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At Burial, Cameroon’s Cardinal Eulogized as Promoter of Communion, Human Dignity, Justice

The Late Archbishop emeritus of Cameroon's Douala Archdiocese, Christian Cardinal Tumi who was laid to rest on 20 April 2021. Courtesy Photo

The late Cameroon’s Christian Cardinal Tumi has been, at his burial Tuesday, April 20, remembered for fostering reconciliation, communion, human dignity, and justice in the Central African nation.

The Archbishop emeritus of Cameroon’s Douala Archdiocese who died April 3 at the age of 90 was laid to rest inside Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral of the Cameroonian Archdiocese during the Funeral Mass that was graced by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo of Burkina Faso, and the Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon (and Equatorial Guinea), Archbishop Julio Murat, among other Church leaders and dignitaries.

In his speech just before Cardinal Tumi was laid to rest, the Archbishop of DRC’s Kinshasa Archdiocese eulogized Cardinal Tumi as “a prophet dedicated to the promotion of the dignity of the human person in Cameroon, Africa, and beyond.”

“Cardinal Tumi was a pastor who was dedicated to the welfare of all Cameroonians. As a promoter of reconciliation, he was devoted to promoting communion and unity among men. He gave his life for unity and community to reign among men,” Cardinal Ambongo said April 20.

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“The death of Christian Cardinal Tumi, a great man of God saddens us all because of the great love we had for him,” the Congolese Cardinal further said, and continued, “That is why in the name of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) I am here to pay him a vibrant homage and express the solidarity of the Church in DR Congo to the Catholic Church in Cameroon and the Archdiocese of Douala in particular.” 

He acknowledged the efforts of the late Cardinal made in fostering human life, adding that Church leaders in Africa would carry on initiatives that promote human dignity.

“Dear Christian Cardinal Tumi, in the name of my fellow brother Bishops and cardinals in Africa, I want to assure you that the precious battle you fought for the respect of human dignity and justice will not end with your death,” the member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) said in his speech during the Funeral Mass.

He continued, “We will continue your fight for life, for the respect of human dignity. You leave us a legacy; pray to God to help us in this fight and inspire in us loud prophetic voices like prophet Amos for the radical and integral salvation of all persons created in the image of God.”

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“I implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the foot of the cross to lead you to his son Jesus Christ in glory. Rest in Peace,” the Congolese Cardinal implored.

Ordained a Priest in 1966, late Cardinal Tumi, the first to be named Cardinal Cameroon, was appointed Bishop of  Yagoua Diocese in December 1979 and ordained Bishop in January 1980.

Two years later, he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Garoua and succeeded Archbishop Yves-Joseph-Marie Plumey in March 1984.

He was elevated to Cardinal in June 1988 and transferred to the Archdiocese of Douala in 1991.

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In his homily during the Funeral Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, Archbishop Murat eulogized the late Cardinal as a man of God whose “faith was nourished through living the gospel and fervent prayer.”

“Cardinal Tumi had a lively hope in Christ more than what we can hope or ask for today; a fervent charity to those in need without any publicity,” Archbishop Murat said adding, in reference to Saint Paul, “The Cardinal fought a good fight, he has finished the race, and he kept the faith.”

The representative of the Holy Father further described the late Cardinal as an “example of a Pastor who placed his joy and confidence in God who provides everything.”

“As a Priest in Bamenda, Bishop in Yagoua, Archbishop in Garoua and Douala, until the end of his earthly life he endeavored to help not only those who knocked on his door but also those he knew were in need,” he went on to say, adding that Cardinal Tumi “didn’t have a personal bank account; he didn’t acquire luxurious houses or cars; he had confidence in divine providence. In his life, everything was for the Church and of the Church.”

“Let us ask the Lord to receive his soul in his Kingdom and for him to pray for us and the Church that he loved so passionately,” Archbishop Murat implored and asked the late Cardinal “to pray for our county Cameroon for God to give peace and understanding to this land.”

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On his part, the Archbishop of Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou Archdiocese who doubles as the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) eulogized the Late Cardinal as “a great and devoted Clergy whose support to the Church family of God in Africa and Madagascar was very remarkable.”

“Cardinal Tumi was a member of SECAM for 41 years and assumed with generosity and effectiveness the presidency of SECAM from 1991 to 1994,” Cardinal Ouédraogo said.

Making reference to Pope Francis’ condolence message, the Burkinabé Cardinal said, “Cardinal Tumi was dedicated in the defense of democracy and the promotion of human rights.”

“He was an ardent defender of peace, social justice and the common good. He received the Nelson Mandela Prize in 2019 for his work in peace building and justice in Cameroon,” Cardinal Ouédraogo said April 20.

He continued, “In different ways, Cardinal Tumi touched the lives of many people. His death is a great loss not only for the Church family of God but also for people of all conditions in Africa and Madagascar.”

“The African continent and the Universal Church have lost a great servant, a good shepherd, renowned prince and a shining star among the people. The deceased relentlessly fought for peace and justice in his country and was even kidnapped in his old age,” Cardinal Ouédraogo who has been at the helm of SECAM since July 2019 eulogized.

“We join our voices to that of the Holy Father and other leaders to continue his work and appeal for all illegal arms to be dropped by all engaged in conflict in Cameroon,” the Church leader said during the April 20 Funeral Mass.

Cardinal Ouédraogo added, “We also plead for an end to all forms of violence and terrorism in Africa. May all parties in conflict resolve their differences amicably through an open and frank dialogue in a spirit of fraternity, respect and mutual understanding in view of true reconciliation in justice and lasting peace.”

He recalled the efforts the late Cardinal was making toward lasting peace in Cameroon saying, “Let the local and national security and defense forces protect the lives of all, in particular civilians, and restore peace in the country.”

The 76-year-old Cardinal called on the people of God in Africa “to intensify prayers to God for an end to violence in this nation and elsewhere and for lasting peace and peaceful coexistence.”

The late Cardinal has is also been remembered for his efforts in promoting Priestly vocations the capacity building of Priests in Cameroon.

“Thanks to your engagement, many vocations have been born, many Priests were carefully followed and trained to serve the Church,” Archbishop Faustin Ambassa of Cameroon’s Garoua Archdiocese said in his speech in reference to Cardinal Tumi.

Archbishop Ambassa added in reference to the ministry of the Cardinal, “Religious communities were promoted and encouraged, families were edified and oriented on their specific role in the Church and society, catechists were trained, Churches and chapels were built as well as schools and health centers.”

“Dear Father, now that you are ready to go to the Lord, we thank you. Go well,” the Cameroonian Archbishop said.

For the President of the national Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Bishop Abraham Kome, the demise of Cardinal Tumi who tirelessly fought for peace in the troubled Anglophone regions, should be “an opportunity for the warring parties to come to the table of dialogue for a lasting solution to the conflict.”

“Would Cameroonians abandon the key values Cardinal Tumi fought for?” he posed, adding, “let us put an end to this useless war in the Anglophone regions of our country.”

On his part, Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Cameroon’s Douala Archdiocese said, “Cardinal Tumi wanted to see a country of peace and justice but he has died when the country is in insecurity.”

“Cameroonians in one way or the other are responsible for the insecurity reigning in Cameroon today,” Archbishop Kleda further said, and added, “Injustice, insecurity, tribalism, corruption and all sorts of vices have overwhelmed the country.”

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya who was represented at the burial event by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute posthumously elevated the late Cardinal to the dignity of Commander of the Order of Valour, one of the highest distinctions in the country.

The late Cardinal’s efforts towards peace in Cameroon and his solidarity with the marginalized in society have been acknowledged with appreciation.

He had been vocal, cautioning against bad governance, rampant corruption and electoral malpractices. He was a renowned supporter of peace initiatives in the Central African nation.

At the peak of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, the late Cardinal launched a nationwide crusade advocating for peace in the troubled Northwest and Southwest regions.

“The popular initiative for peace that we want to put in place will not be a rosary, incantations, a profession of faith or an avenue for strong declarations,” Cardinal Tumi said in August 2019, and added, “The crisis can no longer be healed by simple words or condemnation, but with concrete actions on the field.”

Last November, Cardinal Tumi was abducted in the troubled Northwest region of Cameroon and freed after a night with his captors.