VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2005 ( Benedict XVI gave a special audience to Cardinal Francis Arinze, who marked the 40th anniversary of his episcopal ordination this year.

The meeting, held told in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, was attended by members of the Nigerian community in Rome and other pilgrims from the cardinal's home country.

"I willingly express to you my sincere congratulations and personal good wishes for the occasion," the Pope told Cardinal Arinze in his greeting in English. The cardinal turns 73 on Tuesday.

On Sunday, the cardinal, who is prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, celebrated a solemn Mass in thanksgiving in the Church of Santa Maria in Transpontina, near the Vatican.

"Today I am happy to join my prayers to your intentions," said the Holy Father, "and I ask the Lord to be your guide and strength as you continue to serve the Church in love and zeal."

Francis Arinze was born in Eziowelle, Nigeria. At age 15, he began his secondary studies at the All Hallows Seminary of Nuewi, studies which he concluded in 1950 at Enugu.

For the next two years he taught at the same seminary until 1953, when he took up philosophy studies at Bigard Memorial Seminary at Enugu. In 1955 he began to take courses in theology at the Urbanian University in Rome.

Bishop at 32

He was ordained to the priesthood, in Rome, on Nov. 23, 1958. After various posts in education, he was named coadjutor to the archbishop of Onitsha on July 6, 1965. That Aug. 29 he was consecrated bishop, at age 32.

Two years after he was asked to take over the pastoral government of the archdiocese, and on June 26, 1967, he was named archbishop.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II asked him to head as pro-president the Secretariat for Non-Christians (now the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue).

He remained archbishop of Onitsha until April 1985. He was made a cardinal in May 1985.

He was president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, from May 27, 1985, to Oct. 1, 2002. On that day he was named prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.