Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, president of the Central African Republic bishops' conference, poses for a photo in Washington Nov. 6. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Central African Republic clergy: Cardinal-designate will continue to unite people

By  Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service
  • October 23, 2016

OXFORD, England – Clergy in the Central African Republic say their first cardinal will continue to work to reunite the country after years of civil war and speak up for the continent's poor.

Cardinal-designate Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui is "already highly active in the peace process here, and his nomination will lead more people to follow his advice," Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, vice president of the Central Africa Republic bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service. "He'll also be in a better position now to mobilize the international community to alleviate the plight of the poor."

Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia described the new cardinal-designate as "a straightforward person, who shows great determination once he's convinced about a particular course of action."

"He knows where's he's heading and keeps moving forward, even when he encounters difficulties and obstacles," the bishop said.

The Bangui archbishop will be one of 17 new cardinals Pope Francis will consecrate Nov. 19 at the Vatican. At age 49, he also will be the church's youngest cardinal.

The cardinal-designate has been widely praised for reconciliation work with Muslims and Protestants via an Interfaith Peace Platform, founded in 2013. Protestant and Muslim representatives will accompany the cardinal-designate to the Nov. 19 Vatican consistory.

Msgr. Mathieu Bondobo, dean of the Bangui cathedral, told Catholic News Service that the cardinal-designate was "known here as a courageous man of faith, peace and forgiveness, who knows how to bring people together, at a time when we need not just words and gestures, but actions and facts."

When Pope Francis announced new cardinals Oct. 9, Cardinal-designate Nzapalainga was in Bossembele, northwest of Bangui. Large crowds lined his return route to the capital.

Speaking at Bangui's Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the cardinal-designate said the honor had been conferred "for the whole country" and showed "there is a God for the poor."

Pope Francis visited Central African Republic last November and said residents of the country had been suffering for too long.

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