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Cameroonians Encouraged to Emulate St. Joseph’s Discerning Silence amid Protracted Crisis

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon during the opening Mass of their 44th annual seminar in the Diocese of Bafang.

A Catholic Bishop in Cameroon has called on the people of God in the Central African nation to embrace fraternity and prayerful silence in the example of St. Joseph as they continue to experience violence that dates back to 2016.

In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the 44th annual seminar of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC) members, Bishop Abraham Boualo Kome said that the year dedicated to St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Spouse, is specifically important to the Bishops in Cameroon and to the entire Church in the country.

“Saint Joseph was the guide of the Holy Family. There is a link between Saint Joseph and the Bishops in the aspect of taking care of God’s family,” Bishop Kome told ACI Africa Monday, January 11 at Heberle and Sarron Diocesan Pastoral Center in Cameroon’s Bafang Diocese.

Bishop Kome who is the President of NECC told ACI Africa that as the Patron of the Universal Church, “Saint Joseph, therefore, becomes for us Bishops an icon, a model because we have a mission to guide God’s people. His life should inspire us bishops to better take care of the flock entrusted to us.”

Pope Francis proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from 8 December 2020 to 8 December this year, calling upon the people of God all over the world to celebrate “a man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

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With the Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis describes St. Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.

St. Joseph is not only an inspiration to the Bishops but also to Christians, Bishop Kome told ACI Africa, explaining that St. Joseph “silent attitude is an example for Cameroonians to emulate.”

“In our society today, we spend time shouting at each other, criticizing each other and we want to dominate others,” the Cameroonian Bishop noted, adding that St. Joseph challenges this reality, pointing “out the attitude of silence to better discern and embrace our fellow brothers and Sisters.”

“We only discover St. Joseph in practice and not in speeches. Members of government, our family members, and all Christians should be people of action and not words in the image of Saint Joseph,” Bishop Kome said.

Themed “National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon and its Future”, the weeklong seminar of the Bishops in Cameroon will entail a review of NECC’s various Episcopal commissions.

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The members of NECC also plan to review Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti issue 3 October 2020.

They have also planned to deliberate on issues affecting Cameroon, key among them the Anglophone crisis in which at least 3,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations, and over a million forced from their homes.

In the Monday, January interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Kome noted that the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti is especially important to NECC members and the people of God in Cameroon.

“We have always pointed in our previous meetings that there is a deficit of fraternity in the world in general and in our country Cameroon in particular,” the 51-year-old Bishop said.

He explained, “We see the marks of this lack of fraternity in the barbaric acts of violence in the Anglophone regions of our country and in the Northern region where for many years the army has been fighting the Boko haram insurgency.”

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“Pope Francis’s Encyclical Fratelli Tutti is particularly addressed to the people of God in Cameroon. In this important document, the Pope calls on us to be our brother’s keeper,” he further said, adding, “If truly we are our brother’s keeper, we must protect them, respect them, and avoid any form of violence.”

For the President of NECC, if Fratelli Tutti is applied in Cameroon, and put into practice by all Cameroonians, there will not be any violence and bloodshed.

All the crises witnessed today, Bishop Kome said, are a result of the refusal to accept each other as brothers and sisters.

A better understanding of the Encyclical and its application in day-to-day interactions will restore peace in Cameroon and especially in families, the Local Ordinary of Cameroon’s Bafang Diocese observed.

“When the culture of fraternity is implanted in our families, it can easily be spread in our society. On this point, we are counting on the small Christian communities to help spread this renewed fraternity especially in the troubled regions of our country,” the Bishop said.

On his part, the Vice President of NECC, Archbishop Andrew Nkea, observed, in an interview with ACI Africa, that owing to the challenges of COVID-19, coupled with the conflict in some regions of Cameroon, the Church in the country needs “to rediscover the love of Christ in our fellow brothers and sisters,” hence the concern raised about fraternity by the Bishops who are meeting in the country.

“Given Modernism, materialism, violence has gripped the whole world and we think that it is time for our conference to be able to adapt itself and have a different view and a different way of looking at things so that the episcopal conference of Cameroon can be relevant to the subjects that are being treated today, to the reality we are living both in Cameroon and in the world,” the Archbishop told ACI Africa.

He added, “The Holy Father Pope Francis published the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti in which he emphasized on universal brotherhood and we think that if there is war, fighting, and crises everywhere, it is because of the lack of brotherhood.”

“We are all brothers and sisters and we have to protect the life of each other. And if we protect the life of each other, we care for each other, then there will not be fighting, there will not be egoism and there will not be exploitation,” the Archbishop of Cameroon’s Bamenda Archdiocese said.

Highlighting the situation of the crisis in the country, Archbishop Nkea said the people of God in Cameroon are experiencing “relative” calm.

“For some time now, we have been living in relative calm and activities gradually returning to normal but we still have cases of violence and bloodshed,” he said.

He explained in recollection, “We recall the recent killing of five people in Matazem and the explosion on a convoy that also left five people dead.”

“I want to condemn in the strongest terms this violence and appeal to the perpetrators to change from the evil ways,” Archbishop Nkea said, adding, “We renew calls for dialogue for true peace to return in the Anglophone regions.”