Tributes continue to pour in for the late Ghanaian Cardinal His Eminence Richard Kuuia Baawobr.
The Cardinal is said to have died on Sunday, November 27 in Rome after he was discharged from the Agostino Gemelli University Hospital/Policlinic on November 18.
Many in his home country are yet to come to terms with the news of the unexpected death of the Cardinal.
The pain of his demise is greatly felt perhaps as a result of recent developments regarding the Cardinal.
Shortly after his announced elevation to the Office of Cardinal in August, His Eminence was elected President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) at its 19th Plenary held in Accra, Ghana.
The continental body is composed of eight (8) regional conferences, and Cardinal Baawobr is the first Ghanaian to serve as its President.
The Cardinal was in Rome for a gathering of existing and new members of the College of Cardinals from every corner of the globe for Pope Francis’ eighth Consistory, where he created 20 new cardinals, 16 of whom are under the age of 80, thus electors in a future Conclave, and four non-electors, over the age of 80.
Among the new Cardinals created were two prelates from Africa. Now late Richard Cardinal Kuuia Baawobr of the Diocese of Wa, Ghana and Peter Cardinal Eberechukwu Okpaleke of the Diocese of Ekwulobia, Nigeria.
Barely two days after the death of the Ghanaian cardinal, one-time altar boy to the late Cardinal Kuuia Baawobr during his first mission as a priest in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fr. Michel Kamanzi, a Jesuit working in Rome told Vatican News Africa he visited the recovering Cardinal on Wednesday, November 23.
Fr. Kamanzi, SJ said he went to the White Fathers’ curia where the Cardinal was in convalescence after his time in hospital to catch up with a man who moved from being a priest he served as an altar boy to a friend.
For his part, Nigerian Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, who is also President of the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) and a member of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, in a Vatican News report said Cardinal Baawobr infused the African Church with a new sense of optimism.
“Richard Cardinal Kuuia Baawobr was a symbol of great hope to the Church in Africa… When His Eminence was elected by the Bishops of SECAM at the Assembly in Accra, Ghana, his joy at the acceptance injected a new dynamism into the life of the Church in Africa. Being an ever-smiling prelate, he exuded confidence and positivity. Everybody was encouraged that something good was going to begin to happen at a new level in Africa,” reminisced Bishop Badejo.
Bishop Badejo further told Vatican News that he recently visited Cardinal Baawobr, who was recovering in Rome.
“I had the good fortune and privilege of seeing Cardinal Richard a few days before he actually passed away. He was staying at the Missionaries of Africa House in Rome. Though he was looking frail, his mood was very high. I was touched by his positive, optimistic mien, and he told me that he was quite eager to come back to work so that the assignments we had at hand would be completed. I am sure that he will be praying for us from heaven above. SECAM will have to forge ahead without its beloved new President. The work must go on with him on the other side. I know his smile and optimism will stay with us for a long time and keep SECAM going,” the Nigerian prelate said.
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of SECAM, Cardinal Ambongo -the Archbishop of Kinshasa in the DRC, eulogised Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr as a noble Shepherd.“The entire Africa, the Islands, and indeed, the universal Church have lost a great and devout churchman, a selfless servant and a good Shepherd,” said Cardinal Ambongo.
The Cardinal would be remembered by many for his iconic smiling face.