“My fight for peace”: the story of Cardinal Nzapalainga and his love for the poor

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In his new book, entitled “My fight for peace”, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic, describes his story of reaching out to those most in need—the poor, abandoned, and wounded.

Appointed cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, Cardinal Nzapalainga has seen his pastoral mission as an opportunity to be close to the poor, which he believes is another reason for his vocation to religious life.

Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
It was because someone had come to the poor, to me. As a poor man, he spoke to me about God. I would have also answered the call of the Lord. To be close to the poor. When I was sent to France to study theology at the Centre Sèvres, one thing is to read, to watch TV, to see the poor. Another is to touch or see them. That was the big shock. I arrived in Paris. There were many people who had their hands out, who had no food, who had dirty clothes. And I said to myself, I want to do my pastoral work with the poor.

This experience in France changed Cardinal Nzapalainga's relationship with the poor. He describes it as a communion with them, one that is existential and that nourishes everyday life.

Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
My connection to the poor goes deeper. I was poor. I was helped. This, especially for me, is the presence of Christ. If you don't have this redeeming strength to say that the one who is dirty, who smells, is Christ, well you will plateau. You will leave, you will disappear. If you consider that Christ is there and he suffers in the clothes of the Christ.

For Cardinal Nzapalainga, seeing the sufferings of impoverished children and the devastation of war-affected areas is a reminder that he is called to be close to people. 

Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic
I don't go alone. He is with me. So, in these moments of darkness, Christians need to be sentinels. God, needs them to be sentinels. The sentinels, the sentry is watching. Every day he comes to guard the house without a leader.

With this message of faith, Cardinal Nzapalainga believes that he can use his position in the Church to serve Christ in the poor.


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