Bright Lights, Big Consistory
And from a USCCB-organized conference on international religious freedom held just last month in Washington, a briefing on the situation in Nigeria from Cardinal-designate John Onaiyekan of Abuja (who appears at the 4:30 mark):
The first head of an African diocese given the red hat since the consistory of 2010, since his appointment to the new Nigerian capital in 1994, the 68 year-old prelate – long a high-profile figure on the Roman scene – has presided over a growth that's seen the Abuja church go from some 30,000 members at the time of his arrival to over 550,000 today.
Notably as well, the first red hat for Abuja – a city only made an archdiocese on Onaiyekan's appointment, and established as a diocese just five years before that – marks a shift in the hierarchy of Africa's largest country, whose prior cardinalatial seat had been at the former capital, Lagos, which remains its largest city.
With the nod, come next month's consistory Nigeria will likewise have two resident cardinals for the first time in its history – after a tenure spanning a remarkable five decades, Cardinal Anthony Olunbumi Okogie (elevated by John Paul II in 2003) retired from the Lagos seat this past summer; at age 76, however, the nation's senior red-hat retains a vote in a conclave for another four years.
In his intervention at the ongoing Synod for the New Evangelization, amid years of sectarian violence between his homeland's predominantly-Muslim north and Christian south (an outbreak which has included several bombings of churches, even within recent weeks), Onaiyekan took to the floor "to stress" that "despite the impression often given by the world media... Christians in Nigeria do not see themselves as being under any massive persecution by Muslims."
Citing Nostra Aetate – the Vatican II decree on relations with other religions – the now cardinal-designate said that "the differences between Islam and Christianity are not negligible. But there are also broad areas of common grounds [sic].
"The new evangelization," Onaiyekan told the Synod, "will entail working together for the promotion of commonly shared values, in a world that is very much in need of such values."
On a side-note, while Nigeria already has two papal electors as of today, the country's best-known ecclesiastical export – global Catholicism's now-retired top liturgist, Cardinal Francis Arinze (right, in a classic shot) – has spent the last quarter-century in the Roman Curia.
A convert who was long viewed as Africa's top papabile during the twilight years of the reign of John Paul II, Arinze's 80th birthday next week opens one of the two voting seats whose occupants will "age out" over the next month, their places quickly to be filled by members of the college's new intake.
The other seat undergoing rapid turnover is that of the retired Vatican Peace Czar Cardinal Renato Martino, who marks his 80th on the day before the November 24th consistory.
All that said, for a consistory whose sole Curial designate is American, perhaps it's even more intriguing to consider the one name that's especially – perhaps even historically – conspicuous by its absence: the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who by long-standing Vatican tradition would've been expected to hold the biglietto's top slot.