Celebrating the life of Cardinal Peter Poreku Dery

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Peter Poreku was born in Zimuopare (Ko Parish) which was a village in the Nandom District of the Upper-West Region of Ghana in 1918. He was the fourth of the ten children of Theodore Poreku and Agnes Zoore. He was born soon after the death of one of his brothers.

As is the belief and practice of the Dagaare speaking people of North-Western Ghana and Southern Burkina-Faso, a male child born shortly after the death of his immediate elder brother is believed to be the reincarnation of the deceased brother and thus given the name of “Dery” to signify that. In keeping with that belief and practice his pagan family thus called him “Dery”. He later converted to Roman Catholicism being baptized in Jirapa in 1933.

After attending the minor seminary in Navrongo, Dery studied philosophy and theology at St. Victor’s Major Seminary in Wiagha. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gérard Bertrand, MAfr, on 11 February 1951, and then furthered his studies. He earned a diploma in social studies from the St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 1958, and obtained his doctorate in theology after studying at the International Catechetical Institute “Lumen vitae” in Brussels, Belgium.
On 16 March 1960, Dery was appointed the first Bishop of Wa by Pope John XXIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 8 May from John XXIII himself, with Bishops Napoléon-Alexandre Labrie, CIM, and Fulton J. Sheen (future Venerable) serving as co-consecrators in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Dery, soon after his formal installation as bishop, requested permission from the Holy See to translate the Ordinary of the Mass into Dagaare and have it sung in local melodies, accompanied by local musical instruments; permission was given and Dery himself composed the first Dagaare Mass. He also attended the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), and focused on the involvement of the laity, the education of the youth, and the promotion of vocations during his tenure.

Dery was later named Apostolic Administrator of Tamale, rising to become the fourth Bishop of Tamale on 18 November 1974. He was the first non-religious Ordinary of that diocese, as all his predecessors had belonged to the White Fathers. He was promoted to the rank of a metropolitan archbishop upon Tamale’s elevation to an archdiocese on 30 May 1977. From 1982 to 1988, he served as president of the Ghanaian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
He resigned his post as Archbishop on 26 March 1994, after nineteen years of service, on reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. Pope Benedict XVI created him Cardinal-Deacon of Sant’Elena fuori Porta Prenestina in the consistory of 26 March 2006; however, at the age of 87, he was not eligible to vote in any future papal conclaves.

Dery died in Tamale on 6 March 2008 at age 89.
In June 2013 during a mass held in Tamale it was announced that the cause for beatification would commence. The “nihil obstat” (nothing against) was declared on 13 July 2013, thus commencing the cause. The diocesan process commenced on 9 May 2015 in Tamale and will begin to assemble documentation on his life of heroic virtue.

He is now referred to as a Servant of God.

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