CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) — Although he is 80 years old and has retired as bishop of Benguela, Angola’s cardinal-designate is still working among the poor in the oil-rich southern African country, where most people live in poverty.

Father Quintino Kandandji of Benguela Diocese told Catholic News Service the fact that Italian-born Cardinal-designate Eugenio Dal Corso still serves “the pastorally needy” and shows “zeal for the missions,” despite knowing the hardships, may be why Pope Francis chose to name him a cardinal. Cardinal-designate Dal Corso and 12 others will be made a cardinal at a Vatican consistory Oct. 5.

On the Benguela diocesan Facebook page, the cardinal-designate is quoted as saying he did not expect this honor.

“I received the news with much surprise, but I accept it for the good of the church,” he said.

After his retirement in 2018, he chose to remain a missionary in Angola and work in Christian communities in the Diocese of Menongue, the Facebook post says.

The cardinal-designate, who is a member of the Congregation of the Poor Servants of Divine Providence, was born in Lugo di Valpantena di Grezzana, Italy. He was the second of six children and is said to have been given the name Eugenio to honor Pope Pius XII, whose papacy had just begun.

Cardinal-designate dal Corso decided to become a missionary while studying at the Don Calabria Institute in Verona, Italy. After his ordination in 1963, he studied dogmatics in Rome.

In 1975, he went to Argentina and began his missionary work in the Diocese of Gregorio de Laferrere, where he helped to educate new priests.

After 11 years in the South American country, he was sent to Angola’s capital, Luanda, where he set up a seminary in the Diocese of Uije. In 1991, he was appointed provincial superior of his order in Angola.

He was ordained a bishop in 1996 and served Saurimo Diocese until his 2008 appointment as bishop of Benguela.

Cardinal-designate Dal Corso is one of three of the future cardinals over the age of 80 and, as such, he is ineligible to vote in a conclave. Pope Francis said he chose the three because of their service to the church.