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by Mildred Europa Taylor, at 04:00 pm, August 29, 2018, Opinion

Ghana is walking in the shadow of Ivory Coast which built the world’s largest but ‘useless’ cathedral

Design for the National Cathedral of Ghana (Left) and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Ivory Coast

The Government of Ghana has recently come under fire over its decision to demolish buildings including residences of judges to make way for the construction of a national cathedral.

The cathedral, which will serve as a national non-denominational Christian worship centre for the country, is slated to be built in Accra, the nation’s capital, as part of Ghana’s 60th-anniversary celebrations; but many feel it is not necessary considering the socio-economic challenges being faced by a majority of citizens.

Design for the National Cathedral of Ghana

The design for the cathedral was unveiled by the president, Nana Akufo-Addo in March 2018 with the architect of the project, British-Ghanaian David Adjaye.

“Designs showed landscaped gardens and a concave structure housing a chapel, baptistry and 5,000-seat auditorium, as well as Africa’s first bible museum and documentation centre.

“The building is intended to be ‘a house of prayer for all people’, and will host state occasions which are usually held at Independence Square or the president’s official residence,” according to Ghanaian media.

When the president cut the sod for the construction of the cathedral in 2017, there were public agitations over the need for such a project.

President Akufo-Addo together with a former Anglican Bishop cutting the sod for the construction — Graphic Online

What has, however, made matters worse now is the fact that some judges would lose their homes to make way for the construction which would be a drain on the public purse, coupled with the idea of trying to make the state a religious one.

The fear currently is that Ghana could be wandering into the slippery path of Ivory Coast when it decided to set up the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace which would eventually be the country’s doom.

The giant basilica, found in the outskirts of Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro, was built with the finest marble from Portugal and Italy between 1985 and 1989 during the tenure of the country’s first leader, Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

Though being the largest church in the world, the building has, however, been shrouded in controversy and seen by many as the beginning of the woes of the West African country.

This is why?

Houphouët-Boigny, after leading Ivory Coast to independence in 1960, was very popular for the 33 years he governed the country.

Felix Houphouët-Boigny

He was one of the richest men in Africa and many accused him of amassing billions to pay for the basilica which was said to have cost around 300 million USD.

At the time, Houphouët-Boigny refused to answer questions on how the church was financed, saying that it was “a deal with God.”

In 1985, after moving the country’s capital to Yamoussoukro, his birthplace, Houphouët-Boigny commissioned the building, which is seen as a replica of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica.

Critics accused him of putting up the building to build a lasting legacy for himself but he then said it was a gift to the Vatican.

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Ivory Coast

Over 1,000 workers worked day and night on the 520-foot-tall structure, which is supported by 128 towering Doric columns.

The building, which can accommodate over 18,000 worshippers, has 36 stained-glass windows, hand-made in Bordeaux, France, with an organ that is documented to reach volumes that could endanger one’s hearing.

The interior of the church

Even though the Basilica gave Ivory Coast international recognition, as well as, Pope John Paul II’s eventual blessing, its construction has been, by some quarters, an unnecessary vanity project.

“The size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter,” a Vatican official told Time when it was completed.

“But it is a project close to the President’s heart, and he sees it as an experience of faith. We want to respect that.”

Three years after the project, Houphouët-Boigny died and his funeral was held at the building, filling the empty space for the first time since the pope’s blessing.

The Basilica has since become more of a tourist attraction with services sparsely held in the building, as it attracts few worshippers, especially after the country was engulfed with years of civil strife.

But in August, scores of people gathered inside the extravagant building to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption.

The worrying development is that others also gathered around the building not to worship, but to display and sell their wares, showing the marked poverty of the country.

Will Ivory Coast’s neighbour, Ghana suffer a similar fate to its national cathedral?

Check out what people felt about Ghana’s yet-to-be-built cathedral:

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