The desire of Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr, who served as President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) before his death on Sunday, November 27, was to fire up the work of the common forum of Catholic Bishops on the continent, the Bishop of Oyo Diocese in Nigeria has said.
In a tribute shared with ACI Africa, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyèse Badejo who serves as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), an entity of SECAM, says that Cardinal Baawobr hit the ground running after his election on July 30, demonstrating a great sense of direction for the continental Catholic Bishops’ Symposium.
“He (Cardinal Baawobr) expressed his desire to help SECAM recover lost ground in its pastoral and administrative obligations to the local churches and to help Africa participate effectively in the ongoing universal Synodal process. As it turns out, all that was not to be,” Bishop Badejo says in his Monday, November 28 tribute.
“SECAM will have to forge ahead without its beloved new President,” the President of CEPACS says, adding that Cardinal Baawobr showed the direction he wanted SECAM to go, through his adoption of a synodal and inclusive style of procedure, “even from the conduct of his first and only Standing Committee meeting.”
In his tribute, Bishop Badejo says that the Local Ordinary of Wa Diocese in Ghana who was elevated to Cardinal during the August 27 Consistory “was a symbol of great hope to the Church in Africa”.
In a statement that was obtained by ACI Africa, the Secretary General of the White Fathers, Fr. André-Léon Simonart, shared the timelines of the last hours of the late Cardinal, saying, “Our confrere was taken by ambulance from the Generalate (Missionaries of Africa in Rome) to the Gemelli Hospital at 5.45pm and we received the sad news at 6.25pm.”
“May Richard rest in the peace of his Lord whom he so generously served. On behalf of the bereaved Society, Our prayer and our thoughts go also to his family, to his diocese, his fellow bishops, to all his friends and acquaintances,” the Secretary General of the Missionaries of Africa implored in his November 27 statement.
The Ghanaian Cardinal who had been appointed to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity on October 7 died days after he was discharged from hospital in Rome, and reportedly expressed gratitude to all those who accompanied him with prayers.
In a statement published November 22, the Vicar General of Wa Diocese said, “I wish to inform you that, last Friday, 18 November 2022, His Eminence, Richard Cardinal Kuuia Baawobr, M.Afr, the Bishop of Wa, was discharged from Agostino Gemelli University Hospital/Policlinic where he had been transferred on Saturday, 15th October 2022.”
In his Monday, November 28 tribute, Bishop Badejo mourns the Cardinal who he said had “injected a new dynamism” into the Church in Africa on his election as President of SECAM.
“When His Eminence was elected by the Bishops of SECAM at their assembly in Accra Ghana at the end of July 2022, even before the consistory for his installation in Rome, to be President of SECAM, his acceptance injected a new dynamism into the life of the Church in Africa,” Bishop Badejo says.
He adds, “The ever-smiling Cardinal immediately rallied the new executive and Standing Committee of SECAM to a meeting a mere two days after his election on July 30, 2022 to define a new course for SECAM to better address the recommendations of the immediate past executive and Standing Committee, namely unity and communion in the Church, Financial autonomy, clearly defined responsibilities and other recommendations of the Kampala Document, the pastoral letter issued by SECAM after its Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2009.”
Sharing his last days with the Cardinal who missed the August 27 Consistory due to a heart problem, the President of CEPACS recalls the Cardinal’s “sky high” mood and “optimistic smile” despite his frailty.
“I was privileged to have met Cardinal Baawobr just a few days before he passed away,” Bishop Badejo recalls in his November 28 tribute shared with ACI Africa.
He continues in reference to the late Cardinal, “Despite his frail aspect, his mood was sky high and he told me how he looked forward to getting back to work as president of SECAM. The work must go on with him on the other side but his optimistic smile will stay here for long with us. Surely, he will be praying for us from the bosom of the Lord.”
“On behalf of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), I pray that God strengthen and comfort the Cardinal's mother and immediate family, SECAM, the Diocese of WA, and the Missionaries of Africa. He will surely be sorely missed among us” the Local Ordinary of Oyo says.