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OBITUARIES | Passings | Cardinal Bernardin Gantin

Vatican official from West Africa

May 19, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, 86, a prominent churchman whose influence was felt in Europe and in his native West Africa, died Tuesday at George Pompidou Hospital in Paris of complications caused by severe dehydration, said Jean-Yves Riocreux, the bishop of Pontoise.

Gantin was archbishop of Cotonou in Benin before going to Rome. He worked closely with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

One of the last cardinals to be named by Pope Paul VI, Gantin spent more than 30 years in the Roman Curia. He served as head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace Commission and head of the Congregation for Bishops. That office is responsible for the world's bishops and is one of the top Vatican positions.

While at the Vatican, Gantin was known for maintaining close ties to the people of Benin, returning often to visit his native country. He had been living in Benin since retiring in 2002.

Gantin was born May 8, 1922, in Toffo, the son of a railway worker whose surname translates to "iron tree." He was ordained in 1951 and appointed bishop in 1956.

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