25 Years of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese a “journey of joyful, sorrowful moments”: Bishop

Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo Diocese delivering his homily during the Silver Jubilee of Mamfe Diocese at St. Joseph Cathedral. Credit: Mamfe Diocese

Bishop George Nkuo has described the last 25 years since the Catholic Diocese of Mamfe in Cameroon was erected as “a journey” characterized with happy and not-so-happy experiences.

In his Thursday, February 22 homily, Bishop Nkuo acknowledged the presence of the people of God, who gathered for the thanksgiving Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral of Mamfe Diocese, saying, “We have come from far and near to say, thank you, God, for your many blessings on this local church, which was erected as a Diocese 25 years ago.”  

“If we go down memory lane to look at how it all started and the challenges this Diocese has faced over the years, we can simply say that it has been a journey of joyful and maybe sorrowful moments,” he said. 

In the last 25 years, there were moments of “tears and smiles; it has been a journey of successes and even failures,” the Local Ordinary of Cameroon’s Catholic Diocese of Kumbo said.

He continued, “The fact that we can stand today to say that Mamfe Diocese has clocked 25 years of existence is enough to say that the promise of Christ, as we have heard in today's gospel, still holds true for this Diocese.”


Catholicism in the territory of Mamfe Diocese is traced to the initiative of Bishop Heinrich Veiter in 1912, when the German-born member of the Society of Catholic Apostolate (SAC/Pallotines), the pioneer Bishop of Cameroon, directed his confrere and compatriot, Fr. Hoegn, to visit the region of Mamfe “in view of establishing a Mission”, the website of the Cameroonian Diocese indicates.

Fr. Hoegn celebrated the first Holy Mass in Mamfe region at Apatha Hill in Ossing on 22 January 1912, the Diocese has recorded, adding that “on that faithful day the first Parish in Mamfe was established and consecrated to the ‘Holy Name of Jesus’”.

Pallotines were followed by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) and later on by members of St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill (MHM/Mill Hill Missionaries), Mamfe Diocese recording that these pioneer missionaries “all worked had to lay a good foundation for the growth of the Catholic faith in Mamfe.”

In his February 22 homily, Bishop Nkuo looked back at the early beginning of evangelization in the Cameroonian Catholic Diocese with gratitude to the grace of God, drawing inspiration from the Psalm of David, when he fled from his son, Absalom, “if the Lord had not been on our side…” (Psalm 124:2).

“Today, at 25, we can look back at the history of Mamfe Diocese and say, if the Lord had not been on your side when the Catholic faith was brought to this diocese in 1912, it would have died as soon as it was planted,” Bishop Nkuo said. 

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The Cameroonian Catholic Bishop, who will turn 71 on February 27 further said, “If the Lord had not been on our side, when the second World War pushed the Mill Hill Missionaries out of Osing mission, the faith that had been planted would have died immediately as they left.”

He continued, “If the Lord had not been on our side, when the difficult terrain and the hot climate made life difficult for the early missionaries, they would have abandoned their mission.”

“Over the past 25 years, this diocese has come to have a long history that cannot fail to recognize the hard work of the missionaries and those who have served here, who brought the faith to us,” he said.

The Local Ordinary of Kumbo Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in September 2006 further said, “If the Lord had not been on our side, when the local population resisted the faith, the missionaries would have given up.” 

In recent times, he went on to say referring to 2016, the start of the conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent, “if the Lord had not been on our side, when the anglophone crisis pitched its tent in Mamfe Diocese, the war would have swallowed us alive.”


Bishop Nkuo continued, “If the Lord had not been on our side, when the gun battles made life unbearable for the people of this Diocese, they would have been swallowed alive. If the Lord had not been on our side when churches, homes and medical facilities were burned to ashes, the fire would have swallowed us alive. If the Lord had not been on our side when Priests, Religious and laypeople were kidnapped and tortured, these Diocese would have been swallowed alive.”

“Amidst the challenges, our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth,” the Bishop of Kumbo said, referencing Psalm 124:8.

“Our history cannot fail us to recognize the ceaseless efforts of the catechists and the laypeople and the teachers who have worked hard to bring about the growth of the faith in this diocese,” he went on to say during the Eucharistic celebration that the Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon, Archbishop José Avelino Bettencourt, presided over.

Bishop Nkuo also recognized with appreciation the “hard work and the dedication of the pioneer Bishop of Mamfe, Francis Teke Lysinge Francis and the outstanding and visible contribution of his successors: Archbishop Andrew Nkea and Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo.”

The Cameroonian Catholic Church leader went on to highlight some challenges that Mamfe Diocese has been exposed to, including the fact that the Episcopal See has been “attacked in word and writing over the social media.”

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“With today's modern media, every scene, and even imagined scenes of every member of the church is instantly and universally broadcast to the world in an attempt to bring down the church,” he added in his February 22 homily.

Drawing inspiration from the Gospel of the day, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, when Jesus assures Peter that no evil shall prevail against the Church, Bishop Nkuo said, “The church in the Diocese of Mamfe is built on rock, and even the critics of ecclesiastical hierarchy cannot bring it down. The church in the Diocese of Mamfe is built on the rock of unity, and even the promoters of disunity and tribalism cannot bring it down.”

He called upon members of the Clergy of Mamfe Diocese to rally behind their shepherd, and work towards making the Diocese a “beautiful church for the lord.”

“I also invite you, the religious, to rally behind your Bishop and continue to make this Diocese really one family, and invite you, the Christians, to collaborate with your Priests and to promote the spread of the gospel,” Bishop Nkuo said, and emphasized, “Unity is not a luxury, but a necessity. At 25 years, the church in the diocese of Mamfe should be represented as one.”

“A unified church is too powerful for the devil; it can stand any challenge. But the divided church remains vulnerable, weak and powerless in the face of any challenge,” he said.

The Local Ordinary of Kumbo further said, “As we celebrate the Silver jubilee of our beloved Diocese, we need a church that loves even when everyone seems to hate. We need a repentant church. We need a challenging and slightly comfortable church, and we need a prayerful church.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.