SECAM President First African Cardinal known to Test Positive for COVID-19

Phillip Cardinal Ouedraogo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He tested positive for COVID-19 March 30, 2020.

The President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Phillip Cardinal Ouédraogo, has tested positive for COVID-19. The Burkinabe Prelate is the first African Cardinal known to have the virus that has infected at least 591,246 across the globe.

The news of the Cardinal’s positive test follows days after his compatriot, the Archbishop Emeritus of Koupela, Msgr. Séraphin François Rouamba also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Vicar General of Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou Archdiocese where Cardinal Ouédraogo is the Local Ordinary, announced Tuesday, March 31, “We come to inform you that this morning we received the results of the test of our Archbishop. The test is positive and he has been transferred to the former Genets clinic.”

The cardinal has been admitted to the Genet Clinic in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou after being taken ill over the weekend, the Communication officer for the Bishops' Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger Fr. Paul Dah told ACI Africa Tuesday, March 31.

According to Fr Dah, the Cardinal is reportedly “in good condition, and his close collaborators are reported to be self-isolating.” 


The statement signed by the Vicar general of the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, Fr Alfred Ouédraogo, says the Cardinal has asked that the information be transmitted to the “to the people of God and to reassure them,” of his state of health.

The 75-year-old Prelate has also invited the faithful “to remain united in prayer for him and for all the other sick people as well as for all those who care for them.”

Burkina Faso has declared 246 cases of coronavirus as of March 30, with 12 deaths and 31 recoveries.

At least  5,250 people have tested positive  for COVID-19 across the continent with 174 deaths and 335 recoveries, according to a report.

The Vicar Apostolic of Ethiopia’s Gambella Vicariate, Bishop Angelo Moreschi is the first known Catholic Prelate to have died of the pandemic, with several others diagnosed of the disease across the globe.

More in Africa

Nearly 100 priests are reported to have died of the virus.

In a March 5 interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Standing Committee meeting of SECAM in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Cardinal Ouedraogo had expressed concern over the COVID-19 pandemic saying, “It's a real epidemic coming down on us, starting in China. We’re really helpless.

“Some countries are more affected than others. Precautions are not the same everywhere. But everything human is of interest to the Church,” the Burkinabe Cardinal  said and added, “The Church shouldn't lose interest in the fate of men. People who are dying because of this virus and this epidemic. So, we are listening and we are trying to see what we can do. First of all, the lead role is with the state.”

At the end of the Nairobi meeting, SECAM leadership also issued a statement expressing concern over coronavirus, and formulated a prayer in the face of “this strange epidemic.”

In a country that faces serious security challenges especially from Islamists militants who often target places of worship, Cardinal Ouedraogo has been very vocal in condemning these acts of violence against the suffering population. He proposed interreligious dialogue as a vital solution to terrorsim in the Sahel region.


“Interreligious dialogue holds a special place in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. It is a major pivot in resolving terrorists’ attacks in the Sahel region in particular and Africa in general,” the Prelate told ACI Africa in an interview dated March 5.

The Church Leader once again appealed to the Western powers to stop the arms trade in Africa saying, “I would like to call on the Western nations to stop arms trade in Africa.”

“It is these weapons that allow jihadists groups to kill the innocent population. There are no weapons factories, no arms factories in Burkina Faso. Even in Africa, there are very few,” Cardinal Ouédraogo explained.


Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.