Cardinal Parolin celebrates Mass at St Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 3, 2015. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.
On a visit to Cameroon this week, the Vatican secretary of state said he is hoping that peace and reconciliation can be found in the country, which is struggling to resolve the Anglophone crisis amid violent conflict.
“What we seek is peace and reconciliation in these regions and in the country, especially in this present situation where there are many other crises starting from the COVID-19 crisis,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin told local journalists late last week.
There is an armed separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon, formerly the British Cameroons, which has led to the displacement of over 679,000 people.
More than 600,000 children have not been able to go to school in the two regions, and at least 3,000 lives have been lost during the four-year-long skirmishes.
During a 29 January press conference at Cameroon’s Unity Palace, Parolin expressed the Holy See’s desire to see an end to the protracted conflict in the two Anglophone regions.
Peace “is the only condition to grow and achieve sustainable development everywhere,” he said.
The cardinal gave the press conference after a 29 January meeting with Cameroon’s President Paul Biya.
Parolin said that his meeting with the president focused on “all crises Cameroon is currently facing, especially the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions.”
“I am here to show the attention and solidarity of the Holy Father Pope Francis towards the Cameroonian people, especially in these difficult moments,” Parolin added.
The secretary of state is in Cameroon until tomorrow. On Sunday, 31 January, he offered Mass in Bamenda cathedral and bestowed the pallium on Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda.
Pallia are white woollen vestments adorned with six black silk crosses given to metropolitan archbishops. They symbolize the metropolitan bishop’s authority and unity with the Holy See.
In his homily, Parolin said: “The pope is well aware of the difficulties that you have experienced in recent years and which you are still experiencing. He implores the Lord’s consolation for you, especially for those who have been victims of violence or who, in this crisis, have lost friends and loved ones.”
“Evil exists and Christ is able to defeat it. It is up to us to carry on this battle every day,” the cardinal said.
He encouraged the people of Cameroon to work to resolve the violence and division in their country by first uprooting the evil in their own hearts.
“He who fights against the evil that dwells in his heart becomes a bearer of good and peace in his family, among his friends, in his community. He thus becomes a seed of hope for all,” Parolin said.
Upon arriving in Cameroon on 28 January, Cardinal Parolin said: “I am very happy to be with you. We are going to ask God to bless this visit, to bless Cameroon and the Church of Cameroon.”
Bishop Abraham Komè, president of Cameroon’s bishops’ conference, noted that an offer by the Catholic Church in Cameroon to help mediate the Anglophone crisis “has been rejected and the request for the president to receive the bishops has so far remained not granted.”
“We hope that God will take advantage of this visit to do good things for our country,” the bishop of the Bafang diocese said.
The crisis in Cameroon is rooted in the country’s colonial history. The area was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire’s defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961, but English-speakers have complained ever since of marginalization by the French-speaking majority.
A separatist movement emerged in the Southwest and Northwest regions. Violence escalated in October 2020 when gunmen attacked Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, in the Southwest Region, and opened fire on students in a classroom. Seven students aged 12 to 14 were killed.