West & Central Africa

Mali gets its first Cardinal despite “Swiss bank account” scandal

Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, has been consencrated as Mali’s first Cardinal by Pope Francis on Wednesday, despite an ongoing scandal over a 12 million Euro lodged in a Swiss bank-account. Vatican officials had dismissed the allegations saying it is not unusual for bishops in unstable and volatile countries to deposit church funds in either the Vatican or European banks.

Pope Francis, in his homily at the consecration, charged the cardinals to be servants and not princes in a world where “the reality is the innocent who suffer and die as victims of wars and terrorism; the forms of enslavement that continue to violate human dignity even in the age of human rights,” the Pope said.

The pope told the cardinals to pay attention to the suffering in the world and pointed out the many refugees living in circumstances “which at times seem more like a hell than a purgatory.”

Francis charge the cardinals against “the systematic discarding of all that is no longer useful, people included.”

Other cardinals consecrated are; Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Laos, Monsignor Gregorio Rosa Chavez, a parish priest also serving as San Salvador’s auxiliary bishop, Barcelona Archbishop Juan Jose Omella, who worked as a missionary in Zaire; and Stockholm Bishop Anders Arborelius.

Pope Francis told the “princes of the church,” a term which cardinals are referred, that Jesus “has not called you to become ‘princes’ in the Church,” but instead chose them to serve God and people.

Pope Francis placed the prestigious red biretta, the square, three-ridged hat cardinals wear, on Zerbo’s head, making him the first in the predominantly Muslim country. The pope then gave the African prelate a fraternal embrace and said a few words to him.

Cardinal Zerbo has made a reputation as a peace broker and the Archbishop who is working for reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in Mali where AL Qaeda in the Maghreb is currently active and Boko Haram cells operate.

“There is such violence in the world, what we need is brotherhood,” Zerbo said to well-wishers after the ceremony.