Cardinal Bernard Agre, retired archbishop of Abidjan, dies at 88
Catholic News Service photo
Cardinal Bernard Agre of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, died June 9 in a hospital in Paris. He was 88. Cardinal Agre headed the Archdiocese of Abidjan from 1994 to his retirement in 2006, a period of painful political transition following the end of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny's 33-year-rule in 1993. Cardinal Agre is pictured in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 21, 2010.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis praised the generous and faithful service of the retired archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Cardinal Bernard Agre, who died at age 88.
The cardinal died June 9 at a hospital in Paris, where he had been receiving care after lingering ill health. The cardinal's death leaves the College of Cardinals with 213 members, 118 of whom are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.
In a telegram of condolence to Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Pope Francis said the late cardinal served the church "with faith and generosity," and worked passionately to "proclaim the Gospel and for people's human and spiritual development."
Cardinal Agre faced a number of pastoral problems linked to increasing economic, political and religious tensions in western Africa.
He headed the Archdiocese of Abidjan from 1994 to his retirement in 2006, a period of painful political transition following the end of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny's 33-year-rule in 1993.
When political violence broke out several times from 1998 to 2000 after contested elections and a military-led coup, leaving hundreds dead, Cardinal Agre spoke out against those attempting to exploit religious differences. He said mixing religion with politics created "a time bomb" and could lead to violence.
He criticized the growing gap between the rich of Ivory Coast and the country's "new poor," including jobless college graduates, agricultural workers and youths. He said such poverty was abnormal and a menace to social peace.
During a special Synod of Bishops for Africa in 2009, the cardinal spoke out against the injustice of many African nations being forced to "mortgage their natural resources" to pay the never-ending interest on development loans. He said that prevented governments from adequately funding education and health care for their people.
Born near Abidjan March 2, 1926, Cardinal Agre was ordained a priest in 1953.
He went to Rome in 1957, where he earned a theology degree at the Pontifical Urbanian University in 1960. He later returned to Ivory Coast to become vicar general of the Archdiocese of Abidjan, with particular responsibility in seminary education.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI named him bishop of Man, a diocese that counted only a few thousand Catholics in a population of about 1 million.
In 1992, he was appointed to the Diocese of Yamoussoukro, the site of a grandiose and controversial government-funded basilica modeled after the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.
The cardinal served on a number of Vatican agencies, including the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. St. John Paul II named him a cardinal in 2001.