The Bishops of Cameroon met in an extraordinary General Assembly at the headquarters of the National Episcopal Conference in Mvolyé, Yaoundé, on Tuesday, June 13 2017. At the end of this assembly, the Bishops made the following declarations:
1. The Catholic Church in Cameroon is going through a difficult and delicate moment in its history and mission. Indeed, on the morning of Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the car of His Lordship, Bishop Jean Marie Benoît BALA, Bishop of Bafia, was in an abnormal parking position on the Bridge over Sanaga River, at Ebebda, in the direction of Bafia. The Bishop was said to be missing.
2. As soon as the disappearance of the Bishop was made public, civil, religious and administrative authorities went down to the scene. Following the indication of a strange found in the front seat of the car, next to his identity card and personal documents, the Fire brigade was ordered to search the body of the bishop in the river. The search continued till the morning of June 2, 2017 when the corpse of the Bishop was found by a fisherman few kilometres from the Ebebda bridge at a place called Tsang. The corpse was brought to the bank of the river by the elements of the defense force. The corpse was identified by His Excellency, Archbishop Piero Pieppo, Apostolic Nuncio to Cameroon, Archbishop Samuel Kleda, President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, and Archbishop Jean Mbarga of Yaoundé, in the presence of civil and administrative authorities, including the Governor of Central Region. The mortal remains were taken to Yaoundé General Hospital.
3. On Saturday, June 3, 2017, a death notice and a message of condolence were addressed to the faithful of the Diocese of Bafia and to the natural family of the deceased Bishop by the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon and the Archbishop of Yaoundé.
4. Up to this moment, the corpse is still under the custody of the judicial authorities who are investigating the circumstances, the exact cause and the perpetrator of this heinous and inadmissible crime.5. The tragic death of Bishop Jean Marie Benoît BALA has shocked and upset the People of God, all Cameroonians and international opinion. From the initial findings, we the Bishops of Cameroon, affirm that His lordship Jean Marie Benoît BALA did not commit suicide; he was brutally assassinated. This is one more murder, and one far too much.
6. We recall with sadness the murder of several pther prelates, members of clergy and consecrated persons, whose assassination, under similar circumstances, has never been explained up to this dau. We are thinking of his grace Archbishop Yves PLUMEY (Ngaoundéré - 1991), Rev. Father Joseph MBASSI (Yaoundé - 1988), Rev. Father Antony FONTEGH (Kumbo-1990), Rev. Sisters of Djoum (in 1992), Rev. Father Engelbert MVENG, just to name a few.
We strongly feel that the clergy in Cameroon are particularly persecuted by some obscure and devilish forces.
To the State of Cameroon,
7. We the The Bishops demand
- That all the circumstances and the motives of the assassination of the Bishop Bishop Jean Marie Benoît BALA be clarified and be made known.
- That the culprits be identified by name and be brought before the law in order that justice may take its course.
- That the State should assume its bounden duty of protecting human life and particularly the lives of the ecclesiastical Authorities. to protect human life, especially the ecclesiastical authorities.
- The Bishops also expect and await the official conclusion of the investigations.
The Bishops are praying for them and demand that they embark on a process of urgent and radical conversion.
To media men and women and users of social network:
8. The Bishops demand that they renounce falsehood, defamation and calumny. On the other hand, they recommend the respect for human dignity, truth, sense of decency, and discernment in the treatment of information
To all those who collaborated in the search of the missing Bishop, To all the population of Ebebda amd its suroundings:
9. The Bishops thank them for sparing no effort in the search for the mortal remains of the Bishop, even at the risk of their own life.
To the faithful of the Diocese of Bafia,
To the natural family of Bishop Jean Marie Benoît BALA,
To all the People of God:
10. We say to you all: Be courageous, Christ has conquered the world (cf. Jn 16:33). The Bishops bear with you the grief of this sad disappearance. Let not your faith fail! Intensify you’re your effort in the Eucharist celebrations, in the praying for your Pastors and for peace and justice in our country.
11. May Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of Cameroon, accompany us in this difficult moment of trial.
Done at Yaounde, on 13 June 2017
For the Bishops of Cameroon
† Samuel KLEDA
Archbishop of Douala
President of the NCPC