POPE JOHN PAUL II speaks about Father Tansi…
At Nnamdi Azikiwe airport on 21 March 1998:
The main purpose of my visit is to celebrate with the Catholic community the beatification of Fr Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, the first Nigerian in the Church’s history to be officially proclaimed “blessed”.
This beatification in the very land where Fr Tansi was born and exercised his priestly ministry honours the whole nation of Nigeria. It gives to all Nigerians an opportunity to reflect on the direction and insight which the life of Fr Tansi provides for today’s society. In him, and in all who dedicate their lives completely to the service of others, is revealed the path along which Nigerians should travel towards a brighter future for their country. The testimony borne by Fr Tansi is important at this moment in Nigeria’s history, a moment that requires concerted and honest efforts to foster harmony and national unity, to guarantee respect for human life and human rights, to promote justice and development, to combat unemployment, to give hope to the poor and the suffering, to resolve conflicts through dialogue and to establish a true and lasting solidarity between all sectors of society….
The life and witness of Fr Tansi remind us of the Gospel saying: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5: 9). Blessed are all who, in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, work for genuine peace.
Excerpts from Homily at the Mass of beatification
22 March, 1998:
Today, one of Nigeria’s own sons, Fr Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, has been proclaimed “blessed” in the very land where he preached the Good News of salvation and sought to reconcile his fellow countrymen with God and with one another. In fact, the cathedral where Fr Tansi was ordained and the parishes where he exercised the priestly ministry are not far from this very spot in Oba where we are gathered. Some of the people to whom he proclaimed the Gospel and administered the sacraments are here with us today including Cardinal Francis Arinze, who was baptized by Fr Tansi and received his first education in one of Fr Tansi’s schools.
In the great joy of this event I greet all those taking part in this liturgy, especially Archbishop Albert Obiefuna, Shepherd of this local Church of Onitsha, and all the Bishops from Nigeria and neighbouring countries. With particular affection I greet the priests, the men and women religious, the catechists and all the lay faithful. I thank the members of other Christian Ecclesial Communities, of the Muslim community and of other religious traditions who have joined us today, and the various state and local authorities present at our celebration. In a special way, I ask God to reward those who have worked so hard, giving generously of their time, talents and resources, so that this beatification might take place on Nigerian soil. I make my own the words of the psalmist as I invite all of you: “Glorify the Lord with me; together let us praise his name” (Ps 34: 3)!
Fr Tansi urged people to confess their sins
The life and witness of Fr Tansi is an inspiration to everyone in the Nigeria that he loved so much. He was first of all a man of God: his long hours before the Blessed Sacrament filled his heart with generous and courageous love. Those who knew him testify to his great love of God. Everyone who met him was touched by his personal goodness. He was then a man of the people: he always put others before himself, and was especially attentive to the pastoral needs of families. He took great care to prepare couples well for Holy Matrimony and preached the importance of chastity. He tried in every way to promote the dignity of women. In a special way, the education of young people was precious to him. Even when he was sent by Bishop Heerey to the Cistercian Abbey of Mount St Bernard in England to pursue his monastic vocation, with the hope of bringing the contemplative life back to Africa, he did not forget his own people. He did not fail to offer prayers and sacrifices for their continuing sanctification.
Fr Tansi knew that there is something of the Prodigal Son in every human being. He knew that all men and women are tempted to separate themselves from God in order to lead their own independent and selfish existence. He knew that they are then disappointed by the emptiness of the illusion which had fascinated them, and that they eventually find in the depths of their heart the road leading back to the Father’s house (cf. Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 5). He encouraged people to confess their sins and receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation. He implored them to forgive one another as God forgives us, and to hand on the gift of reconciliation, making it a reality at every level of Nigerian life. Fr Tansi tried to imitate the father in the parable: he was always available for those searching for reconciliation. He spread the joy of restored communion with God. He inspired people to welcome the peace of Christ, and encouraged them to nourish the life of grace with the word of God and with Holy Communion….
Bl. Cyprian Michael Tansi is a prime example of the fruits of holiness which have grown and matured in the Church in Nigeria since the Gospel was first preached in this land. He received the gift of faith through the efforts of the missionaries, and taking the Christian way of life as his own he made it truly African and Nigerian. So too the Nigerians of today young and old alike are called to reap the spiritual fruits which have been planted among them and are now ready for the harvest. In this regard, I wish to thank and to encourage the Church in Nigeria for her missionary work in Nigeria, in Africa and beyond. Fr Tansi’s witness to the Gospel and to Christian charity is a spiritual gift which this local Church now offers to the universal Church.
From the Address to the Muslims, 22 March 1998:
As you are aware, the reason for my visit has been to proclaim solemnly the holiness of a son of this country, Fr Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. He has been declared a model of a religious man who loved others and sacrificed himself for them. The example of people who live holy lives teaches us not only to practise mutual respect and understanding, but to be ourselves models of goodness, reconciliation and collaboration, across ethnic and religious boundaries, for the good of the whole country and for the greater glory of God.
Excerpts from the Homily at Mass in Abuja, 23 March 1998.
A wonderful sign of the universal character of the family of God, which truly includes all peoples, was the beatification yesterday in Onitsha the first ceremony of this sort ever to take place on Nigerian soil in honour of one of Nigeria’s own sons. This was a family celebration for the Nigerian people and nation. At the same time it was a celebration for all of God’s family: the whole worldwide Church of God rejoiced with the Church in Nigeria, and has now received from Nigeria the edifying example of the life and witness of Bl. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi.
God’s house is a house of prayer for all peoples
In human terms, Fr Tansi was a son of this country, born in Anambra State. In the supernatural order of grace, however, he became something more: without losing his natural ancestry, he transcended his earthly origins and became, in the words of St Paul, “part of God’s household”, “part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundation, and Christ Jesus as its main cornerstone” (Eph 2: 19, 20).
By grace, he was “made joyful in God’s house of prayer” (Is 56: 7). And he understood that God’s house is a “house of prayer for all the peoples” (ibid.). It is a house of prayer for the Hausa, for the Yoruba, for the Igbo. It is a house of prayer for the Efik, the Tiv, the Edo, the Gwari, and the many other peoples too numerous to mention by name who inhabit this land of Nigeria. And not just for these peoples alone, but for all the peoples of Africa, for all the peoples of Europe, of Asia, of Oceania, of the Americas: “my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples”!