YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Three African prelates are among the 21 Church leaders who will be elevated to the position of cardinal by Pope Francis in his Sept. 30 consistory.
The three men are Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town in South Africa, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba in South Sudan, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the former Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, who was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop for Tanzania’s Tabora Archdiocese on April 13.
Francis made the announcement July 9 during the Angelus. The new cardinals who will be installed September 30 come from across the globe, with the Holy Father saying the lineup “expresses the universality of the Church that continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men of the earth.”
“Let us pray for the new cardinals, so that, confirming their adhesion to Christ, the merciful and faithful High Priest, they might help me in my ministry as Bishop of Rome for the good of the entire Holy People faithful to God,” Francis said.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin “confused, bewildered”
Following his appointment, Brislin of Cape Town said he was “surprised” at the elevation, and noted that he is “confused and bewildered.”
In an audio message shared with the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Brislin said: “I have been taken by surprise, and, to be honest, I feel quite confused and bewildered at the moment.”
“The Cardinal is a person who is associated with the Pope and is a representative of the Church,” Brislin said, and expressed the wish to walk in the footsteps of other South African Cardinals such as Cardinals Owen McCann and Wilfrid Napier, whom he said “always gave extreme service not only to the Church in Southern Africa but also to society itself and for the good of the country.”
“I would like to ask you to please pray for me so that I will be loyal and faithful to what is being asked of me, and that I, too, will be able to follow the example of our previous cardinals and be of service to the entire Church and to our country and the neighboring countries,” Brislin said.
Born September 24, 1956 in Welkom, Brislin attended St. Agnes’ Convent and CBC in Welkom for his elementary education before moving on to St. John Vianney in Pretoria and the Missionary Institute in London for his seminary studies in philosophy and theology.
He received his priestly ordination on November 19, 1983. He was consecrated as the Bishop of Kroonstad, South Africa, by Pope Benedict on January 28, 2007. He was installed as Archbishop of Cape Town on February 7, 2010, on the Solemnity of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt, the patronal feast of the Archdiocese of Cape Town.
From 2013 to 2019, he was the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin, a cardinal despite resistance
Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla of Juba in South Sudan faced stiff resistance when he was transferred to the country’s only metropolitan see.
On December 12, 2019, Ameyu was appointed by Pope Francis to head the Juba archdiocese. A group of three priests and five laymen from the Archdiocese of Juba, claiming to be indigenous and representing “the majority of concerned people of the Archdiocese,” wrote a protest letter stating that Ameyu “will not be accepted to serve as Archbishop of Juba under any circumstance.”
They accused the prelate of conspiring with some government officials and some Juba priests to promote himself as archbishop for personal reasons, charging that Ameyu had influenced a Vatican diplomat to push through the appointment and that the cleric had sired at least six children.
Ameyu denied the allegations. By elevating him to the rank of cardinal, Francis seems to have reconfirmed his faith in his choice.
Born in Ido in Sudan on January 10, 1964, Ameyu received his priestly ordination in 1991. After carrying out pastoral work in Khartoum, he studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome from 1993 to 1997, obtaining a doctorate in dogmatic theology.
He then taught at the seminary of Juba, South Sudan, eventually becoming its rector.
On January 3, 2019, Pope Francis named him bishop of Torit, a diocese that had been vacant for five years since the passing of Bishop Akio Johnson Mutek in 2013. He was named the archbishop of Juba by Pope Francis on December 12 the same year and he took office on March 22, 2020.
Ameyu continued to serve as the Torit Diocese’s Apostolic Administrator. He also served as the Diocese of Wau’s Apostolic Administrator from September 21, 2020 to January 24, 2021.
Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, a ‘blessing to the nation’
Welcoming the appointment of Archbishop Protase Rugambwa as cardinal, the Secretary General of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Bishop Charles Kitima, said the appointment is “a blessing for our nation.”
The new Tanzanian cardinal was born on May 31, 1960, in Bunena, Tanzania. He was ordained a priest by Saint John Paul II on September 2, 1990, for the diocese of Rulenge-Ngara. He received his doctorate in pastoral theology in 1998 from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.
From 2000 to 2002, Rugambwa served as the Rulenge-Ngara diocese’s vicar general. He worked as a representative of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 2002 to 2008.
He was named bishop of the Kigoma diocese in Tanzania on January 18, 2008. In June 2012, he was given the personal title of archbishop and appointed adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Mission Societies. He was named secretary of the same congregation on November 9, 2017.
Pope Francis designated him Coadjutor Archbishop of Tabora (Tanzania) on April 13, 2023.