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General News of Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Canonisation of John Xiii, John Paul II - President Biya At History-Making Event

The presence of the Head of State and Wife, Chantal at the Vatican signifies the direct impact of the event on Cameroon.

Two popes canonised on the same day, two popes present at the occasion, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis; the sanctified popes sharing long-standing relations with Cameroon while the two existing popes are equally on record as true friends of Cameroon. Such is the essence for Cameroon being present at the ceremony at the Vatican on Sunday 27 April 2014. President Paul Biya and wife, Chantal sought to mark the attachment that the country has for the values which the 'Holy popes' represent and how they meet the aspirations and concerns of Cameroon and the Head of State.

The bond goes further to include the fact that it was Pope John XXIII who gave Cameroonian Christians their first indigenous Bishop while Pope John Paul II not only visited Cameroon twice, but travelled to four major towns in the country namely; Yaounde, Douala, Bamenda and Garoua during his first visit in 1985.

Pope Francis who received President Paul Biya last year as one of the first African leaders to the Vatican following his election in March 2013, equally took time after the high Mass on Sunday to appreciate the presence of the Presidential couple at the occasion at the St Peter's Square. Both leaders had a brief exchange before the Pontiff took a ride round the prayer ground to acknowledge the heavy attendance and communion with the thousands of faithful who turned out to honour the works of popes John XXIII and John Paul II as well as pray for their own salvation.

In the five years of Pope John XXIII's pontificate, he was seen as "an authentic image of the Good Shepherd. Meek and gentle, resourceful and courageous, simple and ever active, ... welcoming people of all nations and religious, demonstrating an exquisite sense of fatherhood to everyone." Such a policy of openness has been visible in Cameroon under President Paul Biya with the heavy influx of refugees and peoples of several neighbouring countries. The overtly religious inclination of the population could also have been a contributory factor to the hospitality that Cameroonians have shown to the refugees.

Concerning Pope John Paul II, the fact that he made one of the most significant declarations in the life of the Church in Africa, the "Post Synodal Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa" on Cameroonian soil during his second visit in the country in 1995 could be enough justification for the decision by the Cameroon Head of State to personally attain Pope John Paul II's passage to sainthood. Under Pope John Paul II, Cameroonian youth have had a multitude of university institutions that offer quality education with the Catholic University of Central Africa created in 1989 having its headquarters in Yaounde. Other catholic universities in Bamenda, Douala, Buea and Bertoua serve as valuable yardsticks for the extent of growth in ties between Cameroon and the Vatican. Thus, after President Biya's audience with Pope Francis last year, the Head of State agreed on the signing of a special statute between Cameroon and the Vatican granting state protection to the many assets of the Catholic in the country.

The values of peace and stability that Cameroon today enjoys and the recent launch of mega development projects in the country easily point to the fact that the Head of State found enough inspiration in the works of such world and spiritual leaders as Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Being at their sanctification therefore was a sure message of the value that the Head of State would want Cameroonians to adopt.

Not also negligible is the fact that since the creation of diplomatic relations between Cameroon and the Vatican in 1966, the number of Catholic primary, secondary and high schools as well as hospitals has continued to increase, with some of the best results recorded by the Catholic schools. The Catholic Church in Cameroon has also grown rapidly with five dioceses, a Cardinal, 31 bishops with 23 of them Cameroonians, 1,781 priest, and 2,155 religious among others