Democratic Republic of the Congo
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Joseph Malula

Joseph Malula

Roman Catholic cardinal
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Roman Catholic cardinal
Countries Democratic Republic of the Congo
Occupations Catholic priest
Gender male
Birth 12 December 1917 (Kinshasa)
Death 14 June 1989 (Belgium)
The details

Joseph-Albert Malula (12 December 1917 – 14 June 1989) was a Congolese Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Kinshasa (name changed from Leopoldville in 1966) from 1964 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1969.


Joseph-Albert Malula was born in 1917 in Léopoldville, Belgian Congo (modern Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo) to Remacle Ngalula and Jeanne Bolumbu. He attended primary school in Léopoldville, under the direction of Fr. Raphaël de la Kétuhulle. From 1931–34, he attended the minor seminary in Mbata Kiela, where he met Joseph Kasa-Vubu, who would later become the first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then the minor seminary of Bolongo in Lisala until 1937.

He studied philosophy (1937–40) and theology (1940–44) at the Major Seminary of Christ-Roi in Kabwe. He served as a professor at the Minor Seminary of Bokoro from 1944–46 as well. Malula was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Georges Six, CICM, on 9 June 1946, in the Stade Reine Astrid. He then resumed teaching at the minor seminary, and served as vicar and pastor at several parishes in Léopoldville. In 1953, he visited Algiers, Tunisia, Malta, Rome, and Belgium.

On 18 July 1959, Malula was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Léopoldville and Titular Bishop of Attanasus by Pope John XXIII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 20 September from Archbishop Félix Scalais, CICM, with Bishops Pierre Kimbondo and Joseph Nkongolo serving as co-consecrators, at the Stade Tata Raphaël. Malula attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962–65, during which he was advanced to the Archbishop of Léopoldville on 7 July 1964. He was installed as Archbishop on 27 August of that same year, and the name of the archdiocese was later changed to Kinshasa on 30 May 1966.

Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Ss. Protomartiri a Via Aurelia Antica in the consistory of 28 April 1969. He was the first cardinal from Zaire. At a Mass in 1970, at which President Mobutu was present, the Cardinal claimed Zaire's ruling class was enriching itself and ignoring the people's misery In 1971, despite being an advocate of African culture, he expressed his disapproval of Christians giving up their baptismal names in an article in the Catholic weekly magazine, Afrique Chrétienneafter, following the renaming of the Republic of the Congo as the Republic of Zaire. President Mobutu subsequently removed the Cardinal from his government-owned residence and suspended the magazine for six months. Malula was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II, respectively. He supported Albino Cardinal Luciani at the August conclave, and even gave him a public embrace before he was elected

Before the October conclave began, he spoke of the Vatican's pomp, saying, "All that imperial paraphernalia. All that isolation of the Pope. All that medieval remoteness and inheritance that makes Europeans think that the Church is only Western. All that tightness that makes them fail to understand that young countries like mine want something different. They want simplicity. They want Jesus Christ. All that, all that must change."


Cardinal Malula died at a hospital in Leuven, Belgium, aged 71, and is interred at the Cathédrale Notre Dame du Congo, Kinshasa.

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