become an auxiliary bishop in 1953 at the age of 36, worked with a number of missionary orders to develop the Church in Abuja.They included the Society of African Missions (SMA), the Holy Ghost Fathers (CSSP), the St. Patrick Fathers (SPS), the Servants of the Holy Child Jesus, the Sisters of the Holy Rosary and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart.

With the help of these religious communities the cardinal was able to establish a number of ecclesial structures on which his pastoral work was based.In the four decades since its foundation, the Church in Abuja – which became a metropolitan archdiocese in 1994 – has grown by leaps and bounds.

According to the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican’s annual book of statistics, there were less than 9,400 Catholics in the diocese in 1990.

Today that number stands between 895,000-900,000… and growing.

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