From September 1-7, 2014, the Bishops of Cameroon paid an Ad Limina visit to Rome. The President of Cameroon’s National Episcopal Conference and Douala Archbishop, Mgr. Samuel Kléda, led the delegation. He now reexamines the visit in greater detail. Excerpts:
An Ad Limina visit is an important step in the communion between the Pope and the Bishops. Every Episcopal conference is expected to go to Rome once in five years to, first, pray over the tombs of St. Peter and Paul and second, to brief and discuss with the Holy Father on its pastoral and missionary activities. We also presented dicastery and Pontifical Council reports to the Holy Father on the different activities of our Church. In a nutshell, we presented the evangelisation activities of our Church to the Holy Father.
May we know what the Holy Father thought about the functioning of the Church that is in Cameroon during the visit?
Discussions with Pope Francis were held in a fraternal, frank and cordial atmosphere. The Pope wanted to know the work we are doing and we explained. We also asked questions to the Pope to know how he works and what he thinks of the Church’s future. An Ad Limina visit is usually an occasion of frank dialogue between the Holy Father and the Bishops. Pope Francis is very simple and since he was elected he is still not living in the Pontifical apartment but continues to live in the guest house where he received us. He loves personal contacts with everyone. Parishioners of Rome join him twice every week to celebrate Mass in his private chapel at the Domus Sanctae Marthae and we were also very happy to celebrate Mass with him there.
Did the Holy Father give any specific orientations to the Church that is in Africa generally and Cameroon in particular?
It was not about receiving new pastoral orientations as they are already there. We have been holding synods since Pope Benedict XVI’s reign during which emphasis has been laid on the Word of God and charity. Pope Benedict even convened a synod on New Evangelisation during which emphasis was laid on how to preach the Gospel in a way that it profoundly touches the faithful’s hearts. And Pope Francis has written an exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, which also focuses on how to preach the Word of God in our contemporary context. The Second Vatican Council had already mapped out the path insisting that the Gospel must not be a hermetically closed entity, but should be a message of love, peace and joy that seeks to profoundly touch Man’s heart.
Speaking over Radio Vatican before your visit to Rome you discussed insecurity in northern Cameroon that is seriously affecting pastoral activities. Did you also discuss this disturbing situation with the Holy Father during your visit?
We discussed the situation quite broadly and I even raised it in the address I presented to the Pope. As there are more than 30 Bishops in Cameroon today, including retired and auxiliary Bishops, we divided ourselves into two groups and this permitted us to discuss this problem in a serious manner with the Pope and what can be done to solve it. As a Church the solution for us is prayer and dialogue. We therefore call on the leaders of the sub-region to coordinate their activities and put an end to the activities of these terrorist groups which understand nothing but a language of war and violence.
Did you discuss the beatification of Baba Simon and are there any prospects it could be admitted?
For the fist time the Dicastery for The Causes of Saints was received and Baba Simon’s case was effectively discussed. His cause has been introduced in Rome for his beatification and eventual canonisation. The inquiry has been completed and everything has been forwarded to Rome. The dossier is following its normal course and we are now waiting for a miracle. The faithful should therefore ask Baba Simon to intercede for them for the causes they are presenting to God. It is God who cures through the person and this authenticates the person’s sainthood. We are therefore waiting for a miracle.