Ten African Cardinals


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While the Catholic Church is languishing in much of the West, by contrast it flourishes across Africa. Despite this, most African Church leaders remain unknown in the West, even among better informed Catholics.

Sally Ninham’s timely book remedies this via her in-depth interviews with a cross section of Africa’s senior Catholic churchmen. Their stories provide first-hand insights into the religious, political, social and economic situations in their countries.

Some of these leaders have played key roles in the midst of political turmoil, civil wars, rampant corruption and extreme poverty.

Dr Ninham, who travelled around Africa for the interviews, believes some “have perhaps already earned the right to stand alongside such Western heroes as Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. They are men who have committed their lives to justice, to freedom and to humanity without pausing for breath.”

What are they saying about Ten African Cardinals:

“I liked this book. Ninham has written something surprising and indeed relevant about the human condition – not to mention hammering home the arrogance and limitations in western thinking about the developing world in recent decades. Crucially, in these lean times of positive coverage about the Vatican, she offers a less one dimensional and open-minded perspective on the role played by the Catholic Church on the continent.

By doing so she communicates an overlooked and under told narrative – that of grassroots catholic outreach playing a selfless and crucial role, engaging, educating and saving lives in the most challenging environments on the planet”

- Dan McDougall. Award Winning Africa Correspondent. The Sunday Times of London.


Dan has reported from forty African countries and conflict zones and is a British Foreign Correspondent of the Year and three times winner of The Amnesty International Award for Human Rights Journalism.

“Dr. Sally Ninham has put a lot of energy in transforming her insight into an exceptional book. By spotlighting the top leaders of the Church in Africa, with an open heart and a positive attitude, she offers the world a path into this misrepresented continent. Africa will be grateful to her for this initiative.”

- Paul Bere S.J., Professor of Scripture at the Jesuit Theology College, Ivory Coast

“The fruit of courageous, persevering and expert research that repeatedly took Sally Ninham to Africa, this book profiles leaders of African Catholicism. Ninham’s interviews with her chosen group of cardinals vividly present their remarkable and diverse achievements.”

- Gerald O’Collins, SJ, AC, emeritus professor Gregorian University (Rome)

“This is a fascinating narrative of the lives of some remarkable African leaders of the church in their own words set in the context of a growing, vibrant, and dynamic church. This book takes the reader on a journey of discovery through sub-Saharan Africa where we see these cardinals in their ordinariness as people and better appreciate their vocation to ordained ministry and service of leadership in the church. This book opens a window not only on the history, nature, and mission of the church but also on the challenges and prospects of the continent of Africa. It’s a fabulous introduction for those who wish to discover Africa, up, close, and personal through the voices of its ecclesial leaders – a readable and enjoyable rendition of some of the theological, ethical, and cultural issues confronting the church in Africa”

–Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ.

“What an extraordinary contribution Sally Ninham has made in this wide-ranging and carefully researched study of African Catholicism and ten of its significant leaders.The book is challenging in both content and approach. The courage and commitment of this gifted author is evidenced in the story of the origin of her research, a significant narrative in itself, carefully woven into the rich and personal historical and biographical portraits of the ten African cardinals. The wisdom of the people informs the tone of the book.  The suffering face of Africa is counterpointed by the wisdom of experience reflected on: “After the rain falls madam the sun will always shine.”

The author’s self-description as “A non Catholic and a left wing woman of the new modern era” is deceptive. This book shows a forceful, intelligent engagement of a gifted researcher with her subjects and their context.The colourful stories of engagement and disengagement, of welcome and distancing in her reception as  both woman and researcher permeate each chapter.

The approach of writing an overview of each of the ten African countries,  the account of the experience of the interview and then the subsequent interview itself gives a depth of understanding and a context that enables the reader to understand. The maps and the photographs along with the narrative confront the reader with Africa’s significant future and illustrates the resilience of its peoples.

This is a rich contribution to the scholarly corpus of writings on the complex identity and history of ten African nations and their Religious leaders. It is thorough, it is imaginative while concrete in its presentation of the variations of life and leadership. It is a multi- layered and perceptive mosaic of a church that is going to play an ever increasing role in the present and future living history of the global Catholic church.

This is a book that will expand the reader’s understanding of the complex national identities and church relationships. It challenges the conventional  northern hemisphere worldview and explores the  the changing balance of power in the global church through the lens of ten significant African Nations and their leaders and communities.

The structure of the book, part personal narrative, interviews, historical research and the author’s both feisty and perceptive engagement with and reflection on those interviewed gives it a solid and enriching mosaic of the African church. It is a book that demands rather than invites the reader to take it seriously.”

- Maryanne Confoy, Professor of Practical Theology, MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne.

A Cohort of Pioneers


305 pages
ISBN: 9781921421853

Now Available

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“What happened to a group of Australian scholars all of whom went to the USA for graduate & related studies? Their immersion into the well resourced USA PhD environment with significant research facilities, libraries and stimulating environments of scholars lasted them a lifetime. All had or could have had scholarships to Oxford or Cambridge, the normal destiny of Australian Masters or post-Masters students. Sally Ninham follows their stories and importantly the stories of their wives. Almost all of these US Graduates returned to Australia to pursue their careers in academia, the law and the corporate world. Their contribution to Australian scholarship, intellectual leadership and Australian society has been significant. Ninham has documented a host of important careers, and the contributions that many made to the transformation of the Australian academy after the Second World War. All of these deserve the analysis in this book.”

Professor Tom Healy AO, a Columbia University, New York PhD, 1963.

“This study is a valuable review of an important era in Australia where the foundations of post graduate education in the rapidly expanding university sector were established. The benefits of this era are still being felt today.”

Emeritus Professor Graham Swain AM, Retired Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Western Sydney

“The Australian university scene underwent far-reaching changes from the 1950s. This lively and original study throws much light on what happened and on why it happened.”

Gerald O’Collins, SJ, AC, Australian Catholic University.

“To be educated in Great Britain, especially at Oxford or Cambridge, was the highest pinnacle bright young Australians could aspire to surmount. With meticulous and objective research, Sally Ninham has proved that, after WW11, the United States of America was a worthy alternative. As well as enriching the students, this development often led to genuine reform in, and lasting benefit to, Australian universities in teaching and research.”

Professor John Molony, Formerly of Australian National University.