On January 4, Pope Francis announced he would create 20 new cardinals. Two of them would come from Africa. One of these two, Bishop Arlindo Gomes Furtado, whose diocese is part of the Cape Verde archipelago 400 miles off the coast of West Africa, has been a humble Church pastor whose work for many years has been focused on his small flock with unstinting commitment. Because he represents the type of pastor the Church needs in these times, we are pleased to select Cardinal-designate Furtado as one of our “Top Ten” persons of 2014.
“We are trying to make the Church more open, welcoming, more dynamic in her evangelization,” he recently told Catholic News Service, adding that the spiritual aid given to families and especially the youth has been a top priority for the dioceses in his country. “Poverty and the rise of unemployment often lead to increased violence, and that is of great concern to us.”
In a telephone interview from his diocese, based in the Cape Verde capital, Praia, Furtado said he had “no idea” that Pope Francis would name him a cardinal on January 4: “It was a complete and total surprise,” he said. He will be among 20 men elevated to the College of Cardinals at a February 14 consistory at the Vatican.
The 65-year-old said he believes he was chosen because of the history of the Catholic Church in his Portuguese-speaking country. The diocese, based in the capital, is one of the oldest dioceses in Africa, he said, adding, “I believe it was time for a cardinal to be chosen from here.”
Cidade Velha, in Cape Verde Diocese, was the location of one of the first cathedrals in Africa and has been selected by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.
The cardinal-designate said of his appointment: “It will be a challenge, I am sure, but with the help of God and my community I will try to further the teachings of the Lord.”
In 2014, the bishops of Cape Verde went to Rome to speak to Pope Francis during their regularly scheduled “ad limina” visit, and Bishop Furtado said they were pleased with the pontiff’s interest in the region. “We believe that, coming from the South [southern hemisphere], he understands our difficulties and our culture,” he said.
Arlindo Gomes Furtado was born November 15, 1949, in Santa Catarina, on the largest island of the Cape Verde archipelago.
He first attended São José Seminary on October 1, 1963, for his secondary school studies. On September 11, 1971, he departed for Coimbra, Portugal, in order to continue his studies in that city’s seminary. After concluding a course in Theology at the Higher Institute of Theological Studies, he returned to Cape Verde in 1976 and was ordained a priest that year. Between 1978 and 1986, he served as Rector at São José Seminary.In August 1986, he departed for Rome, where he earned a degree in Biblical Sciences from the Biblical Institute of Rome. He returned to Cape Verde in 1990, residing at São José Seminary.
For a year, he supported the population of the Praia neighborhoods of Lém Cachorro and Achada de São Filipe. At the same time, he taught English at Domingos Ramos High School. Between 1991 and 1995 he taught Biblical Greek, Hebrew, History and Geography of the Biblical People, as well as Old Testament Studies, at the Higher Institute of Theological Studies in Coimbra. During his years there, he was also parochial administrator of two communities, Amel and Vila Pouca.
He also collaborated with the group that translated the New Capuchin Bible, translating Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Sirach, writing their respective introductions as well. In 1995, he returned to Cape Verde to lead the Parish of Nossa Senhora da Graça. He was a member of the National Board of Education and a professor at the National Police Training School. He served as Vicar General of the Diocese of Cape Verde until 2004.
On December 9 of 2003, Pope John Paul II created the Diocese of Mindelo and named Father Furtado its first bishop. On February 22, 2004, he was ordained Bishop by Santiago Bishop Paulino Livramento Évora in the presence of bishops from Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Portugal and other members of the regional episcopal conference.
On August 15, 2009, Furtado was sworn in as Bishop of Santiago during the celebrations marking Praia’s patron saint, Our Lady of Grace. He is the 34th Bishop of Cape Verde and the second of Cape Verdean nationality.
On his Facebook page, Cape Verde’s Prime Minister, Jose Maria Neves, congratulated the cardinal-designate. “I felt an enormous pride and my heart filled with joy upon receiving the news of the nomination,” he said. “It is a moment of great jubilation for the entire Cape Verde nation.”
Furtado will be a cardinal elector — in other words, he will be the voice of Cape Verdean Catholics, who will now have an official vote in the Catholic Church’s most important decisions, including in the election of Popes.
As a Bishop, Furtado is praised not only for his pastoral zeal but also for taking a keen interest in the pastoral welfare of Cape Verdean communities in the diaspora. It could well be said that he lives his episcopal motto: “Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”