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Bernardin Gantin

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His Eminence 
Bernardin Gantin
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
See Palestrina (suburbicarian)
Enthroned 8 April 1984
Reign ended 25 June 1998
Predecessor Sebastiano Baggio
Successor Lucas Moreira Neves
Ordination 14 January 1951
Consecration 3 February 1957
Created Cardinal 27 June 1977
Other Dean of the College of Cardinals (1993-2002)
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1976-84)
Archbishop of Cotonou (1960-71)
Personal details
Born 8 May 1922(1922-05-08)
Toffo, Benin
Died 13 May 2008 (aged 86)
Paris, France
Styles of
Bernardin Gantin
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Palestrina (suburbicarian)

Bernardin Gantin (8 May 1922 – 13 May 2008) was a Beninese cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the highest-ranking black African in the history of the Catholic Church, though three early Popes came from the Mediterranean shores of the African landmass.

Early life and ordination

Born in Toffo, Benin, his name means tree of iron (gan, iron and tin, tree ), which explains his coat of arms. He entered the minor seminary at age 14 in Benin, and achieved priesthood in 1951 under Archbishop Louis Parisot. In 1953 he was sent to Rome to study theology and Canon law.


He was consecrated bishop of Tipasa of Mauritania and Auxiliary of Cotonou in 1957 by Cardinal Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant, to whose then post of Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals he would one day succeed.


In 1960, Pope John XXIII appointed him Archbishop of Cotonou. After he attended the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI appointed him to the Roman Curia and made him a Cardinal in the consistory of 1977. He was named President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum by Pope John Paul I, the only administrative appointment of that month-long papacy. During the Conclave following John Paul I's death, Cardinal Gantin was thought to be one of the papabili, those cardinals who are considered favorites to be elected pope.

Congregation for Bishops

Under Pope John Paul II he headed the Congregation for Bishops, supervising episcopal appointments throughout the world, from 1984 to 1998. Cardinal Bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Palestrina since 1986, he was Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1993 to 2002 when he retired to move home to Benin. (He added the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia when he became dean and relinquished it when he retired.) Because he turned 80 on 8 May 2002, Cardinal Gantin was not eligible to vote in the 2005 Papal Election.

Death and mourning

Gantin died in Paris on 13 May 2008, five days after his 86th birthday.[1] The Beninese government declared three days of mourning for him, beginning on 14 May.[2]


Cardinal Gantin during a mass in San Fiorano (Lodi), Italy, in 1984

Following his death, a telegram was sent by Pope Benedict XVI to Marcel Honorat Léon Agboton, the current Archbishop of Cotonou, after the death of Gantin was announced. The telegram described Gantin as "an eminent son of Benin and Africa who won great respect within the universal Church". The Pope wrote "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." [3]

See also


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Louis Parisot
Archbishop of Cotonou
1960 – 1971
Succeeded by
Christophe Adimou
Preceded by
Agnelo Rossi
Dean of the College of Cardinals
1993 – 2002
Succeeded by
Joseph Ratzinger
(Pope Benedict XVI)
Preceded by
Sebastino Baggio
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
8 April 1984–25 June 1998
Succeeded by
Lucas Moreira Neves
cs:Bernardin Gantinla:Bernardinus Gantin

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