Rugambwa, Laurean Cardinal (1912-97)
The first modern African cardinal; Archbishop of Dar es Salaam.
SIG – vintage fountain pen signature on a small sheet of paper. Sufficient room for matting. Accompanied by a small color reprint image.
Rugambwa was born to an aristocratic family. After study at the regional grand seminary of Katigondo in Uganda, he was ordained in 1943. For the next six years he performed missionary work in West Africa and was then sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical Urbaniana University where he obtained his doctorate in canon law.
In 1951, Rugambwa was appointed titular bishop of Febiana and named the first apostolic civar of Lower Kagera. The youngest of African bishops, he was consecrated in 1952. Upon his vicariate’s elevation to full diocese in 1953, Rugambwa was named Bishop of Rutabo by Pope Pius XII. He was created a cardinal priest by Pope St. John XXIII in 1960 and, thus, became the first native African cardinal. On the following June, his diocese was renamed Bukowa.
A progressive prelate, Rugambwa attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962-65 and was active in implementing many reforms. He was one of the cardinal electors in the 1963 conclave from which came Blessed Pope Paul VI. Advanced to archbishop of Dar es Salaam, he later participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, from which came Popes John Paul I and John Paul II. The cardinal, who had known John Paul II from before his election, resigned as Dar es Salaam’s archbishop in 1992 after 23 years of service, during which he founded the first Catholic hospital in Ukonga and a female Roman Catholic religious institute, the Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.
Cardinal Rugambwa died at age 85. He is buried in the cathedral of Bukoba. Upon his death he left Cardinals Raul Silva Henriquez and Franz Koniz, the last two surviving cardinals elevated by John XXIII.
There is talk that Rugambwa could eventually be beatified and canonized. It is well known that the cardinal, who enjoyed a brilliant reputation in life and after his death, was very close to many prominent and esteemed individuals in the church, such as the popes under whom he served with distinction.