, 25 February, 2020 / 2:49 AM
At the Eucharistic celebration organized for the canonical possession of the Metropolitan See of Bamenda in Cameroon’s troubled North West region, the new Archbishop of Bamenda, Andrew Nkea Fuanya used the occasion to remind guests present of his mission of serving the people of God entrusted to him and not a politician interested in particular persons or groups.
“Bamenda Archdiocese here I come. I come to you as a shepherd, not as a politician. I come to you as a priest, not as a businessman. I come to you as a father, not as a policeman,” Archbishop Nkea said Saturday, February 22 at his installation at Saint Joseph's Cathedral in Bamenda.
Addressing the Anglophone crisis that has paralyzed activities in Bamenda, Archbishop Nkea noted, “I come to you as a messenger of peace, not as a warmonger. I come to you as a crusader of justice, not as a supporter of injustice and misphilosophies. I come to you in spirit and in truth, not in flesh and with lies. I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The Prelate who is also the Vice President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC) underlined the preaching of the Gospel as the primary principle that will guide his ministry.
“My first duty in this Archdiocese is to preach the Gospel. My second duty is to preach the Gospel. And my third duty in this is to preach the Gospel,” the Cameroonian Prelate emphasized.
He reiterated, “Any other thing outside preaching the gospel is a distraction. I come to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I come to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.”
Among those who participated in the solemn event included Archbishop Julio Murat, Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, over 10 Catholic Bishops, Members of Government including Territorial Administration Minister Atanga Nji Paul who represented the head of state, as well as hundreds of priests and thousands of Christians.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Nkea as Local Ordinary of Bamenda on December 30, 2019.
Having served as the Bishop of Mamfe, in Cameroon’s South West region, since 2014, the Cameroonian Prelate has been known for his emphasis on family, community, and traditional values.
At his installation on Saturday, the new Archbishop also expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for his confidence in him saying, “I thank the Holy Father Pope Francis, pastor of the universal Church for appointing me in spite of my unworthiness – first as Bishop of Mamfe and then six years later as Archbishop of Bamenda.”
“The Holy Father is the symbol of unity in the whole Church. And I can only pledge my total unity, loyalty and filial obedience to him in the discharge of my duties,” Archbishop Nkea added.
The Archbishop who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buéa, Cameroon, in 1992, at the age of 26 takes over from Archbishop emeritus Cornelius Fontem Esua, who retired upon reaching the age limit.
At the Saturday event, Archbishop Nkea expressed gratitude to his predecessor, acknowledging his selfless service in the Archdiocese of Bamenda.
“I wish to express personal gratitude to His Grace the Most Rev. Cornelius Fontem Esua, Archbishop Emeritus of Bamenda who today graciously handed the pastoral responsibility of the Archdiocese to my humble person. Your Grace, it is clear that you loved this ecclesiastical province with a passion and worked for it with your whole heart and might,” Archbishop Nkea said.
On his part, Archbishop emeritus Fontem Esua rejoiced at the choice of Archbishop Nkea as the shepherd of the people of God in the Archdiocese of Bamenda saying, “The diocese is happy to have a young and dynamic bishop and I'm sure he is going to continue the work that has been started. He has a laity that is ready to work with him and the number of our clergy is equally increasing.”
Speaking to ACI Africa, Archbishop emeritus Fontem advised his successor to prioritize collaboration with the priests and faithful and preaching the gospel.
“My word of advice is that we should collaborate with one another, work together in order that we should continue to proclaim the good news and to bring that good news to everybody and to work together,” he said and added, “And I think that is the hallmark of our Church, where everybody in the family has a special role to play.”
Various dignitaries present at the installation Mass expressed the hope that the faith of the Christians will be deepened with the arrival of Archbishop Nkea.
According to Bishop Anselm Umoren, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Abuja in Nigeria, “Despite the tense situation at the moment in Bamenda, I'm impressed that God is taking care of the situation. And I want to encourage Archbishop Nkea to keep the faith, do the right thing and speak the truth at all times.”
The Archdiocese of Bamenda was erected as a diocese in 1970 and elevated to a Metropolitan Archdiocese by St. John Paul II in 1982.
The Archdiocese has, in recent years, shown clear signs of growth and evangelization. While its population remained stable at 1.4 million people between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of Catholics rose from 29 percent to 42 percent during the same period.
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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