At a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office, a new academic chair was announced by the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, dedicated to Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, a native of Benin and the first African-born prelate of a Vatican dicastery. The Chair will focus on “Political Socialization in Africa”
Announcing the news this morning was 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.
Born in 1922 in Toffo, Benin, the late Cardinal Gantin was ordained to the priesthood in 1951 and left Benin two years later to pursue studies in Rome where he received a licence 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).
After he was created a cardinal by Paul VI in 1977, Cardinal Gantin 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, May 23rd, 2013, 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,” Cardinal Sarah said.
“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 carried out through courses and seminars as well as promoting conferences and workshops. The Chair will also seek to collaborate 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,” Dr. Nkemnkia said.