As we began Day 2 of our work in Niamey, we had the chance to meet with His Grace, Archbishop Michel Cartateguy, SMA - the lone Catholic Archbishop in Niger.
S+L's Kris Dmytrenko sat down with Archbishop Cartateguy for an in-depth interview bright and early this morning. Among the many issues they discussed, Kris and the Archbishop of Niamey spoke about the on-going food crisis in the country, the work of Caritas Niger and CADEC on the ground as well as the demographics of his Archdiocese.
The diocese of Niamey was elevated to a Metropolitan Archdiocese on June 25, 2007 - by Pope Benedict XVI. +Cartateguy has been the local bishop since 2003.
He told us that there are roughly 25,000 Catholics in the entire country. The dominant religion in Niger is Islam.
Despite not being able to attend the 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa in Rome, +Cartateguy had fond memories of speaking with the Holy Father. He even extended an invitation for him to come and visit Niger! With many smiles exchanged between the two of them, Pope Benedict instead invited Cartateguy to join him in celebrating his Apostolic Voyage to Benin in November of last year.
Following the interview, His Grace led several members of our team on a tour that took us to the heart of the Pastoral Centre, Cathedral and many other offices. The space was vast and very beautiful.
As the day went on, we travelled to Ayorou, a city that borders with the country of Mali - in a full military escort. Because of the ongoing conflict in Mali, the security situation in Ayorou and along the Mali border is a very serious matter. Our cameraman David LeRoss and I were definitely taken back by the scores of refugees in the UN-run refugee camp.
Tomorrow promises to be another exciting day for all of us. We will continue our tour of aid distribution centres.