“I came to accept it as an invitation to serve”: Ghanaian Bishop on Being Named Cardinal

Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr, one of the two Cardinals-designate from Africa. Credit: ACI Africa

Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr, one of the two Cardinals-designate from Africa, has described his being named candidate to receive a red hat in August as “an invitation to serve” the people of God in Ghana.

The Bishop of Ghana’s Catholic Diocese of Wa is expected to become Cardinal alongside Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) in Nigeria and 19 others from across the globe during the August 27 Consistory.  

In a Thursday, July 28 interview with ACI Africa, the Ghanaian Cardinal-designate shared his reaction following news of his being named Cardinal and preparations for the next Consistory.

“The news came as a surprise. I did not expect it at all. I had just finished Mass when somebody announced to me that it was on social media, that I've been appointed Cardinal,” Bishop  Baawobr told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the  19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra, Ghana.

He added, “I didn't believe it until I started getting calls from different places, including the Nuncio and (his) Secretary. So, I said, that's true. Then I switched on my phone and I saw that it was true.”


“From the surprise, I came to accept it as an invitation to serve,” the member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) said, adding, “As a Priest, that is my first calling, to serve God, to serve his people.”

Being named a Cardinal, he emphasized, is “an opportunity to continue that service in that capacity.”

“I'll be ready to do what I can to offer my collaboration to the Holy Father in the mission of the Church, wherever he wants me to serve,” The Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Wa Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2016 told ACI Africa.

Asked about what might change in his Episcopal Ministry after the August 27 Consistory, the Cardinal-designate said, “Perhaps what will change will be that I have to attend a few more meetings because of this responsibility.”

“I am expected to be a pastor close to my people, close to my Priests, and to carry on the work of a Bishop in a Diocese,” the 63-year-old Bishop said, and adding that in the meantime, “I will continue with my programs. Like last week, I was out on a pastoral visit in one of the parishes. So, I still continue my ordinary pastoral work in the Diocese.”

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Recalling the reaction of the people of God in Wa Diocese following the news of his being named Cardinal, Bishop Baawobr said, “They were very happy. They said it was an honor, not only to me, but to them also. They felt all of a sudden that, yes, what is happening in their Diocese, in our Diocese, has been recognized and they're very happy about it.”

“At least now people are forced to look up what is Wa and they find it on the map. So, it has put us on the map,” he said. 

Regarding preparations ahead of the August 27 Consistory, Bishop  Baawobr  who was ordained Priest in July 1987 said, “There are practical preparations for the Diocese. A delegation is going to go with me from the government. They have also designated some people who will go and I'm very happy about that.”

“We want to make it also not just an exciting event to go to Rome, although that is part of the excitement for some of them who have never been to Rome before, but I want to make it also a pilgrimage, an occasion to pray and to grow in the faith,” the Cardinal-designate told ACI Africa. 

He continued, “We have foreseen that when we go there, we have Masses in various places, various basilicas of Rome, and possibly a pilgrimage to Assisi so that we pray for peace for ourselves and for our families and for the nation.”


The Ghanaian Catholic Church leader emphasized about the trip to Rome for the next Consistory, “We want to make it something that will deepen our faith.”

He went on to highlight possible challenges for members of the delegation expected to accompany him to the Vatican, saying, “I think the issuing of visas is going to be the challenge because the embassy is now very strict and they give all sorts of conditions and if you don't meet those conditions, you don’t get the visas.”

The Bishop of Wa said that the Italian embassy has asked him “to reduce the list again and again. And with the list that I'm presenting, I'm not even so sure that they will be able to give all of them the visas.”

“This comes from the fact that some of us abuse the trust that they put in us,” the Cardinal-designate said, and added, “There are people who have gone to Rome for different events, similar events, and who do not even go and participate in the event; they disappeared.”

“Because of that, the embassy is very cautious … So, I can understand them; we have ourselves to blame,” he said. 

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Bishop Baawobr also highlighted the challenge of the cost of his vestments, saying they are “very expensive because they are made on demand.”

“They have to measure you; they have to sew it especially for you. So, there's the cost of the material, there's the cost of the labor. Cost of labor in Europe is far more than the cost of labor in Ghana,” he explained.

Reflecting on his mission as Cardinal, the member of the Missionaries of Africa said, “It is an occasion to renew our commitment to serve and to serve in collaboration with the Holy Father.”

“It comes down very strongly that we are not alone in this mission. And the Holy Father is inviting us to share, to collaborate with him,” he said, and added, “I think from there also I draw the message that wherever we are, if people are needing our collaboration in order to attain a specific goal, we should offer that with joy and humility and simplicity.”

He continued, “I always think of the two sons of Zebedee who are struggling for the seats, one on the left and one on the right. At that moment Jesus reminds them that their greatness is in service, that he has come to serve. So, I think each one of us, wherever we are, we are called to serve, and that is what will make us great, not the title.”

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.