Holy Father Mourns Cardinal Gantin
"Eminent Son of Benin and Africa"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent his condolences to the archbishop of Cotonou, Benin, upon the death of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin who died Tuesday at age 86 in Paris.
The telegram sent to Archbishop Marcel Honorat Leon Agboton said: "Having learned the sad news of the death of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, dean emeritus of the College of Cardinals, I unite myself in prayer to the bishops of the episcopal conference of Benin, to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Cotonou and of all Benin, to the family of the deceased and to all those who mourn."
The Pope's message continued: "I ask God the Father, from whom all mercy comes, to welcome into his light and peace this eminent son of Benin and of Africa who, universally esteemed, was animated by a profound apostolic spirit and by an exalted sense of the Church and her mission in the world.
"I give thanks to the Lord for his fruitful ministry, first as archbishop of Cotonou then, for many years, at the Holy See which he served faithfully and generously, especially in the Congregation for Bishops and as a member of the College of Cardinals, of which he was also a much-respected dean."
"In sign of consolation," the Pontiff concluded, "I send an affectionate apostolic blessing to the priests, religious, catechists and all the faithful of Benin, and to those who will participate in his funeral."
Gantin was born in Toffo, Benin, in 1922. He was named archbishop of Cotonou in 1960, and then served as president of the episcopal conference of western Africa before he was called to Rome by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and made a cardinal in 1977. He was the first African cardinal to head a Vatican dicastery.
He worked first as the secretary for the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith -- today called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples -- before serving as the president of the Pontifical Councils Cor Unum and Justice and Peace. He was then president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and finally, was elected dean of the College of Cardinals in 1992.
When he resigned as the dean of the College of Cardinals in 2002, Cardinal Gantin chose to return to his own country of Benin, although he remained deeply attached to the Holy See. He said: "I have physically left Rome, but my heart is still there. I remain a Roman missionary in my country where I witness to the care of all the Church."