Peter Poreku Dery

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Peter Poreku Dery

Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Elena fuori Porta Prenestina
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed24 March 2006
Installed28 March 2006
Term ended6 March 2008
PredecessorEdouard Gagnon
SuccessorJoão Braz de Aviz
Ordination11 February 1951
by Gérard Bertrand
Consecration8 May 1960
by Pope John XXIII
Created cardinal24 March 2006
by Pope Benedict XVI
Personal details
Birth namePoreku Der[1]
Born(1918-05-10)10 May 1918
Wa, Ghana
Died6 March 2008(2008-03-06) (aged 89)
Tamale, Ghana
Previous post
MottoApostolus Jesu Christi ("Apostle of Jesus Christ")
Coat of armsPeter Poreku Dery's coat of arms
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintServant of God
Styles of
Peter Dery
Coat of arms of Peter Poreku Dery.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeTamale (Emeritus)
Ordination history of
Peter Poreku Dery
Priestly ordination
Ordained byGérard Bertrand
Date11 February 1951
PlaceSaint Theresa's Church, Nandom, Ghana
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorPope John XXIII
Co-consecratorsNapoléon-Alexandre Labrie & Fulton John Sheen
Date8 May 1960
PlaceSaint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Elevated byPope Benedict XVI
Date24 March 2006
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Peter Poreku Dery as principal consecrator
Gregory Ebolawola Kpiebaya15 March 1975
Paul Bemile25 March 1995
Vincent Sowah Boi-Nai, S.V.D.10 July 1999

Peter Poreku (10 May 1918 – 6 March 2008) – given the surname Der then Dery[1] – was a Ghanaian Roman Catholic cardinal.[2][3] He served as Archbishop of Tamale from 1974 to 1994 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006. Poreku had also served as the Bishop of Wa prior to his elevation as archbishop.[3][4]

The cause for his canonization commenced in mid-2013 and the late cardinal is now referred to as a Servant of God.


Education and priesthood[edit]

The bishop-elect in the generalate of the Missionaries of Africa in Rome on the eve of his episcopal consecration in 1960. Alongside him is a Ghanaian nun and the priest John McNulty who was the originator of the credit union movement in Africa.

Poreku Der[1] was born in 1918 Zimuopare in the Ko Parish as the fourth of ten children to Theodore Poreku and Agnes Zoore in the house of his uncle Ngmankurinaa.[3] He was born soon after the death of his immediate older brother. One other brother was Alipo Poreku.[2]

The belief and practice of the Dagaare speaking people of North-Western Ghana and Southern Burkina-Faso dictates that a male child born not long after the death of his immediate elder brother is believed to be the reincarnation of the deceased brother and was thus given the additional name "Der" to demonstrate that. In keeping with that belief and practice his pagan parents thus referred to him as such.

He later converted to Roman Catholicism being baptized (alongside ten others) in Jirapa on 24 December 1932. He then altered his name "Der" with a "Y" at the end while taking the name "Peter" in honor of Saint Peter. In 1932 he was sent to Jirapa to become a catechist so he could return to his village to teach his people in the faith.[1]

Poreku studied for the priesthood in Navrongo from 1934 to 1939 prior to commencing his philosophical and theological studies at Saint Victor's school in Wiagha. He received his ordination to the priesthood in Nandom at Saint Theresa's Church from Bishop Gérard Bertrand in 1951 before furthering his studies.[3] He earned a diploma in social studies from the Saint Francis Xavier college in Antigonish in Canada in 1958 and also obtained his doctorate from the International Catechetical Institute "Lumen vitae" in Brussels in Belgium. The former permitted him to enter after the Knights of Columbus granted him a scholarship in 1957.[2] He returned to his homeland in 1959 serving as a parochial vicar in Nandom before serving as the vicar-general for the Tamale archdiocese until 1960.[4][1]


On 16 March 1960 he was appointed as the first Bishop of Wa after Pope John XXIII created the new diocese. He received his episcopal consecration two months later from John XXIII himself with Bishops Napoléon-Alexandre Labrie and Venerable Fulton Sheen serving as the co-consecrators in Saint Peter's Basilica. Poreku made his formal installation in his new see on the following 10 June and then requested permission from competent ecclesial authorities in Rome to translate the Mass into Dagaare and have it sung in local melodies with local musical instruments; permission was given and he composed the first Dagaare Mass. This proved to be a significant milestone in the "Africanization" of the Ghanaian Church.[3]

Poreku attended the Second Vatican Council and focused on the involvement of the faithful as well as both education and the promotion of vocations during his tenure. He was remembered in Wa for driving a Datsun saloon car with foodstuffs from Wa to Accra on terrible roads just so he could meet with the families of his old parishioners and to distribute food to people.[5]

He was later named as the Apostolic Administrator for the Tamale archdiocese and later became the fourth Bishop of Tamale on 18 November 1974. He was the first non-religious to hold the position since all his predecessors had belonged to the White Fathers. He was promoted to the rank of a metropolitan archbishop upon Tamale's elevation to an archdiocese in 1977. From 1982 to 1988 he served as the president of the Ghanaian Episcopal Conference.

Poreku attended two sessions of episcopal gatherings that Pope John Paul II had convoked with the first being held from 24 November to 8 December 1985 and the second being held from 1–30 October 1987.[3][6] It was at the former that he said Roman officials should allow for "enculturation" to allow for the Ghanaian Church to assume its own cultural sense of identification in "matters of life and worship".[6] Poreku also served two terms on the Pontifical Council for the Laity during the pontificates of both Paul VI and John Paul II.[4] He resigned from his position on 26 March 1994 after two decades of service and upon reaching the retirement age. The resignation letter was sent in 1993 but was not accepted after the pope responded "nunc pro tunc" meaning "not until we can replace" with a new archbishop. But the resignation was accepted not long after in 1994 after Poreku suffered a stroke.[1]


Pope Benedict XVI created Poreku as the Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Elena fuori Porta Prenestina on 26 March 2006 in Saint Peter's Square; he was elevated as one of the prelates over age 80 meaning that he was not eligible to vote in future papal conclaves. Poreku was in a wheelchair and was lifted onto the dais to greet Benedict XVI who conferred the red hat and title upon him.[3]

Death and funeral[edit]

Poreku died in his sleep at his Tamale residence on 6 March 2008 at 6:20 pm. His longtime aide Mark Attabeh and his doctor Augustine Kabir aided him in his final months.[4][2] He had been bedridden for the last seven months of his life after slipping in 2007 causing hip difficulties. His remains were taken to the morgue before being taken to the archdiocesan cathedral to lie in state.[4] On 31 March a vigil was held at Jubilee Park with Cardinal Peter Turkson presiding over the funeral on 1 April; the President John Kufuor and Vice-President Aliu Mahama were in attendance with Archbishop Peter Akwasi Sarpong delivering the sermon and Felix Owusu Adjepong delivering a tribute on the government's behalf.[3]


Poreku was granted several awards and recognitions during his life:

  • State Award of Grand Medal (civil division) – granted on 13 January 1974.
  • Honorary Doctor of Law (from his old college in Canada)
  • Order of the Star of Ghana – granted in 2007.


In June 2013 at a memorial service Mass held in Tamale it was announced that the cause for beatification would be initiated with the formal request lodged to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 15 June 2013.[2] The "nihil obstat" (no objections) was declared on 13 July 2013 which allowed for Poreku to be titled as a Servant of God. The diocesan process commenced on 9 May 2015 in Tamale and was tasked with assembling documentation on his life and works as well as collecting testimonies from those who knew the late cardinal. As of June 2016 a total of 45 people had been interviewed as part of the process. Testimonies were heard in Tamale and Damongo as well as in Yendi and Navrongo-Bolgatanga with successive sessions to be heard in Wa.[5]

The current postulator for this cause is Dr. Waldery Hilgeman.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The Cardinal Dery Story". The Cardinal Dery Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Servant of God Peter Poreku Dery". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Salvador Miranda. "Consistory of March 24, 2006 (I)". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Dery, Peter Poreku". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ a b Seth J. Bokpe (4 July 2016). "Process to declare Cardinal Dery saint on course". Graphic Online. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Third World a New Force at the Synod". The New York Times. 6 December 1985. Retrieved 6 November 2017.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
None; diocese created
Bishop of Wa
16 March 1960–18 November 1974
Succeeded by
Gregory Ebolawola Kpiebaya
Preceded by
Gabriel Champagne, M.Afr.
Archbishop of Tamale
18 November 1974–26 March 1994
Succeeded by
Gregory Ebolawola Kpiebaya