by Antonella Prenna
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - On February 11, 2023, the Holy Father appointed the Reverend Bob John Hassan Koroma, of the clergy of Makeni, until now vicar general and administrator of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima, as bishop of the diocese of Makeni.
Positive comments on the long-awaited news. "Absolute enthusiasm on the part of lay people, priests, nuns, religious and all the people of God", said the Apostolic Administrator Father Natale Paganelli, Xaverian missionary S.X. “It was much desired news after 11 years of apostolic administration. Father Koroma is a priest appreciated by all, I can truly say that there is a lot of joy in the diocese and in the country in general. A lot of gratitude to the Holy Father who was close to us and to the Dicastery for Evangelization which carried forward the whole process. It is good for the diocese of Makeni and for the Church of Sierra Leone", concludes Bishop Paganelli who constantly followed the evolution of the facts in all these years.
“We are grateful for this appointment and confident that Msgr. Koroma will guide the people that God has entrusted to him in the right way", said to Fides Father Francesco Patrikson, of the Society for African Missions in Buedu, diocese of Kenema. "I am very optimistic that the people of Makeni will accept him as their pastor and will cooperate with him" added the missionary, who is also President of the Conference of Major Superiors in Sierra Leone, and who is currently involved in Benin for the Regional Conference of the Major Superiors of West Africa.
Msgr. Bob John Hassan Koroma was born on 17 November 1971 in Kamabai, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone (capital Makeni).
He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Makeni on 25 April 1999.
He holds a licentiate in sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute and a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Urban University of Rome.
He has held the following offices: collaborator with Vatican Radio; professor of sacred scripture and dean of studies in Saint Paul’s Major Seminary in Freetown (2008-2014); collaborator at Satin Catherine of Siena and Little Compton and Saint Madeleine in Tiverton, United States of America (2005-2013); parish priest of Immaculate Conception in Magburaka and professor at the diocesan University of Makeni (2015); since 2015, vicar general of the diocese of Makeni and, since 2016, administrator of the Cathedral.
Koroma's appointment brought great joy to the diocese of Makeni, which in fact since 2012 was run by the Xaverian missionary Natale Paganelli as Apostolic Administrator.
Of particular interest is the story of the diocese of Makeni, the size of half of Sierra Leone, which on 24 February 2012 celebrated the 60th year of its foundation (see Fides, 9/1/2012). The Northern region, of which Makeni is the capital, has always had a large Muslim majority and, until the mid-twentieth century, almost no missionary presence. In 1950, thanks to the action of a small group of Xaverian missionaries led by Father Augusto Azzolini, an apostolic prefecture was erected which, in 1962, officially became a diocese with the appointment of Father Azzolini as bishop. After Azzolini's retirement, having reached the age limit in 1987, John Paul II entrusted the diocese to Msgr. Giorgio Biguzzi, who among other things assumed the role of mediator between the warring parties during the ten-year civil war that bloodied the country.
On January 7, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Henry Aruna as Bishop of Makeni. Ordained bishop almost a year later, Msgr. Aruna was never able to take possession of the diocese, due to negative reactions within the local community regarding his origin from another region of Sierra Leone. On July 18, 2015, Pope Francis appointed him auxiliary bishop of Kenema. On the same day Natale Paganelli, S.X., who was already apostolic administrator of the vacant see of the diocese since 11 April 2012, had been elevated to episcopal dignity with his appointment as titular bishop of Gadiaufala. (Agenzia Fides, 13/2/2023)