Alexandre José Maria Cardinal dos Santos, a Cardinal-Priest of San Frumenzio ai Prati Fiscali, died of an illness in the Mozambican capital on Wednesday evening, 29 September.
An advocate for peace and education
Cardinal dos Santos was Archbishop of Maputo between 1975 to 2003. According to local testimonies following the death announcement, the Cardinal has left an inspiring and enduring legacy in education. The São Tomás University of Mozambique, based in Maputo City, was founded under the close watch of the Cardinal.
He is also recognised for his tireless efforts at encouraging peace in the country, particularly when it was engulfed in a civil war.
Life and times
Cardinal Alexandre José Maria dos Santos, O.F.M., was born on 18 March 1924 in Zavala, Diocese of Inhambane, Mozambique. He attended the minor seminary of the Franciscans in Amatongas, in the central zone of Mozambique. He was then sent to Nyasaland, today known as Malawi, to study philosophy. This was because at the time, a major seminary did not exist in Mozambique.
In 1947 he was admitted to the novitiate of the Portuguese Province of the Franciscans in Varatojo, near Lisbon. In 1948 he studied theology in Lisbon, Portugal. Having made his solemn profession, he was ordained a priest on 25 June 1953. He returned to Mozambique in 1954 and carried out his pastoral ministry in the Franciscan missions of the Inhambane region. In 1972 he became councillor of the Franciscan province of Mozambique and Rector of the new minor seminary in Vila Pery, today Chimoio.
Founded Caritas Mozambique
After Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, on 23 December 1974, he was elected Archbishop of Maputo. He received his episcopal ordination on 9 March 1975. A dedicated Bishop, he spent hours and days serving a people traumatised by civil war and natural calamities. He founded Caritas Mozambique and was its first president. Similarly, he promoted programmes to help the poor, refugees and victims of drought. He was also dedicated to fostering new relations among the ecclesial communities of former Portuguese colonies: Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tomé and Principe.
On 22 August 1981 he founded the “Franciscanas de Nossa Senhora de Mae de Africa.” It is a local religious institute for young Mozambican religious women. His wish was to make religious life flourish in the southern African country.
A man of firsts
In September 1988, he welcomed Pope Saint John Paul II when the Holy Father made an Apostolic pastoral visit to Mozambique.
Cardinal Santos was the first Mozambican Bishop and also first Cardinal of Mozambique. He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II in the consistory of 28 June 1988 and conferred with the title of St. Frumentius ai Prati Fiscali.