From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Papa Houphouet's 'Basilica in the Bush'

Felix Houphouet-Boigny  (PD)
In the Ivory Coast village of Yamoussoukro, birthplace of 'Papa' Felix Houphouet-Boigny, stands "the world's largest church."  The Daily Beast reports that it towers "above a lush sprawl of grazing cattle and ramshackle buildings."

Although this first president of the Ivory Coast was born into the animist tradition of the Akoues tribe, Houphouet-Boigny later converted to Christianity.  Wikipedia explains that he "considered it a modern religion and an obstacle to the spread of Islam." 

Nevertheless, Houphouet-Boigny (then a practicing Catholic) married "the daughter of a wealthy Muslim from Senegal."  Their interfaith union was "the first ever celebrated in Cote d'Ivoire."  However, their children were all raised as Catholics. Houphouet-Boigy later divorced his first wife and married a much younger woman.

Over the years, Houphouet-Boigny amassed a great fortune.  He decided to gift Jesus and then-Pope John Paul II with the Basilica
of Our Lady of Peace (later dubbed "Basilica in the Bush").  After moving the country's capital to his home town of Yamoussoukro, Houphouet.Boigny had the basilica built there.

The Daily Beast reports that "due to the country's ironically small Catholic population… the thousands of seats in the largest church in the world have gone mostly unfilled."


Copyright February 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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