VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II today saluted the "booming" Catholic Church of Nigeria, and indicated that the primary mission of his upcoming trip to that country will be the beatification of Father Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi .

      Speaking in English to a community of Nigerians who traveled to Rome to participate in his weekly public audience, the Holy Father said that he was looking forward to his trip, and the first beatification of a native Nigerian.

      Meanwhile in an interview on Vatican Radio yesterday Cardinal Francis Arinze-- the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter- Religious Dialogue, and a native of Nigeria-- reported that Catholicism is "booming" in his homeland. There are now 15 to 20 million Catholics in the country of 100 million, he said, and said that the explosive growth of the Church there in the past five years has been "something which has never been seen before in the history of evangelization in our country."

      Cardinal Arinze, who was for 20 years the bishop of Onitsha, was personally acquainted with Father Michael Tansi-- who took the name Cyprian when he became a Trappist monk. Born in 1903 and ordained to the priesthood in 1937, Tansi opened two parishes, and was (according to Cardinal Arinze) "a pastor full of zeal." In fact, his preaching was so powerful that the cardinal remembers some of Tansi's homilies today-- 50 years after he heard them. After ten years as a priest he entered the Trappist monastery, where he lived until his death in 1964.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

March 19, 1998 volume 9, no. 56         DAILY CATHOLIC