Leading African Cardinal has died

 A leading African churchman, Cardinal Bernadin Gantin of Benin, has died aged 86. Cardinal Gantin was formerly Dean of the Vatican's College of Cardinals. He died in Paris on Tuesday, said Benin's government secretary-general Victor Topanou, speaking in the capital Cotonou. "We have just lost one of the great sons of our country and of the entire continent of Africa," news agencies quoted him as saying. The government had sent a minister to Paris to accompany the remains back to his native country for burial, the official said. Born in Cotonou in 1922, Gantin was ordained in 1951 and in 1960 Pope John XXIII appointed him Archbishop of Cotonou. He was appointed Cardinal in 1976 by Pope Paul VI, at the same time as Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He served as chairman of the regional episcopal conference of Africa, linking the west African states Togo, Benin, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nigeria and Guinea. In 1988, as Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Gantin published a decree excommunicating Marcel Lefebvre, a controversial traditionalist conservative French bishop who refused to accept the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council. In 1970, Lefebvre had founded the Society of St. Pius X. In 1988, against the orders of Pope John Paul II, he consecrated four bishops to continue his work with this Society. During the Conclave following Pope John Paul I's death in 1978, Cardinal Gantin was thought to be one of the papabili, the cardinals considered favourites to be elected pope. On his death he bore the title of Dean Emeritus of the College of Cardinals. He was Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1993 to 2002. On hearing the news, Pope Benedict sent the following telegram to Archbishop Marcel Honorat Leon Agboton of Cotonou, Benin" "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. 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, 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". Source: CISA/VIS

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