Pope elevates Bamako archbishop to cardinal, first Malian to be appointed

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  • Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban with CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY

Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo, has been elevated to the position of cardinal by Pope Francis. He becomes the first ever Catholic cardinal from the Muslim dominated west African country.

The 73-year-old who has been Archbishop since 1998 was at the Vatican on Wednesday (June 28, 2017) for the ceremony elevating him.

He helped negotiate a peace agreement between the government and Tuareg rebels two years ago, on the back of that he was given the title ‘cardinal of peace,’ the Catholic News Agency reported.

Archbishop Zerbo represents Pope Francis’ frequent calls to focus on areas where the Church is persecuted: Mali is a majority-Muslim nation that often sees harsh application of sharia as well as extremist violence against Christians.

Zerbo was elevated along with four other persons. Three of the four were first time cardinals from their respective countries – El Salvador, Laos and Sweden. The fourth was from Spain.

A financial scandal hit him months back when reports emerged that he and other church members had opened over $13 million in Swiss bank accounts. The scandal it was said could derail his elevation. He has maintained his innocence stating that his hands were clean.

Brief profile of Archbishop Jean Zerbo

1. He was Born December 27, 1943 in Ségou, Mali.

2. Zerbo was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ségou on July 10, 1971.

3. He earned his licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Ponifical Biblical Institute in Rome, studying there from 1977 to 1981.

4. Upon returning to Mali in the early 1980s, he taught at the major seminary in Bamako, Mali’s capital, and served as a pastor in Markala.

5. In June 1988, St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Bamako. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Mopti, and in 1998 was made Archbishop of Bamako.

‘‘Archbishop Zerbo represents Pope Francis’ frequent calls to focus on areas where the Church is persecuted: Mali is a majority-Muslim nation that often sees harsh application of sharia as well as extremist violence against Christians,’‘ the Catholic News Agency wrote.

Speaking to Cuore Amico in January this year, Archbishop Zerbo described the situation of Christians in the country as “a test comparable to that of the early disciples.”