January 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 16
Dean of Cardinals celebrates 50th Anniversary

    VATICAN, Jan. 15, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination on January 13, with a solemn ceremony in St. Peter's basilica in which 30 other cardinals participated.

    Cardinal Gantin is now the dean of the College of Cardinals. The dean has the responsibility, when the pope dies, of summoning the other cardinals into conclave and presiding over their discussions and votes until a new pontiff is elected. The dean is elected from among the 6 "cardinal bishops" who stand first in preference among the cardinals. Four of the other cardinal bishops-- Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Angelo Sodano, Roger Etchegaray, and Lucas Moreira Neves-- joined with Cardinal Gantin in concelebrating his anniversary Mass.

    Born in 1922 in Benin, Cardinal Gantin became auxiliary bishop of Cotonou, Benin, when he was only 34, and archbishop of the same city in 1956. In 1971 he was called into service in the Roman Curia by Pope Paul VI, working at Congregation for Evangelization. In December 1976 he was named president of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, and in June 1977 elevated to the College of Cardinals. In 1984 Pope John Paul II-- with whom he had become friendly during the Second Vatican Council-- named him prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, where he served until his retirement in 1998.

    Among his more noteworthy moments while in service to the Vatican, Cardinal Gantin signed the letter of excommunication for Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in July 1988, after the Swiss prelate had ordained two bishops in defiance of Pope John Paul II. He also announced the Pope's decision to strip the renegade French Bishop Jacques Gaillot of his diocesan responsibilities in January 1995.

    Today, although his health is fragile, Cardinal Gantin continues to serve as a special envoy for Pope John Paul for special occasions such as the approaching celebration-- scheduled for January 26-- of the 100th anniversary of the evangelization of Burkina Faso.

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January 16, 2001
volume 12, no. 16
News from Rome

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