Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr, the new Ghanaian cardinal who missed this month’s consistory because of a heart complication, is “doing well and in high spirits”, the director of communications of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has told the Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACI Africa).
On the day of the consistory (Saturday 27 August), Pope Francis appealed for prayers for Cardinal Baawobr, who was absent from the papal session at which the Holy Father created 20 new cardinals for the Universal Church.
In an interview with ACI Africa on Tuesday (30 August), Father Dieudonné Kofi Davor provided health updates on the local ordinary of Ghana’s Wa Diocese and appealed for prayers for his full recovery.
Cardinal Baawobr “is doing well from the update I got from Rome; he is said to be in high spirits and spoke with the president of the conference on the phone”, Father Davor said in reference to a conversation between the new cardinal and the head of the GCBC, Archbishop Phillip Naameh.
The Ghanaian Catholic priest recalled the health situation of the 63-year-old member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) before he travelled to Rome for the consistory, saying he “hasn’t been well and I am sure the fatigue got the best of him”.
Cardinal Baawobr, who has led the Wa Diocese since May 2016, was named cardinal on 29 May alongside 20 others from across the globe, including Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK) in Nigeria.
Another Ghanaian cardinal, Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, is currently serving as the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Cardinal Baawobr was elected the president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) on 30 July at the end of the 19th plenary assembly of SECAM in Ghana’s capital city, Accra.
Before he was appointed a bishop in February 2016, the Catholic Church leader had served as first assistant general of the Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa for a six-year term; in May 2010, he was elected the first African Superior General of the Catholic congregation, which was founded in 1868.
Since July 2020, the Ghanaian cardinal has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
In the 30 August interview with ACI Africa, Father Davor said the people of God in Ghana are “waiting patiently” for the cardinal’s return to West Africa from Rome.
“His earlier plan was to have his thanksgiving Mass on 24 September but I am sure this will change,” the GCBC’s director of communications said.
Father Davor further expressed appreciation to the people of God for their prayers, saying: “I want to thank all for your concern and prayers for the speedy recovery of Cardinal Baawobr.
“Continue your prayers for him and all other prelates who are indisposed,” he told ACI Africa, and promised to provide further updates about the new Ghanaian cardinal “as soon as he is discharged from the hospital”.
An “opportunity to serve”
In a 28 July interview with ACI Africa, Cardinal Baawobr reflected on his mission as a cardinal, saying, “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, adding: “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 said: “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.”
Being named a cardinal, he emphasised, 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 leader told ACI Africa on 28 July.
The Ghanaian cardinal is known in his native West African nation and beyond for many acts of charity, key among them his love for people suffering from mental challenges and who have been neglected by their families.
In 2016, the year that the Holy Father appointed him bishop, volunteers at the bishop’s project that takes care of people with mental illnesses started going on the streets looking for patients and providing them with care.
The project, which involves parishes, faith-based organisations, women and men religious and the lay faithful, also brought on board doctors and nurses who started providing free medication.
The new cardinal reportedly started using media platforms to create awareness about mental illnesses in a country where stigmatisation of people with such challenges is high.