Ivorian Cardinal Reflects on Pope’s World Day of Peace Message, Recalls Decade-old “scars”

Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan in Ivory Coast
Credit: Public Domain

As Catholic across the globe reflected on Pope Francis’ message for the 53rd World day of Peace marked Wednesday, January 1, 2020, an African Cardinal applied the Holy Father’s text to the situation of his country, recalled a decade-old “wounds which are struggling to heal” and called on his compatriots to take note of the Pontiff’s description of peace as “a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family.”

The Holy Father’s message published December 8, 2019 was titled, “Peace, a path of hope: dialogue, reconciliation, and ecological conversion.”

Starting off with the Holy Father’s reflection about “terrible ordeals of civil and international conflicts” affecting many nations of the world so that “our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa called to mind the political crisis of his West African country a decade ago.

“About violence which marks body and soul for a long time, as well as memory, and far from the desire to open the wounds which are struggling to heal, must we remember that the memory of the recent post-electoral crisis of 2010 with its share of dead, wounded, displaced, prisoners, exiles, destroyed property… is still alive in the hearts of many of our fellow citizens who I would like to bet, would give everything, in order to know a stable and lasting peace, to go about their occupations serenely!” Cardinal Kutwa remarked referencing the 2010-2011 Ivory Coast political crisis, which started after the country’s President since 2000, Laurent Gbagbo was declared the winner of the 2010 election.

Recalling memories of the violence that characterized the crisis and reflecting on the message of Pope Francis for World Peace Day, the Ivorian Cardinal considered it urgent for his compatriots “to give signs that go in the direction of appeasement and living together,” particularly by journeying “together for the creation of a peaceful electoral environment.”

Such call of working together was the theme of the 23rd National Day of Peace in Ivory Coast, the Cardinal recalled saying, “I would like to repeat here what I said on the occasion of the celebration of the 23rd edition of the National Day of Peace: ‘sons and daughters of Côte d’Ivoire, let us listen to the Lord, say to each of us: my son does not let you be eaten away by the desire for revenge.’”

Since 1996, Ivory Coast has commemorated the National Day of Peace on November 15.

“Do not respond to evil with evil, because then you will become like your attackers; do not allow yourself to be destabilized by resentment, it would be to give to the other, a power over you, the power to destroy you, in the best of yourself; do not enter the game of Evil, you will leave your soul there,” the Cardinal recalled his input and added, “If you could be above all the evil of which you are the object, what a show of force it would be on your part! In the end, do more: understand your enemies! Love them!”

“With the Pope, I would like to ask myself questions: ‘‘How, then, to build a path of peace and mutual recognition? How to break the macabre logic of threat and fear? How can we break the dynamic of mistrust that currently prevails?” the 74-year-old Ivorian Prelate probed and appealed, “We must pursue a real brotherhood, based on the common divine origin and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust.”

He added, “The desire for peace is deeply written in the heart of man and we must resign ourselves to nothing less than that.”

He encouraged the opening and tracing “the path of peace” citing the Pope Francis’ message published December 8, 2019 that “the world does not need empty words, but convinced witnesses, peacemakers, open to dialogue without exclusions or manipulations.”

“Here in Ivory Coast, now, it is no longer for us to sit down to discuss but to sit down, to discuss to listen and understand the other and what he says, by giving him credit honesty and good faith,” the Ivorian Prelate said.

He added, “I dream of a time when all our great leaders can sit around the same table to listen to each other in order to work for the pursuit of cohesion, unity and peace president has all their political words and actions.”

Remarking the Pope’s call for peace that is “a path of ecological conversion” and that the need to cultivate and keep “the many forms of life and the land itself” entrusted to humanity, the Ivorian Cardinal lamented the

Referencing his West African nation, he decried, “Imagine here, the very gradual destruction of the banco forest classified forests and other natural reserves of our country! What a tragedy it would be for generations to come! And yet the threat is real if we consider the rampant urbanization of our cities as if there were no master plan!”

He added, “The age-old problem of rural land, as well as global warming issues, are there to remind us that there is danger in the home and urgent action!”

Following the Holy Father’s affirmation that we cannot obtain peace if we do not hope for it, the Ivorian Cardinal said, “Let us aspire with all our strength to Peace and God will grant it to us!”

“The message of the Holy Father is, in short, an invitation to finally understand that peace is a way of hope in the face of obstacles and trials, that it is also a way of listening based on memory, on solidarity and on fraternity,” Cardinal Kutwa concluded, wishing his compatriots “a happy, happy and holy 2020 year.”

Pope Saint Paul VI inaugurated the tradition of celebrating the first day of the year as the World Day of Peace in 1968.

In his homily during Holy Mass on the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of the celebration, Pope Francis termed women as “givers and mediators of peace” and encouraged all societies across the globe to have women “fully included in decision-making processes.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]