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Vatican’s Secretary of State Assures Cameroonians of Pope Francis’ “closeness, prayers”

Pietro Cardinal Parolin addressing the faithful during Mass at the St. Joseph cathedral Bamenda on 31 January 2021.

The Secretary of State of the Vatican who is in Cameroon for a weeklong visit has assured the people of God in the Central African nation of Pope Francis’ solidarity amid the protracted Anglophone crisis.

In his Sunday, January 31 message, Pietro Cardinal Parolin called on the warring parties to seek dialogue saying, “violence never solves problems.”

“The Hoy Father carries you in his heart and assures you of his closeness and prayers,” Cardinal Parolin who arrived in Cameroon on January 28 said.

Making reference to the conflict in the North Western and South Western Anglophone regions of the country, which started in 2016, the Vatican-based Cardinal added, “The Pope is well aware of the difficulties which you have experienced in recent years and are still experiencing.”

Addressing himself to the close to 5,000 Christians who gathered at St. Joseph’s cathedral of Bamenda Archdiocese January 31, Cardinal Parolin further said that the Holy Father “asked the Lord to console you but in particular those who have been victims of violence, war who have lost friends and loved ones in this crisis.”

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“The Holy Father unites himself to the desire for peace and reconciliation that rises up to God from this precious land,” the 66-year-old Cardinal said.

The Anglophone regions of Cameroon, the North West and the South West, plunged into conflict in 2016 after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

An armed separatists’ movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia emerged following the government’s crackdown on protesters.

Since then, 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 at least 3,000 lives have been lost during the four-year skirmishes.

In his January 31 homily, Cardinal Parolin reflected on the protracted crisis in Cameroon saying, “Violence never solves problems, it only creates more problems.”

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“Dialogue is the best way to solve conflicts and misunderstandings,” the Cardinal underscored, adding, “Peace is a journey of hope, dialogue and reconciliation.”

The Italian-born Cardinal further said, “We are all responsible for peace. All the actors of society are responsible from the smallest to the biggest person. No one can feel exonerated from the struggle against evil.”

He went on to express hope “that finally arms might be laid down so that peace and reconciliation may reign within us and around us.” 

“Let us train ourselves every day for this battle, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might,” he added.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State also invited the people of God in Cameroon’s troubled regions “never to stop marveling at the fundamental mystery of our Christian faith. The Mystery of the son of God who became man for our salvation and our liberation.”

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“May the Lord grant us ever to have confidence in his word, to hope in his liberating strength to marvel at the love with which he sustains us. May He always be close to every one of you and be present in your hearts by his peace,” he implored.

“May the marvelous gift of peace shine forth to every corner of this beloved land and upon every person who lives here,” the Vatican Cardinal further implored at the January 31 Eucharistic celebration during which, on behalf of the Holy Father, he bestowed on Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya the pallium, a symbol of the latter’s participation in Papal authority.

Addressing Cardinal Parolin during the celebration, Archbishop Nkea said, “We feel very happy today and full of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Father Pope Francis has sent his Secretary of State to visit us in our diocese. This visit means a whole lot to the people of Bamenda in particular and to the Ecclesiastical Province in general.”

“Your visit comes at a time when the people of this Ecclesiastical Province corresponding to the civil territorial circumscription of the North West and South West regions of Cameroon have seen a lot of suffering,” the Cameroonian Archbishop told Cardinal Parolin.

He continued, “Many of our people have suffered a lot from a situation they didn't create. Thousands are either internally displaced or have escaped as refugees.”

The 55-year-old Archbishop continued to highlight the negative effects of the crisis saying, “Businesses were shut down and for about four years, our children were not allowed to go to school. Children were used as baits for political motives and struggle.”

“Many Priests, Religious, Bishops and Lay people of this province have either been beaten, harassed or even killed in this conflict and yet the Church continues to carry the gospel message as the light of hope to a traumatized people,” he further said.

Speaking on behalf of the people of God in Cameroon, the Local Ordinary of Bamenda Archdiocese described Cardinal Parolin as one signaling peace and reconciliation in the country.

“We see you as a messenger of peace, as an ambassador of reconciliation, as a promoter of justice and in you; we see the presence of the Holy Father Pope Francis himself amongst us,” Archbishop Nkea said.

“Your presence is a consoling presence, his blessings bring peace, and his words come as the anointing for the wounds of those who are bleeding,” the Archbishop further said, adding, “We shall not waste the chance that your presence offers us to contribute and work for peace and justice and reconciliation.”

He acknowledged the Christian faith of the people under his pastoral care saying, “We the people of Bamenda lack many things but one thing we don't lack is faith.”

“The faith of those gathered here is greater than politics, intimidation and their presence is a proof that the devil is a liar,” the Archbishop said.

Cardinal Parolin who has been serving as Vatican’s Secretary of State since October 2013 and a Cardinal since February 2014 is expected to conclude his weeklong visit to Cameroon Wednesday, February 3.