Synod on Synodality: The Three Papal Nominees from Africa

Archbishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo (right) of Korhogo Archdiocese in Ivory Coast; Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu (left) of Zimbambwe’s Harare Archdiocese; and Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula (center) of Xai-Xai Diocese in Mozambique. Credit: Vatican Media, ACI Africa,

From the full list of some 364 participants in the October 4-29 Synod on Synodality in Rome, 67 of them are from Africa. Pope Francis directly named 120 delegates, three of them from Africa.  

The three Papal nominees from Africa include Archbishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Korhogo Archdiocese in Ivory Coast; Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu of Zimbambwe’s Harare Archdiocese; and Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai Diocese in Mozambique.

Archbishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Korhogo, Ivory Coast

The Archbishop of Korhogo since February 2021 doubles as the President of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI). Ordained Bishop of Ivory Coast’s Katiola Diocese in July 2004, the 62-year-old Ivorian Archbishop served as Apostolic Administrator of his present Metropolitan See of Korhogo from October 2017.

Pope Francis appointed him Local Ordinary of Korhogo that is situated in the Northern part of the West African nation in January 2021. He succeeded Archbishop Marie-Daniel Dadiet whose resignation was accepted in October 2017; he resigned at the age of 65 due to health reasons.


The Ivorian Papal nominee to the Synod on Synodality who holds a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Rome-based Pontifical Biblical Institute had previously served as Parish Priest and Vicar General of his native Diocese of Yopougon.

Archbishop Ignace was elected President CECCI in May 2017 during the 107th Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishops that was held in Kodjoboué (Bonoua) in the Ivorian Diocese of Grand-Bassam.

As President of CECCI, he was an advocate of peace, dialogue, and reconciliation in the West African country before, during, and after the 31 October 2020 presidential election.

“I would like to take up this same message to ask all Ivorians to open their hearts to dialogue and concertation because the Ivory Coast has been a country of dialogue,” Archbishop Ignace was quoted as saying in November 2020, reiterating Pope Francis’ appeal for peace in Ivory Coast.

He advocated for a collaborative approach in the fight against COVID-19, including “universal charity and solidarity,” and called on governments around the world to join hands.

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“The misfortune for which the world stands in today can only be quickly defeated if the fight is carried out in universal charity and solidarity,” he was quoted as saying in a message.

In 2021, Archbishop Ignace lauded the July 27 meeting between President Alassane Ouattara and former President Laurent Gbagbo as timely for the reconciliation process in Ivory Coast.

“The meeting was long awaited by Ivorians in order to break the ice wall between these two politicians and ease the political atmosphere and offer a new chance for peace and reconciliation in the country,” he was quoted as saying in the 3 August 2021 report.

Last year, Archbishop Ignace advocated for a a well-thought-out educational plan” that is based on solid foundations for the growth of the West African nation.

“In order to succeed in what seems to us the most urgent challenge, education is not one more means among others, but it is the essential means. For this, we need a well-thought-out educational plan, designed and organized on solid foundations, on certain values,” he said during the opening speech at the 120th Plenary Assembly of CECCI on 27 January 2022.


Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu of Harare Archdiocese, Zimbabwe

The 67-year-old Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in May 1999 as Bishop of Zimbabwe’s Hwange Diocese has served as Local Ordinary of Harare since his installation in August 2004.

He has previously served as Apostolic Administrator of Chinhoyi Diocese in Zimbabwe (February 2016 – April 2018), and currently serves as the Apostolic Administrator of Masvingo Diocese in his native country of Zimbabwe.

He advocated for collaboration, reaching out to the faithful to contribute to initiatives to equip health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Archbishop Ndlovu has promoted Small Christian Communities (SCC) in his Metropolitan See, rolling out a Pastoral Plan in 2020 aimed at guiding the formation and operations of this new way of being Church in Africa.

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At a time when there were hesitations around COVID-19 vaccines, he spearheaded the administration of the vaccine in his Metropolitan See, and got himself inoculated alongside members of the Clergy, and women and men Religious.

Archbishop Ndlovu was President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) when their collective Pastoral Letter of 14 August 2020 elicited sharp reactions from the Zimbabwean government.

Members of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) expressed their “deepest regret and disappointment” over the government’s utterances against Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe. Catholic professionals in the Southern African nation also made known their solidarity with the Archbishop Ndlovu-led Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai, Mozambique

The 63-year-old Mozambican Catholic Church leader has been at the helm of Xai-Xai Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in October 2004. 

Bishop Muandula was re-elected the second Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) on 30 July 2022. 

During the SECAM Standing Committee four-day “extraordinary meeting” that concluded on 17 February 2023, Bishop Muandula was elevated from the position of Second Vice President to that of the First Vice President. The changes followed the November 2022 passing on of Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr, months after he had been elected SECAM President.

On March 15: Bishop Muandula was appointed to the newly established Preparatory Commission of the Synod on Synodality, tasked with facilitating the realization of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

He, alongside Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, of Alexandria, head of the Synod of the Coptic Catholic Church, Egypt, are among nine President’s Delegates at the Synod from Africa.

Born in Maputo in October 1959, Bishop Muandula was ordained a Priest in May 1989. As a Priest, he served as Assistant Priest, Secretary and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Maputo; professor of theology and moral theology.

In Rome, Bishop Muandula studied at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and earned a licentiate in Sacred Scripture and a doctorate in Biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University

On 31 January 2013, he was appointed to serve as a Member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples by Pope Benedict XVI.

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.