‘Greatness is in service’: Ghanaian cardinal-elect to lead African bishops’ conference

Born in Tom-Zendagangn in the Wa diocese, Baawobr studied at a village school and the St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary before he entered the diocesan seminary in 1979 at the age of 20.

After discerning his vocation with the Missionaries of Africa, he studied for his novitiate in Fribourg, Switzerland and then completed his theological studies at the Missionary Institute London. He was professed as a member of the society of apostolic life in 1986.

Baawobr will be made a cardinal along with 20 others in a consistory in Rome on Aug. 27.

“At least now people are forced to look up what is Wa and they find it on the map,” Baawobr joked, as he described the excitement in his home diocese over the appointment.

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He said that at first he did not believe that Pope Francis had named him a cardinal until he received a call from the nuncio.

“The news came as a surprise. I did not expect it at all. I had just finished Mass when somebody announced to me that it was on social media, that I’ve been appointed cardinal,” he said. “I didn’t believe it until … I switched on my phone and I saw that it was true.”

“From the surprise, I came to accept it as an invitation to serve,” Baawobr said. “As a priest, that is my first calling, to serve God, to serve his people.”

A delegation from the Diocese of Wa will accompany Baawobr to Rome for the August consistory, where he will become one of two new cardinals from Africa, along with Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke of Ekwulobia.

However, he noted that it has been challenging getting visas for everyone who would like to come with him to Rome. He said that the Italian embassy has asked him “to reduce the [guest] list again and again.”

Baawobr said that he wants to make the trip “an occasion to pray and to grow in the faith,” for the Ghana delegation with pilgrimages to basilicas in Rome and “possibly a pilgrimage to Assisi so that we pray for peace for ourselves and for our families and for the nation.”

“It comes down very strongly that we are not alone in this mission. And the Holy Father is inviting us to share, to collaborate with him,” he said.

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“I think from there also I draw the message that wherever we are, if people are needing our collaboration in order to attain a specific goal, we should offer that with joy and humility and simplicity.”

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