Friday, October 26, 2007

From West Africa, A Cardinal for Islam

Continuing with our coverage of "Scarlet Fever '07," while the rapid elevation of newly-named Archbishop John Njue of Nairobi took the top line among Africa's new entries among the College of Cardinals, the Pope indeed named two electors -- his first two -- from the continent where global Catholicism's biggest boom is taking place.

The senior African prelate heading into the papal senate next month is 70 year-old Archbishop Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar in Senegal. Ordained a bishop at 37 and named to the capital see of the West African nation in 2000, the cardinal-designate follows his princely predecessor Hyacinthe Thiandoum, who was given his red hat in 1974 and died three years back.

What marks Sarr out, however, is his status as the top hierarch of a nation whose population is 95 percent Muslim. What's more, relations between Islam and the church in Senegal are reported to be unusually strong, cooperative and reciprocal.

As evidence of this, after his nomination was made public the cardinal-designate noted that his elevation had been sought in prayer... by one of the country's senior imams:
The Senegalese prelate disclosed hours after his nomination that Muslim cleric Habibou Tall had predicted publicly he would be made a cardinal before the end of the year.

"He said he was going to pray for that to happen," Sarr told reporters. "I know he has prayed for that to happen and I thank him for that."...

Christians in Senegal's breezy coastal capital expressed happiness at Sarr's appointment.

"There are countries where Christians are the biggest majority, but a cardinal was not named there, and we in small Senegal with a tiny population of Christians, we got one! We are simply blessed," said Alioune Ndiaye, 35, a brick maker.

Many Muslims expressed satisfaction at the appointment of the respected prelate.

"The new cardinal, Theodore Sarr, will work hard to strengthen the already good relations between Muslim and Christians," said Abdoulaye Diop, 45, a book-keeper of Muslim faith.
Among his post-Consistory curial assignments, expect Sarr to be named to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

PHOTO: Reuters/Normand Blouni