Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

Photo added by Eman Bonnici

Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

  • Birth 8 May 1922 Benin
  • Death 13 May 2008 Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Burial Ouidah, Atlantique, Benin
  • Plot Seminary Chapel, Beside The Altar, Next To The Vault Which Houses The Remains Of Archbishop Louis Parisot SMA., (1885 - 1960).
  • Memorial ID 26881520

Roman Catholic Cardinal. Deemed for years to become the first African Pope, Bernardin Gantin spent thirty one years at the Vatican, fifteen of which as the powerful prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and nearly a decade as Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. A native of Toffo, Dahomey, present day Benin, he was the son of a railroad employee. Entering seminary in Ouidah, he was ordained priest on January 14, 1951 in Cotonou by Msgr. Louis Parisot SMA. Serving as faculty member of the Seminary of Ouidah, he erformed pastoral work in the archdiocese of Cotonou until being sent to Rome to further his studies at the Pontifical Urbanian Athaenaeum. Only five years after his priesthood ordination, Pope Pius XII elected him auxiliary bishop of Cotonou, becoming at the early age of 34, one of the youngest bishops in the world. Receiving his episcopal consecration in Rome with the titular see of Tipasa di Mauritania on February 3, 1957 inside the chapel of the Propaganda Fide College from Cardinal Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant, he was promoted to the metropolitan see of Cotonou on January 5, 1960. Appointed secretary adjunct of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on March 5, 1971, he resigned the pastoral government of the Archdiocese on the following June 28. Named secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on February 26, 1973, he was successively appointed vice-president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum on January 5, 1976 and later pro-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on December 15. In the consistory of June 27, 1977, Msgr. Gantin was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals by Pope Paul VI as cardinal deacon of the deaconry of Sacro Cuore di Cristo Re and two days later appointed him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Resigning the named posts in 1984 after being appointed prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America on April 8, during his years in office he had to sign along with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the decree of excommunication of the Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on July 1, 1988, a painful task for the Cardinal, having been acquainted with Lefebvre in Africa and had thus hoped for an eventual reconciliation between the Holy See and the renegade prelate. Opting for the order of cardinal priests and the title of Sacro Cuore di Cristo Re on June 25, 1984, he was appointed cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian see of Palestrina on September 29, 1986. On June 5, 1993, he was named cardinal bishop of the suburbicarian see of Ostia upon his confirmation as Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals while retaining the see of Palestrina. One of the last persons to speak to Pope John Paul I just a few hours before that Pontiff's sudden death in 1978, the Cardinal retired from the prefecture of the Congregation for Bishops and from the presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America on June 25, 1998. He furthermore resigned the deanship of the College of Cardinals and the title of the suburbicarian see of Ostia on November 30, 2002. With his residence within the grounds of the Vatican considered a small slice of Africa, inside which one could find a few striking African sculptures, chairs with the images of native animals carved into their wooden arms, photographs and small mementos from Benin on walls and tables, nuns from Benin ran the small household with a cheerful simplicity which also seemed distinctively African. A quiet man with a reputation of simple piety and steady prayer, advancing age and declining health forced the Cardinal to curtail his activities during his last years, but kept his work at home. Writing to Pope John Paul II in May 2002, he asked for permission to retire to Africa. After a few months, the Pope acceded to his request, with the Cardinal spending his remaining years in his native Benin. On May 7, 2008, the President of the Republic, learning of the deterioration of the state of the Cardinal's health visited him and ordered his translation to Paris, where he was received at the Georges Pompidou hospital. Suffering from severe dehydration, he died there on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, at 4.45 pm. Laid in state at the Chapel of the house of the Sœurs Petites Servantes des Pauvres, Sixth District, 49 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, his body was repatriated to Benin where a period of three days of national mourning was observed in his memory. Buried on May 24 near the altar of the chapel of the Grand Seminary of Saint Gall, Ouidah, on November 19, 2011, during his visit to Benin, Pope Benedict XVI visited his tomb and stopped to say his prayers. The international airport of Cotonou has been since named after him.

Bio by: Eman Bonnici


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  • Created by: Eman Bonnici
  • Added: 16 May 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 26881520
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Cardinal Bernardin Gantin (8 May 1922–13 May 2008), Find A Grave Memorial no. 26881520, citing Grand Seminary Of Saint Gall, Ouidah, Atlantique, Benin ; Maintained by Eman Bonnici (contributor 46572312) .