Newly Created African Cardinals Appointed to Vatican’s Laity, Christian Unity Dicasteries

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke (right) of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) and Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr (left) of Ghana’s Wa Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Pope Francis has appointed the recently created African Cardinals to two Vatican Dicasteries, one as member to the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life and the other to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.

In the latest appointments made public on October 7 by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis appointed Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) to the Laity, the Family and Life Dicastery, and Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr of Ghana’s Wa Diocese to the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.

The two African Cardinals were among the 21 Pope Francis named on May 29, and among the 20 he created during the August 27 Consistory.

Cardinal Okpaleke, 59, was ordained a Priest of Nigeria’s Awka Diocese in August 1993. He was appointed the Local Ordinary of Ahiara Diocese in Nigeria in December 2012. 

However, a section of Clergy and Laity of the Nigerian Diocese rejected his Episcopal appointment. He resigned in 2018 following sustained the opposition to his Episcopal appointment for Ahiara Diocese 


The rejection of the Nigerian Catholic Church leader was based on the claim that the then Bishop-elect Okpaleke comes from outside the dominant ethnic group of Ahiara Diocese, the Mbaise, and that Priests of the Diocese felt under-represented in the Catholic Church hierarchy in Nigeria.

The rejection persisted even after the Bishop’s Consecration, which took place at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Ulakwo, in Nigeria’s Owerri Archdiocese since the Episcopal candidate was prevented from setting foot in the territory covered by Ahiara Diocese.

Having failed to exercise his Episcopal Ministry in Ahiara Diocese even after, in July 2017, Pope Francis directed all members of the Clergy of Ahiara Diocese to pledge fidelity to him in writing, and to express their acceptance of the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke as their Shepherd, the Nigerian Bishop made known to Holy Father his decision to resign in writing.

On 19 February 2018, the Holy Father accepted Bishop Okpaleke’s resignation and “relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara.”

A year later, the Pope announced the establishment of the Diocese of Ekwulobia in Southeastern Nigeria and appointed Bishop Okpaleke the pioneer Local Ordinary.

More in Africa

The Nigerian Cardinal was installed as Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese that was curved from his native Diocese of Awka on 29 April 2020.

In a video recording circulated June 8 following his May 29 naming as Cardinal, he said, “I see this as an opportunity that the Lord, and the Church, through the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has offered me to continue to do my best for the salvation of souls.”

He said that Pope Francis’ decision was “a clarion call to intensify one’s efforts, to do better.” 

Ghanaian-born Cardinal Baawobr who missed the August 27 Consistory due to a heart problem has been appointed to the Dicastery that was established in June 1960 alongside Paulo Cezar Cardinal Costa of Brasília Archdiocese in Brazil.

On the day of the Consistory, the member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) had been admitted at Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. 


Cardinal Baawobr’s absence from the Consistory that the Holy Father presided over in St. Peter’s Basilica did not prevent him from being elevated to the College of Cardinals. At the end of his homily during the Consistory, Pope Francis asked people to pray for Cardinal Baawobr.

The 63-year-old Cardinal who has been at the helm of Wa Diocese since May 2016 was elected President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) on July 30 at the end of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) held in Ghana’s capital city, Accra.

Before he was appointed Bishop in February 2016, the Catholic Church leader had served as first Assistant General of the Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa for a six-year term; in May 2010, he was elected the first African Superior General of the Catholic Congregation that was founded in 1868.