Pope Francis has promoted a Cameroonian Bishop known for his emphasis on family, community, and traditional values to head an Archdiocese in the Central African country.
In the Monday, December 30 announcement, the Holy See Press Office confirmed that the Holy Father appointed Bishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese as the new Archbishop of Bamenda.
Bishop Nkea, 54, who has served as the Bishop of Mamfe since 2014 came to international attention during the 2018 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) has reported.
In contrast to the situation in many European countries, CNA noted, Bishop Nkea said that the Church in Cameroon and in many parts of Africa is growing – including among young peoples.
“My churches are all bursting, and I don’t have space to keep the young people,” Bishop Nkea was quoted as saying during a Vatican press conference in October last year.
He added, “My shortest Mass would be about two and a half hours.”
A 2018 study by Pew Research found that church attendance and prayer frequency was highest in sub-Saharan Africa and lowest in Western Europe.
Four out of five Christians in Cameroon said that they pray every day.
The Archbishop-elect was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buéa, Cameroon, in 1992, at the age of 26. In 2013, he was appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Mamfe and became the diocesan bishop the following year.
Following the Anglophone crisis that has affected his country, the Cameroonian Prelate has had to take the painful decision of suspending priestly apostolate in some of his parishes, withdrawing priests due to multiple incidences of kidnapping and harassment.
“I have withdrawn all the priests from the Parishes of Kembong, Ossing and Eyumojock and they will be out of the Parishes till further notice,” the Archbishop-elect stated in a November pastoral letter seen by ACI Africa.
“I have suspended all development projects in these parishes because the very people for whom the projects are meant, have made the areas unsafe for any development, and even those who work on these projects are not safe,” the Prelate explained,
His decision, the Prelate noted, “will hold good for any other parish where the people decide to harass their priests.”
The Archbishop-elect’s new see, 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.
During the Synod on young people, the Archbishop-elect credited the Church’s growth in Cameroon to the alignment between Church teaching and the values of wider society, and the strength of the family as a cultural institution.
“People ask me, ‘Why are your churches full?’” Nkea said in 2018, to which he responded, “Coming from Africa, the family is a very, very strong institution.”
“We come from a culture in which tradition normally is handed from one generation to the other,” Nkea explained.
The Archbishop-elect has also spoken about the need for the Church to teach unambiguously on issues of morals and sexuality, remarking during the 2018 synod that he would not accept any usage of so-called LGBT terminology in Church documents because “99.9 percent” of the young people in his diocese would “stand at my door and say, ‘What’s this?’”
“Our traditional values still equate to the values of the Church, and so we hand over the tradition to our young people undiluted and uncontaminated,” he continued, noting that a strong sense of community in the Church is something “very important that Europe can learn from Africa.”
In Africa, the newly-named Archbishop said, “there’s still a lot of things we do as community. That is the difference.”
“What we are trying to do in these small Christian communities is to fight the in-creeping of individualism,” the Cameroonian Prelate said.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, December 28, the Holy Father appointed Fr. Augustine Ndubueze Echema of the clergy of Owerri as Bishop of Nigeria’s Aba Diocese.
Appointed on his birthday, the 61-year-old Bishop-elect has been Professor of Liturgy at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Port Harcourt.
He was ordained priest in August 1986 and holds a doctorate in Theology obtained from Germany-based “Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen” in Frankfurt am Main.
He has also previously served as Formator, Chaplain, and Parish Priest.
Since 1996, he has been the Chairperson of the Owerri Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.