Mali Cardinal-designate arrives in Rome for consistory despite reports he would pull out of the ceremony due to illness

27 June 2017 | by Christopher Lamb

Reports emerged earlier this month that the Mali bishops' conference had 12 million euros deposited in various Swiss bank accounts

Mali’s cardinal-designate has arrived in Rome for tomorrow's (28 June) consistory, despite earlier reports that he may have had to pull out of the ceremony, due to health problems.

Archbishop Jean Zerbo was named by Pope Francis as the Muslim-majority country’s first cardinal. However, shortly after the announcement, reports emerged that the Mali bishops’ conference had 12 million euros deposited in various Swiss bank accounts - a strange state of affairs given the small size of the Malian church. 

On Monday, journalists were briefed that the cardinal-designate had been hospitalised with a stomach illness and may not be able to attend the consistory. Yet, the cardinal was pictured on twitter having arrived in Rome, and today (27 June) it was confirmed he would be attending. His name was also included in official documentation about the consistory, and he had been selected to address the Pope on Wednesday on behalf of the new cardinals. 

While Zerbo is renowned for his peace and reconciliation work, the news of the Swiss accounts will not please Francis, given his demand for a humble Church and his push towards greater transparency in Vatican finances. 

The situation was not helped by the cardinal-designate’s response when French newspaper Le Monde first broke the story about the Swiss accounts. His initial reaction was to deny any knowledge, although according to documents from Swiss Leaks - a major investigation into a giant tax evasion scheme - there was a customer code in his name holding more than 4.5 million euros. 

When presented with this information he described it as “an old account” and that it was a system inherited from the Missionaries of Africa, who had “managed the Church.”

Even if a cardinal does not attend a consistory, he can still be given his red hat, which is normally presented by a country's Apostolic Nuncio. 


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