(Vatican Radio) The Archbishop of Douala and President of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Most Rev. Samuel Kleda says he is optimistic about the growth and the prospects of the Catholic Church in Cameroon. He said this during an interview with Vatican Radio’s Fr. Jean-Pierre Bodjoko, SJ, of the French Africa Service.
“Our joy is to be able to reach the goal of proclaiming Jesus Christ everywhere, ” Archbishop Kleda says. According to the Archbishop, the Church in Cameroon is working hard to become self-sufficient. He says progress has been made both in terms of the proclamation of the Gospel and also with regard to numbers. Many Cameroonians appreciate and are embracing Catholicism. Similarly, vocations to the priesthood and to religious life are also said to be on the increase. The Church further says it is growing in terms of economic self-sufficiency although the latter is not a goal that can be achieved in one day.
This is not to say there are no challenges. Archbishop Kleda singles out, as a major challenge, the need to proclaim the Gospel in such a way that it touches the hearts of every believer. He says the faithful need to believe in a way that shows that their lives are truly converted. This will show itself in their commitment to be true witnesses of Jesus in the society where they live.
”The challenges or rather pastoral concerns are obviously numerous: Justice, rights and the situation of the family. To solve all these problems we need to first start with the announcement of Jesus Christ in Cameroon because this is what touches the heart of every believer,” Archbishop Kleda said.
In answer to the question whether he was concerned about the growth of sects in Cameroon, Archbishop Kleda says these are a source of concern but not necessarily a threat to the Catholic Church.
“Yes it is true that there are some Catholics who leave the Church and join sects but these religious sects, in my opinion, are not a threat. However, some, such as the “Rose Croix” and others who have strong methods of proselytising can become a problem in that some Catholics begin to lead a double life. Our biggest challenge is to make sure that our Catholic faithful are rooted in their own faith”.
The Archbishop has further reaffirmed the commitment of the Church in Cameroon to implement the resolutions of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa which had as its theme: "The Church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace”.
“We are working hard in the area of justice and reconciliation. Our approach is first to enter into dialogue with society. For example, during the country’s general elections, the Church plays an active role, through the formation of Catholics who act as election observers. In addition, the Bishops' Conference regularly publishes pastoral letters. The Bishops also make it a point to meet political leaders for dialogue with the view to promote peace and reconciliation in the nation. Whenever there are conflicts in the country, the Bishops actively intervene either directly or through other Church structures to help find peaceful solutions to problem areas. We must always remember that peace comes about through respecting every human person. Peace is above, as Pope Paul VI said, “not merely the absence of war…peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the respect for the dignity of persons and peoples’ ” Archbishop Kleda emphasised.
In view of the forthcoming Synod on the Family, Archbishop Kleda says, “I must say it (Questionnaire) was well-prepared and we diligently answered the questionnaire… we will put in place pastoral plans for the family and harmonise diocesan commissions in line with the exhortation to be published. So we are seriously working hard to make the idea the African family viable in order that it becomes the true “domestic Church” that we spoke of in the First African Synod”.
Archbishop Kleda also touched on concerns regarding attacks by the terrorist Islamic group, Boko Haram of Nigeria which has recently carried out attacks in Cameroon. The Archbishop says, “In Cameroon, particularly in the North, now almost all the missionaries of foreign nationality have left the region. So the (Boko Haram) attacks have serious consequences on our pastoral activities especially those of the missionaries. The Boko Haram insurgency is a worry for the Bishops of Cameroon. Cameroon also has refugees from neighbouring Central African Republic. Recently [July 19 in Douala] we organized a day of prayer for peace in Cameroon because the situation is not good”. Archbishop Kleda said in conclusion.
The Bishops of Cameroon are in Rome for their "ad limina" visit which runs from 1 to 6 September.
An ad limina visit or a “quinquennial visit ad limina” is an official visit that Catholic Bishops make every five years to meet with the Pope and report on the state of their dioceses. The Bishops also visit some offices of the Holy See. This is a tradition and practice that has been going on since 1585.
(Fr. Paul Samasumo) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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