Vatican City, 23 May 2013 (VIS) – Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, native of Benin and first African-born prelate to be prefect of a Vatican dicastery (of the Congregation for Bishops), will be memorialised by the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome with a Chair bearing his name and dedicated to “Political Socialization in Africa”. The news was made public this morning in the press office of the Holy See, at a conference participated in by Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”; His excellency Dr. Thomas Yayi Boni, president of the Republic of Benin; Msgr. Patrick Valdrini, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University; and Dr. Martin Nkafu Nkemnkia, director of the Department of Human and Social Sciences – African Studies at the Pontifical Lateran University.
Cardinal Gantin was born in 1922 in Toffo, Benin, and studied at the seminary of Ouidah. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1951 and left Benin two years later to pursue studies in Rome. He received a license in Theology and Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University. In 1956, he was ordained a bishop and in 1960 was named metropolitan archbishop of Cotonou. As president of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, he participated in three sessions of Vatican Council II and in the first World Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1967). In 1971 he was named adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and resigned the pastoral care of his diocese. In 1976, he was named president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He was created a cardinal by Paul VI in 1977. In 1984, he was named prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Nine years later, in 1993, he was elected dean of the College of Cardinals. When he turned 80, no longer a cardinal elector, he resigned his post as dean and returned to his country. He died in Paris, where he had travelled for health reasons, in 2008 and was buried in Ouidah. Benedict XVI, during his trip to Benin in 2011, visited his tomb.
“Today, 23 May 2013,” Cardinal Sarah said, “the Pontifical Lateran University dedicates a Chair in his name to recall what his life meant for the people of Benin, for the Church in Africa, and for the universal Church … as well as for the contribution that he made, both on a pastoral level and his invitation to the Christian world to participate in culture and politics as the main form of service to the betterment of society and the spiritual well-being of humanity. … I hope that this Chair in his name—on “Socialization Policy in Africa”—will initiate reflection on politics in the African context and prepare future leaders of African society who are guided by the Church's Social Doctrine.”
For his part, Dr. Nkafu Nkemnkia explained that the Chair will be articulated as courses and seminars, will promote conferences and workshops, and will seek collaboration with institutions and structures in order to increase and give value to African political culture. “The contribution of the Chair will be a renewal, but above all a formation of leaders, motivated by deep-rooted ethical principles, to overcome the difficult situation of crisis and corruption, both in politicians as well as in civil society itself, through a just economic vision and a more balanced form of the service that politics should offer.”