Cardinal Dos Santos: ‘Tireless Servant of Gospel’

Who Died on September 29 and Was the First Native Priest, Bishop, and Cardinal of Mozambique

Cardinal Dos Santos
Cardenal Alexandre José Maria dos Santos © Vatican Media

In a telegram of condolence, Pope Francis described Cardinal Alexandre Jose Maria Dos Santos, Archbishop Emeritus of Maputo, Mozambique, as a “tireless servant of the Gospel and of the Church.” The Cardinal died on Wednesday, September 29, 2021.

“On receiving with grief the news of the death of brother Cardinal Alexandre Jose Maria Dos Santos, I wish to express my solidarity to the mourning members of his family and to all those that, especially in the Archdiocese of Maputo, have benefitted from the service of this Pastor,” said the Holy Father in his missive sent to Monsignor Francisco Chimoio, Archbishop of Maputo.

“I entrust this tireless servant of the Gospel and of the Church to the Lord, who guided him throughout his life, and I pray that he be received in the Heavenly Jerusalem, to which I invite the participants in the funeral liturgy for Father Alexandre to raise their heart and to which I unite myself spiritually, to give those present and those that mourn his death, the consolation of the Apostolic Blessing,” ends the text.

Cardinal Alexandre Jose Maria Dos Santos

 The first native priest, Bishop, and Cardinal of Mozambique was born in Zavala, in the diocese of Inhambane, on March 18, 1924. He completed his early studies in the school of the Franciscan missionaries of the Portuguese Province, present in the region since the beginning of the century. After attending the Minor Franciscan Seminary of Amatongas in Central Mozambique, he was sent to Nyasaland — present-day Malawi — to study Philosophy with the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa). At that time there was no important Seminary in Mozambique.

In 1947 he entered the novitiate of the Portuguese Province of the Franciscans in Varatojo, near Lisbon. After his solemn profession in 1951, he was ordained a priest on June 25, 1953. He returned to his native land in 1954 and carried out his priestly ministry in the Franciscan missions of the Inhambane region. In 1972 he was appointed Adviser of Mozambique’s Franciscan Custody and Rector of the country’s new Minor Seminary in Vila Pery, present-day Chimoio.

After Mozambique’s independence from Portugal, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Maputo on December 23, 1974. On assuming the pastoral government of the local Church, established in 1940 with the name Lourenço Marques, he made an effort to help the population afflicted by the Civil War and natural disasters.

He founded Caritas-Mozambique and was its first President. He promoted aid for the poor, refugees and victims of the drought. He also took part in promoting new relations between the ecclesial communities of the former Portuguese Colonies: Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe

On August 22, 1981, he founded the Pious Feminine Union with the Name Franciscans of Our Lady Mother of Africa and issued the corresponding Decree. It is an African Religious Institute of Mozambican girls whose objective is to have religious life flourish again in the country, both contemplative as well as active, in pastoral work and assistance to the poor. The rules of the Institute are dated April 20, 1981.

John Paul II created him Cardinal in the Consistory of June 28, 1988, of the title of San Frumenzio ai Prati Fiscali. In September of 1988, as a new Cardinal, he had the joy of welcoming John Paul II on his pastoral visit to Mozambique. He was Archbishop Emeritus of Maputo since February 22, 2003.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester