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Bernardin Cardinal Gantin

From Academic Kids

His Eminence Bernardin Cardinal Gantin (born May 8, 1922 in Toffo, Benin) is the highest-ranking black African in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, though three early Popes came from the Mediterranean shores of the African landmass.

A native of Benin, his name means tree of iron (gan, tree and tin, iron), which explains his coat of arms.

He entered the minor seminary at age 14 in Benin, and achieved priesthood in 1951 under Archbishop Louis Parisot. In 1953 he was sent to Rome to study theology and canon law. He was consecrated bishop of Tipasa of Algeria and Auxiliary of Cotonou in 1957 by Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, to whose then post of Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals he would one day succeed. In 1960 Pope John XXIII appointed him Archbishop of Cotonou. After he attended the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI appointed him to the Roman Curia and made him a Cardinal in the consistory of 1977. He was named President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" by Pope John Paul I, the only administrative appointment of that month-long papacy. During the Conclave following John Paul I's death, Cardinal Gantin was thought to be one of the papabili, those cardinals who are considered favorites to be elected pope.

Under Pope John Paul II he headed the Congregation for Bishops, supervising episcopal appointments throughout the world, from 1984 to 1998. Cardinal Bishop of the suburbicarian diocese of Palestrina since 1986, he was Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1993 to 2002 when he retired to move home to Benin. Because he turned 80 on May 8, 2002 Cardinal Gantin was not eligible to vote in the 2005 Papal Election. However, some vaticanologists have pointed out that it would have been possible for him to have be chosen to succeed to Pope John Paul II.

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