Bishops speak of Obama in religious terms

Associated Press / October 8, 2009

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VATICAN CITY - African bishops attending a Vatican meeting are speaking about the election of Barack Obama in divine terms - putting them very much at odds with many of their US counterparts.

Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana said yesterday that there was “a divine plan behind’’ Obama’s election.

“It’s like the biblical story repeating itself,’’ he told reporters, citing the Old Testament figure Joseph, who after being sold into slavery in Egypt ends up becoming a top official.

“We believe God has his own plans. God directs history,’’ he said of the election. “We pray that it [Obama’s presidency] brings blessings for Africa and the whole world.’’

He acknowledged that Obama has earned the wrath of many conservative American bishops because of his support for abortion rights.

Earlier this year, dozens of US bishops denounced the leading US Catholic university, Notre Dame, for giving Obama an honorary degree.

“We are definitely aware of it,’’ Palmer-Buckle said. “But we feel it our duty to meet him and find out what are the things that unite us more than divide us.’’

Earlier this week, the Ghanian prelate leading the three-week meeting on the Church in Africa, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana, cited Obama’s election in saying he didn’t see any reason there couldn’t now be a black pope.

And the archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo, Monsignor Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, told the formal synod itself that it would be wise to not ignore what he called a “primordial event’’ in recent times.

Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, gave more tangible reasons for praise in meeting with reporters.

“Obama has the authority to talk straight to our bad leaders and tell them they are messing up our countries,’’ he said.