New Ghanaian Cardinal to Undergo Heart Surgery in Rome

Cardinal Richard Baawobr of Wa (Ghana). SECAM

Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr is expected to undergo heart surgery in Rome by the end of this week, according to the spokesman for the Ghana Catholic bishops' conference.

The African cardinal was hospitalized in the Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome last week shortly before the Vatican ceremony in which he was to receive a red biretta from Pope Francis.

Father Dieu-Donne Kofi Davor, the communications director for the Ghana Catholic bishops’ conference, told CNA on Aug. 31 that the “surgery will take place before the week ends.”

“We are praying for his speedy recovery and return to Ghana soon,” Davor said.

Baawobr’s absence from the consistory presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica did not prevent him from being elevated to the College of Cardinals on Aug. 27.


The 63-year-old received the title of cardinal while being treated in the Roman hospital. Pope Francis asked people to pray for Baawobr at the end of his homily for the consistory.

Baawobr was recently elected head of the African bishops’ conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), at the end of July.

He has led the Diocese of Wa, in northwest Ghana, since 2016, and is known locally for his charity and care for people with mental disabilities in a country where the stigmatization of mental illness is still high.

Six years ago he launched a diocesan street ministry that brings together parish volunteers and health care professionals to provide care and medical assistance for people with mental disabilities who have been abandoned by their families.

“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,” Baawobr said in an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s Nairobi-based news partner, before traveling to Rome for the consistory.

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Before he became Bishop of Wa, Baawobr was the first African to serve as the superior general of the Missionaries of Africa, commonly called the "White Fathers" for their distinctive white cassocks.

The current superior of the Missionaries of Africa is one of the only people who has been allowed to visit Baawobr while he has been hospitalized in Rome, according to Davor.

A delegation from the diocese of Wa, who accompanied Baawobr to Italy for the consistory, has been able to continue with its scheduled pilgrimages to basilicas in Rome and Assisi despite the cardinal’s medical problems.

Baawobr was one of two newly created cardinals from Africa, along with Cardinal Peter Okpaleke from Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese, in Saturday’s ceremony.

“I do not want to end without recalling Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, who yesterday, upon his arrival in Rome, felt bad and was hospitalized with a heart problem,” Pope Francis said at the consistory.


“Let us pray for this brother who ought to have been here and is hospitalized,” he said.

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.