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Joseph Malula

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Joseph Albert Malula (December 12, 1917—June 14, 1989) was a Congolese Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Kinshasa from 1964 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.


Joseph Malula was born in Léopoldville, Belgian Congo (modern Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), to Remacle Ngalula and Jeanne Bolumbu. He attended primary school in Lépoldoville, under the direction of Fr. Raphaël de la Kétuhulle, more commonly known as Tata Raphaël. From 1931 to 1934, he attended the minor seminary in Mbata Kiela, where he met Joseph Kasa-Vubu, who would later become the first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then the minor seminary of Bolongo in Lisala until 1937. Malula studied philosophy (1937-1940) and theology (1940-1944) at the Major Seminary of Christ-Roi in Kabwe. He served as a professor at the Minor Seminary of Bokoro from 1944 to 1946 as well. Malula was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Georges Six, CICM, on June 9, 1946, in the Stade Reine Astrid. He then resumed teaching at the minor seminary, and served as vicar and pastor at several parishes in Léopoldville. In 1953, he visited Algiers, Tunisia, Malta, Rome, and Belgium.

On July 18, 1959, Malula was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Léopoldville and Titular Bishop of Attanasus by Pope John XXIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 20 from Archbishop Félix Scalais, CICM, with Bishops Pierre Kimbondo and Joseph Nkongolo serving as co-consecrators, at the Stade Tata Raphaël. Malula attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, during which he was advanced to the Archbishop of Léopoldville on July 7, 1964. He was installed as Archbishop on August 27 of that same year, and the name of the archdiocese was later changed to Kinshasa on May 30, 1966.

Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Ss. Protomartiri a Via Aurelia Antica in the consistory of April 28, 1969. Malula was the first cardinal from Zaire. At a Mass in 1970, at which President Mobutu was present, the Cardinal claimed that Zaire's ruling class was enriching itself and ignoring the people's misery[1]. In 1971, despite being an advocate of African culture, he also expressed his disapproval of Christians giving up their baptismal names in an article in the Catholic weekly magazine, Afrique Chrétienneafter, following the renaming of the Republic of the Congo as the Zaire Republic[2]. President Mobutu subsequently removed the Cardinal from his government-owned residence and suspended the magazine for six months.

Malula was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II respectively. He supported Albino Cardinal Luciani at the August conclave, and even gave him a public embrace before he was elected[3]. Before the October conclave began, he spoke of the Vatican's pomp, saying, "All that imperial paraphernalia. All that isolation of the Pope. All that medieval remoteness and inheritance that makes Europeans think that the Church is only Western. All that tightness that makes them fail to understand that young countries like mine want something different. They want simplicity. They want Jesus Christ. All that, all that must change"[4].

Cardinal Malula died at a Leuven hospital in Belgium, at the age of 71. He is buried in Notre Dame du Congo Cathedral in Kinshasa.


  1. TIME Magazine. Mobutu as Messiah February 24, 1975
  2. TIME Magazine. Tidings February 28, 1972
  3. Pham, John-Peter. "Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession". Oxford University Press, 2007
  4. TIME Magazine. A "Foreign" Pope October 30, 1978

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Preceded by
Félix Scalais, CICM
Archbishop of Kinshasa
Succeeded by
Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi, CICM
no:Joseph Albert Malula

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