The Archdiocese of Cape Coast is coterminous with the Central Region of Ghana. It covers a surface area of 9,826 km² ; and has a population of 2,201,863 (2010 Census) . Out of this population, 349,905 are Catholics, with the rest being Protestants (mainline and Evangelical), Muslims, Members of Independent Churches and Followers of traditional religion.
Although it is the first and the oldest ecclesiastical circumscription (Vicariate, Diocese, Archdiocese) in Ghana, the Archdiocese of Cape Coast nevertheless is now the Metropolitan See of the smallest Ecclesiastical Province. It has only two suffragan Dioceses (the Diocese of Sekondi-Takoradi and the Diocese of Wiawso).
The mission of the Church is clarified in Luke 4:18-19 as Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”(NRSV). Here the poor will be lifted up from their abject poverty. Captives will be released from their sins and all other forms of bondage – physical, economic, and political. Jesus is the light for all those who are blind (John 8:12) and his followers will also be a light for others (Matt 5:14-16). Jesus proclaims the “acceptable year”, thus signaling the redemption of the oppressed. Such a Jubilee must include the social concerns of all people (Archdiocese of Cape Coast Synodal Acts, 2006:5).
The evangelizing mission of the Church in the Archdiocese of Cape Coast started when the Portuguese arrived at Shama in 1471. The first Eucharist was celebrated in Elmina on 20th July 1482 on the feast of Sts. Fabian and Sebastian. Four days later the chief of Efutu, together with his elders, were the first to be baptized. Thus, the Catholic faith was planted in the Gold Coast. However, due to many factors, the Church lay dormant for almost a century.
Serious efforts were made to evangelize Elmina and the surrounding areas between 1572-1576. Six Portuguese members of the Augustinian Order worked tirelessly to spread the faith in Elmina, Komenda, Efutu and Abura area. Five of the six were murdered. When the Portuguese left the Gold Coast, the Catholic faith again became dormant.
In 1870, at the urging of laymen such as Pierre Bonnat and Sir James Marshall, the Propaganda Fide established the Gold Coast as a Prefecture Apostolic, entrusting it to the Society of African Missions. Fathers August Moreau and Eugene Murat were the first missionaries sent by the society to the Gold Coast. They arrived at Elmina in 1880.
Initial evangelization included preaching the Word, as well as befriending and working with the chiefs in order to gain the support of the entire community. The early missionaries administered sacraments, built churches, established schools and hospitals with the help of the lay faithful. The Catholic Church has grown since that first baptism in 1482. Today, the Archdiocese of Cape Coast has approximately 300,000 baptized members.
The Archdiocese of Cape Coast gave Ghana her first indigenous bishop in the person of His Grace John Kodwo Amissah (1957), the first Ghanaian Cardinal, His Eminence Peter Cardinal Kodwo Appiah Turkson (2003) and presently His Grace Bishop Mathias Kobena Nketsiah (2010), Archbishop of Cape Coast. Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Cape Coast continues to be carried out by both diocesan and religious priests, women and men religious, catechists, and many church societies. Schools, hospitals, socio-economic projects, charities and other institutions continue to be prominent means of evangelization.
The evangelizing mission of the Archdiocese of Cape Coast builds upon the foundation laid down by the early missionaries. It has moved us into the third millennium. As the world changes, the Church is repositioning herself to re-invigorate her evangelizing activities to further the mission of Jesus, in this time and age.
Grace and Peace of the Lord!