BURKINA FASO: Cardinal Ouedraogo, the Advocate of the Poor
Philippe Ouedraogo, the newly-created cardinal from west Africa’s Burkina Faso, is known for his backing for the inclusion of the poorest of the poor in the distribution of economic goods, reports CISA.
Cardinal Ouedraogo was born in Konean in 1945, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Kaya in 1973. He later obtained a doctorate in canon law, serving in parishes and as a seminary rector.
He was consecrated Bishop of Ouahigouya, in Burkina Faso’s north, in 1996. Northern Burkina Faso has a concentration of the nation’s Muslims, and the diocese is home to two monasteries, one of them that of Jesus the Saviour, which follows the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld – whom Cardinal Ouedraogo greatly admires.
He was appointed Bishop of Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe capital, in 2009.
Cardinal Ouedraogo, 69, is known for having been critical of the national government. The current president, Blaise Compaore, came to power in 1987 through a coup in which his predecessor was killed.
Burkina Faso is extremely poor: its adjusted per capita GDP is $1,400, and average life expectancy is around 50 years.
Cardinal Ouedraogo lamented in his Christmas homily that “a handful of citizen hold the great part” of Burkina Faso’s wealth, highlighting injustice, inequality, and poverty in the country.
In the summer 2013, Cardinal Ouedraogo published a letter that strongly condemned the “crisis in values” leading to the spread of poverty and corruption in Burkina Faso.
According to CNS, when president Compaore established a senate in 1995, the Burkinabe bishops were emphatic in their opposition, writing that “in such a climate of extreme poverty, in which the needs of basic necessities (health, education, employment, housing, food) are not sufficiently assured and an increasing number of young people have an uncertain future, one can only legitimately question on the opportunity of the creation of a Senate.”
Before 1995, the Burkinabe legislature had only one chamber; once a bishop, Cardinal Ouedraogo turned down a seat in the senate “in the name of the poor,” according to La Stampa. The nation’s senate was eventually dissolved, in 2002.
Cardinal Ouedraogo was one of 19 men added to the College of Cardinals in the February 22 consistory. He was one of two Africans, alongside Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, in Ivory Coast.
He is the second Cardinal from Burkina Faso, following Cardinal Paul Zoungrana, who was Archbishop of Ouagadougou from 1960 to 1995, and who died in 2000.
He was made a Cardinal on the feast day commemorating the authority Jesus gave to St Peter and his successors, the popes, by Pope Francis in the presence of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
To the great surprise of most people present, the retired pope entered St Peter’s Basilica about 15 minutes before the new cardinals and Pope Francis. Wearing a long white coat and using a cane, he took a seat in the front row next to Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict’s presence at the consistory February 22, the feast of the Chair of Peter, marked the first time he had joined Pope Francis for a public prayer service in the basilica. Pope Benedict resigned February 28, 2013, becoming the first pope in almost 600 years to do so.
The other new Cardinal from Africa is Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Ivory Coast.