The Three Newly Named Cardinals from Africa

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin (center), Archbishop Stephen Brislin (left) and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa (right) among the 21 cardinals named by Pope Francis on July 9, 2023.

Three Catholic Church leaders from South Sudan, South Africa, and Tanzania are among the 21 Cardinals that the Holy Father named after reciting the Angelus prayer on Sunday, July 9.

Unlike the 2022 Consistory that had two African Bishops named Cardinals, the three newly named Cardinals from Africa are Archbishops at the helm of Metropolitan Sees, the one in South Sudan headquartered in the capital city, Juba.

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu Martin of Juba, South Sudan, 59

The 59-year-old South Sudanese Cardinal-designate started his Episcopal Ministry in March 2019 as Bishop of South Sudan’s Torit Diocese; he had been ordained a Priest for the same South Sudanese Diocese in April 1991.

The alumnus of the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome where he obtained his masters and doctoral degrees in Dogmatic Theology engaged in teaching and forming candidates for the Priesthood at the Juba-based St. Paul’s Major Seminary.


Credit: CRN

His transfer from Torit Diocese to Juba Archdiocese on 12 December 2019 was met with resistance from a section of the Clergy and Laity of Juba Archdiocese, who wrote multiple strongly-worded protest letters to the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Propaganda Fide.

In one of the letters that ACI Africa obtained, eight signatories who identified themselves as “the indigenous clergy and faithful representing the majority of concerned people of the Archdiocese of Juba” put forth three reasons for rejecting the Papal transfer of Bishop Ameyu.

The protestors claimed that Bishop Ameyu had fathered six children; a native of the Archdiocese would have been appointed; and that some clerics of Juba Archdiocese alongside government officials had conspired with the officials of the South Sudan Nunciature to have Bishop Ameyu promoted for their own personal interests.

Credit: CRN

More in Africa

The protestors wondered why one of the natives of Juba Archdiocese, particularly from the Bari tribe, would not be appointed; they went on to threaten violence stating, “Should we understand that the Vatican listens only when there are real violent threats attached?”

Bishop Ameyu received support from members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), which is constituted by Prelates from the seven Catholic Dioceses in South Sudan and the two in Sudan.

A section of the laity also criticized the actions of the protestors, with the leadership of the Bari community in South Sudan distancing itself from the authors of the protest letters.

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Additionally, a Juba-based Catholic professional told ACI Africa that the attempts to reject the appointment of Bishop Ameyu as Archbishop of Juba demonstrated “that South Sudan society is really divided on tribal lines” and that the controversy does paint the world’s newest nation in bad light, a nation that has had, together with its sister nation of Sudan, the significant reputation of producing “two International Saints namely St. Josephine Bakhita and St. Daniel Comboni.”


On 6 March 2020, Pope Francis reconfirmed his earlier appointment of Bishop Ameyu for Juba Archdiocese, putting an end to controversies around politics of succession in South Sudan’s only Metropolitan See. 

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“I am pleased now to announce to you that after evaluating diligently that entire situation, Pope Francis has confirmed Most Rev. Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla as the new Archbishop of Juba,” Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas, who was the Delegate of Propaganda Fide said during the 6 March 2020 press conference, accompanied by the then Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in South Sudan, Msgr. Mark Kadima.

The South Sudanese Cardinal-designate was installed on 22 March 2022, the Archbishop emeritus,  emphasizing the need for “reconciliation and healing because we are deeply wounded.”

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, South Africa, 66

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Born in Welkom in September 1956, Archbishop Brislin was ordained a Priest in November 1983.

In October 2006, he was appointed Bishop of Kroonstad and Consecrated Bishop in January 2007. Three years later, he was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town Archdiocese.

Credit: SACBC

The Coat-of-Arms of the South African Catholic Archbishop expresses his motto, Veritas in Caritate (truth in love), taken from Ephesians 4:15. The center is the empty cross of the resurrected Christ, from which all life comes. The rising sun is the promise of eternal life.

The color brown represents the dryness of certain parts of the Free State where the Catholic Archbishop has his roots, and also represents life without Christ, since fruitfulness and life come through the cross.

Credit: Cape Town Archdiocese

This life is depicted by the people, the Acacia tree, the maize, the wheat and the grapes – also representing the Western Cape and calling to mind the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Basotho hat reflects the majority of the people under his pastoral care as well as the “crown” of Kroonstad.

The thistle represents the maternal roots of the South African Cardinal-designate, namely Scotland. The shamrock represents Ireland, hi paternal roots.

Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, Coadjutor Archbishop for Tabora, Tanzania, 63 

Archbishop Rugambwa, the former Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, who was appointed the Coadjutor Archbishop for Tanzania’s Tabora Archdiocese was born in May 1960 in the Diocese of Bukoba.

The Cardinal-designate was ordained a Priest for the Catholic Diocese of Rulenge-Ngara in September 1990 after completing his Priestly formation.

The Alumnus of the Rome-based Pontifical Lateran University where he obtained a doctorate in pastoral theology was appointed the Local Ordinary of Tanzania’s Catholic Diocese of Kigoma in 2008.

Credit: Vatican Media

He was appointed Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) and president of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) with the personal title of Archbishop in June 2012. 

In 2017, Archbishop Rugambwa was appointed Secretary of Propaganda Fide, the Vatican department tasked with “the transmission and dissemination of the faith throughout the whole world” that has “the specific responsibility of coordinating and guiding all the Church's diverse missionary efforts and initiatives”, which he served until March 2023.

Credit: Vatican Media

During his service at the Vatican, the Tanzanian-born Cardinal-designate defended the youth facing migration challenges.

In a July 2022 report, Archbishop Rugambwa urged members of the Association of the Regional Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACERAC) at their Plenary Assembly in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, to defend the youth as they are vulnerable to migration challenges.

“The Episcopate of Central Africa should be the mouthpiece and tireless defender of youth in their respective governments and societies, drawing attention to the reality of the migratory phenomenon, which sees young people at the forefront, especially as victims,” he said during the assembly that sought to address the “Phenomenon of the Youth Migration: The case of Central Africa.”

In August 2019, the Cardinal-designate hailed the establishment of ACI Africa as being in line with the desires and goals of the Vatican-based Congregation responsible for missionary work across the globe.

“We are indeed as a congregation very privileged because evangelization through media for us is also one of our priorities,” Archbishop Rugambwa said in his goodwill message ahead of the ACI Africa launch in August 2019.

Cardinals Created by Pope Francis

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has created 121 cardinals from 66 countries at eight consistories.

The last Consistory to create new cardinals took place on 27 August 2022. The new cardinals included Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke and late Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr.

Ten members of the College of Cardinals have turned 80 since the last consistory, thus losing their chance to participate in a future Papal election. Seven more Cardinals will turn 80 before the end of the year, including  Angelo Cardinal Camastri and Leonardo Cardinal  Sandri.

Following the 2020 Consistory, Pope Francis had appointed 83 of the members of the College of Cardinals eligible to vote in a future conclave. Benedict XVI had named 38 of the cardinal electors and John Paul II had appointed 11.

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