The Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo has been appointed to the Vatican’s Council of Cardinals, becoming the first African Prelate to serve in the Council since it was established in 2013. The members have the responsibility of advising Pope Francis.
In a message published by the Holy See Press Office Thursday, October 15, the Holy Father announced Cardinal Ambongo’s appointment to the Council alongside Bishop Marco Mellino who will serve “as secretary of the same Council.” Bishop Mellino has been serving the Council of Cardinals as adjunct secretary.
Born son of a rubber tapper in DRC’s Diocese of Molegbe 60 years ago, Cardinal Ambongo took his final vows in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M., Cap) in 1987 and was ordained a Priest of the same order the following year.
He served as a priest for 16 years before his appointment as Bishop of Bokungu-Ikela Diocese. In November 2016, he was appointed the Archbishop of Mbandaka-Bikoro Archdiocese and in February 2018, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa where he was installed as the Archbishop on 25 November 2018.
He had previously taught at Kinshasa’s Catholic university as a faculty professor. He also served at one time as Major Superior of O.F.M. Capuchins’ Congolese Province.
The 60-year-old Prelate who heads DRC’s COVID-19 Solidarity Fund was elevated to the rank of a Cardinal by Pope Francis on October 5, 2019.
He has been described as a man “passionate about justice and law issues” and as “a man of the church who doesn’t mince his words.”
The establishment of the Council of Cardinals was announced by Pope Francis on April 13, 2013, a month after his election as Pope. The Council was formally established on September 28 of the same year, with an initial membership of eight Cardinals.
In his October 15 announcement, six incumbent members of the Council are confirmed.
The Archbishop of Honduras’ Tegucigalpa Archdiocese, Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Cardinal Maradiaga, is confirmed as “coordinator of the Council of Cardinals to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the Universal Church and to draw up a plan for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Pastor Bonus’ on the Roman Curia.”
The five other Cardinals confirmed “as members of the aforementioned Council” include Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Cardinal Parolin; the President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Giuseppe Cardinal Bertello; the Archbishop of Boston in the U.S., Seán Patrick Cardinal O’Malley; Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Bombay in India; and the Archbishop of München und Freising in Germany, Reinhard Cardinal Marx.
Meanwhile, the Holy Father also announced his appointment of Bishop Marcello Semeraro as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Local Ordinary of Italy’s Albano Diocese has been serving, since April 2013, as Secretary of the Council of Cardinals.