Berliners mourn death of African priest Alain-Florent Gandoulou

DW | A popular Francophone African Catholic priest killed in his Berlin bureau, Alain-Florent Gandoulou, has been mourned at a church service.

German media say the suspected assailant was from Cameroon.

Berlin’s French-speaking Catholic community held funeral rites Sunday for Gandoulou in the city’s St Thomas Aquinas church, still shocked by the 54-year-old’s violent death on Thursday night.

Police alerted to a loud French-language argument inside the Catholic pastorate office — heard by witnesses shortly after choir practice — found Gandoulou’s lifeless body shortly before midnight.

The investigation was continuing Sunday and a motive had not yet been established, according to a police spokeswoman quoted by the Protestant church news agency EPD.

Father Gandoulou had been beaten about the head with office objects and was then stabbed in the head, Germany’s tabloid newspaper Bild reported.

In his home country, Brazzanews described his death as a possible assassination, in connection with a long-standing insurgency in Congo’s Pool region.

Father Gandoulou, a graduate of Bonn University, had been named as a possible future bishop in Congo, it added.

In Berlin, Gandoulou’s pastoral work included counselling refugees.

Suspect in psychiatric detention

A suspect, a 26-year-old man from Cameroon, was found on Friday in the attic of an apartment house in another Berlin district, Reinickendorf, and was taken to a psychiatric institution, according to police.

The Berliner Zeitung (BZ) quoted community member Joachim Moche: “Our priest was always there for us. He brought with him the power to believe and conveyed it to the community. He baptized my son. I am so sad.”

The Francophone pastorate is part of Berlin’s Catholic bishopric and caters for 10,000 French nationals and many thousands of Francophone residents from around the world, according to the Catholic news agency KNA.

‘Very sad moment’

At Sunday’s church service, the Berlin bishopric’s Vicar General Father Manfred Kolling described Gandoulou’s sudden death as a “very sad moment” and extended condolences from all Berlin Catholics.

Numerous mourners of African origin gathered outside the church on Friday, to mourn their highly popular priest, public Berlin-Brandenburg broadcasting (RBB) had reported.

Popular in Berlin

Gandoulou was born in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo in 1963. He was ordained as a priest in 1991 and was awarded his doctorate at Bonn University’s theological faculty in 2008.

His topic was “the Battle for Truth and Justice,” focused on the Congolese priest and journalist, Louis Badila, between 1962 and 1990.

In 2009 Gandoulou was assigned to lead the pastoral mission of Berlin’s Paroisse Catholique Francophone, established in 1945.

Brazzanews said he had been a keen exponent of music and the arts.

ipj/jm (KNA, epd, AFP)