Vatican Clarifies Mandate of a Cameroonian Bishop amid Controversy

Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi, Apostolic Administrator of Cameroon’s Buea Diocese.

The Holy Father has, through the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, clarified the mandate of Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi as the Apostolic Administrator of Cameroon’s Buea Diocese, amid ongoing controversy in the country’s oldest diocese.

The June 15 clarification that was announced by the Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, Archbishop Julio Murat follows controversies triggered by changes, which Bishop Bibi made at the Catholic University Institute of Buea (CUIB).

“The Apostolic Administrator is having jurisdiction to act for and on behalf of the Diocese of Buea in all matters concerning the Diocese and all other Institutions belonging to the Diocese,” Archbishop Murat writes and indicates that his declaration follows “the high instructions of the Congregation of the Holy See for the Evangelization of the Peoples.”

The representative of the Holy Father in Cameroon since March 2018 adds, “The same Apostolic Administrator is responsible for all the temporal goods and patrimony of the Diocese of Buea and of all the Diocesan Institutions and is answerable directly to the Holy Father through the Apostolic Nunciature in Yaounde.”

On June 11, Bishop Bibi made changes at CUIB, appointing Professor Victor Julius Ngoh as Vice Chancellor, a position previously held by Fr. George Nkeze Jingwa, whom the Bishop asked to take a sabbatical leave.

The University Council disapproved of the change, writing in reaction, “Bishop Bibi’s actions have reached unprecedented levels of commotion resulting to publications of articles a reasonable person would consider not kind to the Bishop or the position he holds.”

In a letter of complaint addressed to the Administrative Board of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), Sobe Clive Ndikum who has been serving as the legal representative of the University described the change at CUIB as “improper interference”.

The newly appointed President of CUIB “has caused irreparable damage and mistrust amongst students, faculty members, the laity and other well-wishers of our Christian Community by making uninformed, ill-advised and rash decisions beyond the scope of his mandate and authority,” the lawyer who runs the Intellectum Law Firm wrote June 11, the same day the changes were announced.

Against this backdrop, the representative of Pope Francis in the country declared that Bishop Bibi, in his capacity as “the Apostolic Administrator is the legitimate authority over all priests, Religious and other mission personnel within the Diocese of Buea and reserves the right to appoint, transfer, remove, or dismiss persons according to the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law and the specific instructions given to him by the Holy See.” 

“This document is valid until the Holy Father appoints a new diocesan Bishop to the Diocese of Buea and he takes charge of the office. Only then, the authority of the Apostolic Administrator ceases,” Turkish-born Archbishop Murat who has served as Apostolic Nuncio in Zambia and Malawi declared in his June 15 statement.

Following the Nuncio’s clarification, Bishop Bibi has announced the termination of the services of Sobe’s firm to the 10-year-old Catholic University, which offers training in entrepreneurship.

“As the sole legitimate authority over the Diocese of Buea, and as the Chancellor and Proprietor of the Catholic University Institute of Buea,” Bishop Bibi wrote June 16, declaring “that, Barrister Sobe Clive of Intellectum Law Firm has not been authorized to institute any action on behalf of the Catholic University Institute of Buea.”

Bishop Bibi, 48, was appointed as the Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese last December. He is a Clergy of Cameroon’s Bamenda Diocese where he serves as Auxiliary Bishop since his appointment in January 2017.

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