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Govt Has No Business Organising Pilgrimages — Catholic Bishops   
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The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) says the government has no business organising pilgrimages for Christians or any other group of religious adherents.

They have, therefore, opted out of a sponsored trip to Jerusalem.

The President of the GCBC, Bishop Joseph Osei Bonsu, said the money to be used in sponsoring the trip could be used in ameliorating the circumstance of rural dwellers by providing KVIPs, water and electricity.

“We cannot in all good conscience accept the offer when the resources could be put at the disposal of the poor in improving living conditions for them,” he told the Daily Graphic in an interview.

The government, through the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, invited leaders of Christian churches to elect members to join a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for which the government had obtained sponsorship.

The letter of February, 15, 2013 gave 200 slots in all and was written to all identifiable Christian groups, including the GCBC, the Christian Council, the Ghana Pentecostal Council, the Ghana National Association of Christian and Charismatic Churches, the Council of Indigenous Churches and Aglow.

Bishop Bonsu said their decision was to be judged by the reasons they had given and nothing more.

However, the Director of the Department of Communications of the National Catholic Secretariat, Mr Dan Dzide, told the Daily Graphic in a separate interview that they were not against the government’s offer to sponsor their members for the pilgrimage.

They, however, had some misgivings about the timing of the offer and the trip which might clash with Easter festivities and church programmes, as well as the limited number of places offered.

Mr Dzide added that the leaders of the Christian community would be meeting to present a position on the matter. In principle, however, he was of the view that the matter had been blown out of proportion. He said the government of Ghana, for some time now, had been sponsoring Muslims yearly to Mecca.

For fairness, it was thought that Christians also had to benefit from the same courtesies, and the offer by the government last month, had to be seen in that light.

Mr Dzide acknowledged that for Muslims, it was a religious obligation to embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca, but for Christians, pilgrimage was an issue of choice.

He pointed out that some Catholics already engaged in pilgrimages to Lourdes in France, Portugal and Italy, while other Christians undertook a yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem, making the government’s offer not a particularly unique one.
Source: Daily Graphic

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