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Pope adds two Africans to list of 19 new cardinals

AFRICA
By Martin Mutua | January 20th 2014
Pope Francis

By Martin Mutua                    

Kenya: Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou Archbishop Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, who turned down seats in the country’s Senate offered by President Blaise Compaoré in the name of the poor, is among 19 new cardinals that have been named by Pope Francis.

Also making it to the list from Africa, the first one by the new Pontiff, is the prelate from Ivory Coast, who is also Abidjan Archbishop Jean Pierre Kutwa.

A week ago, Pope Francis announced a list of 19 new cardinals that he will create on February 22, during his first consistory since he took over as the head of the more than 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide.

The two now bring the number of cardinals in Africa to 17.

However, out of this number, only 11 are aged below 80 years and eligible to enter the conclave to elect a new Pope, while six are over 80.

And the two join Kenya’s John Cardinal Njue and Tanzania’s Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, among others, on the list of those who are referred to as cardinal electors as they are below 80 years.

Njue is the second cardinal from Kenya to hold the top seat within the church, with the late Maurice Cardinal Otunga having been created a cardinal in 1973, making him one of the oldest cardinals the continent ever had.

Made a saint

Owing to his humility, courage and wisdom, the Catholic Church in Kenya initiated a process to have the late Otunga made a saint soon after he passed on in 2003.

Last week, the Vatican commenced the second phase of canonisation of the late Otunga by opening up sealed documents that have been forwarded to the Church’s headquarters by the Archdiocese of Nairobi led by Cardinal Njue.

Yesterday, Father Calistus Oduor, one of Njue’s aides and a member of the committee that was handling the process, confirmed to The Standard that the process had begun.

“The document that we sent from here on the servant of God Cardinal Otunga was opened on Tuesday at the Vatican, therefore commencing the second phase of the journey to have him canonised,” he added.

Fr Oduor, however, said they do not know for how long the officials at the Vatican will scrutinise the document as that was now a matter before the top hierarchy of the Church, adding that what they can now do is pray and wait.

“It should, however, not be lost in that even if the material is in order there will be the final phase, which will be that of a miracle, that has to be recorded through the intervention of the late cardinal and only then can he be made a saint,” he added.

On the new cardinals, in the case of Archbishop Ouédraogo, this will be the first time in almost 15 years that Burkina Faso has a cardinal representing it.

The only other cardinal Burkina Faso has ever had was Paul Zoungrana, a council father whom Pope Paul VI created cardinal at the historic Consistory of 1965 (when the country was still known as the Republic of Upper Volta). Zoungrana passed away in 2000.

According to an Italian monthly, Missioni Consolata, which interviewed Ouédraogo for its December 2013 issue, the new cardinal published a letter last summer, strongly condemning the “crisis in values” that leads to the spread of poverty and corruption in Burkinabé society.

The Church was especially emphatic in its condemnation of President Compaoré’s idea to set up a Senate with a view to amending the Constitution and securing his re-election.

“In such a climate of extreme poverty, in which the needs of basic necessities (health, education, employment, housing, food) are not sufficiently assured and an increasing number of young people have an uncertain future, one can only legitimately question the opportunity of the creation of a Senate,” Burkina Faso’s bishops wrote, rejecting the seats offered to members of religious communities.

The 68-year-old prelate was ordained a priest in 1973 and was appointed in 1996 by the late Pope John Paul II as the Bishop of Ouahigouya, a diocese that gave birth to two contemplative monasteries: the male monastery of Jesus the Saviour in Honda, which follows the spirituality of the Blessed Charles de Foucauld (to whom the newly nominated cardinal is very attached) and the female monastery of the Clarissa nuns of Saye.

The establishment of these two monasteries was especially significant because Ouahigouya is situated in the north of the country – on the border with Mali – in a predominantly Muslim area.

In 2010, Ouédraogo was called by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, where he stood out for the work he did in favour of the poor in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

On the other hand, Ivory Coast’s Archbishop Kutwa was ordained a priest in 1971, appointed Bishop of Gagnoa by the late Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Suffered devastation

After representing the Ivory Coast at the Synod of Bishops of 2005, Benedict XVI chose him as head of the Archdiocese of Abidjan (the country’s capital) the following year, replacing Cardinal Bernard Agré.

He took over at a time when the Ivory Coast was suffering the devastation of a decade-long civil war, so he had one tough challenge ahead of him.

Kutwa gives great importance to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, a hot issue on the continent where political conflict risks becoming a denominational one as well.

Interestingly, Kutwa is also a music composer.

As of January 1, 2014, there are 199 members of the College of Cardinals coming from 66 different countries.

Africa has 17 from 15 countries, America has 51 from 15 countries, Asia has 19 from 10 countries, Europe has 108 from 24 and Oceania has four from two countries. Ninety-two are over 80 years and cannot elect a new Pope, while 107 are electors.

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