Prelates in Cameroon Express Solidarity with Their “brother Bishop” amid Controversy

Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province.
Credit: Buea Diocese/Facebook Page

Catholic Bishops in Cameroon’s Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province have, in a collective message, expressed their “complete solidarity” with the Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese who has been besieged by administrative controversies, the main one being the changes he decreed for the leadership of the Catholic University Institute of Buea (CUIB).

In June, 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.

Members of the University Council disapproved of the change and dragged Bishop Michael Bibi, the Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese to court.

“We, the Bishops of BAPEC (Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference), do not only condemn such disobedience and damage caused to the local Church, but also express complete solidarity with our brother Bishop, the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Buea,” the members of BAPEC say in their collective statement sent to ACI Africa Tuesday, September 29.

The Bishops who issued their statement at the end of the 69th BAPEC meeting on September 26 note “with regret the sad events that have characterized the last couple of months in the Diocese of Buea, regarding some administrative acts posited by the legitimate Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, His Lordship Michael Miabesue Bibi.”

In June, Pope Francis, through the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples (Propaganda Fide), clarified the mandate of Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi as the Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese.

“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,” the representative of the Holy Father in Cameroon, Archbishop Julio Murat clarified in a statement issued June 15.

In their collective message, the Bishops of BAPEC call on the Laity, Priests, Religious men and women in Cameroon’s oldest Diocese to “pledge and express their unflinching support to their “protem” legitimate Chief Shepherd, whose governance of the Church of Buea is greatly esteemed ecclesiastically.”

“We call on those trying to destabilize the Church of Buea and calumnise the Bishops of our Province to desist from such demonic acts, repent of their sins and ask God for his boundless mercy,” they add.

The Bishops of the 6 Dioceses located in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon that has been paralyzed by violent conflict also appeal for peace.

“As first-hand witnesses to the sufferings of our people, join our voices to the voice of Our Holy Father Pope Francis and many other world leaders, calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon,” they say. 

The two English speaking regions of the country have been plunged into conflict since 2016, after a strike action of lawyers and teachers turned violent.

The violent conflict has led to the displacement of over 679,000 people. More than 600,000 children have not been able to go to school in the two regions, and more than 3,000 lives have been lost in the four-year conflict.

In their September 26 statement, the members of BAPEC express appreciation to the government for releasing 333 political prisoners in October 2019 and urge the country’s leadership to set free all those connected with the crisis

“In order that the ceasefire may be effective, we call for the release of all prisoners connected with the Anglophone crisis as a step in the direction of a resolution of the crisis,” they say and continue, “This will go a long way to pacify the fighters on the ground and get the released prisoners to act as agents for the attainment of justice and peace in our communities.” 

The Prelates reiterate their August 2019 message appealing for the resumption of schools in the Anglophone regions saying, “Once again, we call on all parents to send their children to school for the 2020/2021 School Year, so that their future can be guaranteed in a competitive world of academics and technological accomplishments.”

They urge “those who have acted as a threat to the education of our children and/or have blocked it and are using our children as a shield for political gains, to give the children a chance to build their own future.”

“May Christ, the Prince of Peace, grant justice and peace once again in the North West and South West Regions. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Queen of Peace, intercede for us,” the members of BAPEC implore.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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