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On May 1, 1934, under torrential rain at the church of Dabou, Mgr René Kouassi received the holy anointing, thus becoming the first Ivorian priest, a historic milestone for the emerging Ivorian Church. This moment was commemorated on May 1, 2024, 90 years later, with a pilgrimage organized by the clergy, an opportunity for thanksgiving and spiritual renewal.
For Father Louis Bernard Teby, president of the Fraternal Union of Ivorian Clergy (Ufraci), this pilgrimage has a profound meaning: it allows the priests and bishops present to listen to the Holy Spirit, to meditate on the life and commitment of the priest, while paying tribute to Mgr René Kouassi, an emblematic figure of the Ivorian Church. Mgr Kouassi’s native village, Ably, located in central Ivory Coast, witnessed this historic gathering.
Participants had the opportunity to take part in a series of activities, including a pilgrim walk, teachings, worship and a solemn mass. In addition, a plaque was placed on the site dedicated to the construction of a rest center for priests, in recognition of their dedication and service. A visit to the birthplace of Mgr René Kouassi was also on the program, thus perpetuating his memory and his legacy.
Born in 1907 in Toumodi, René Kouassi was deeply marked by his meeting with Father Darius Duhil, member of the African Mission Society (SMA), who baptized him in 1920. Influenced by Father Duhil and inspired by examples young Africans ordained priests, René Kouassi felt the call to the priesthood since his adolescence. After rigorous training and despite the reluctance of those around him, he was ordained a priest on May 1, 1934, marking the beginning of a long and fruitful career in the service of the Church.
Over the years, Bishop René Kouassi has held various positions within the Ivorian Church, serving with dedication in several parishes and assuming important responsibilities in Abidjan. His dedication and holiness were recognized by his peers and by Pope John XXIII, who awarded him the title of Prelate of His Holiness. His legacy lives on today, with streets, schools and buildings named after him across Ivory Coast.
For Father Pierre Boutin, who had the privilege of meeting Bishop René Kouassi, the latter was an example of piety and dedication, which had a profound impact on the seminarians of his time. His memory remains alive in the hearts of many faithful, thus recalling his essential role in the history of the Ivorian Church.
Mgr René Kouassi died in 1970, leaving behind a remarkable spiritual and pastoral legacy. His commitment to the Church and its people continues to inspire future generations, testifying to the richness and vitality of the faith in Côte d’Ivoire. By commemorating the 90th anniversary of his ordination, the Ivorian Church pays tribute to a pioneer of the faith and the priestly vocation, whose legacy continues to this day.