YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The whole of Cameroon is waiting for Benedict XVI’s arrival to the country, says Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot of Yaoundé.
In this interview with the newspaper “Effort Camerounais,” which was distributed by the Fides news agency, the president of the episcopal conference of Cameroon and president of the national organizing committee of the papal visit explains how the country is preparing to welcome the Holy Father from March 17-20.
Q: How is the Church preparing for Benedict XVI’s visit to Cameroon?
Archbishop Tonyé Bakot: The announcement of the news of Benedict XVI’s visit to Cameroon has sparked great enthusiasm in all sectors of society in Cameroon. The Pope will meet with the Catholic community, the Muslim community and with almost 200 Christians of other non-Catholic confessions, with 700 delegates from 25 dioceses and 600 religious delegates in the Basilica of Holy Mary Queen of the Apostles. Each group expects a message of reflection from the Holy Father.
Since January, different groups have met to suggest to the Holy Father the topics on which he could concentrate his reflection.
Some time ago I received a document of the Forum of Christian Universities that I transmitted to the Holy See, in which the following topics are discussed: the reality of the family in Africa, the inculturation of the Christian message; the “Justice and Peace” institution, and the specific role of the faithful and of the clergy according to the Second Vatican Council.
Q: What are the challenges that must be addressed?
Archbishop Tonyé Bakot: There are several, in the first place from the administrative point of view.
We expect the arrival of 52 presidents of African national bishops’ conferences, of 12 presidents of African apostolic regions and of 12 members of the special Synod for Bishops. We also expect delegates of the 30 dioceses of Cameroon.
We have asked all the faithful who will participate in the Mass with the Pope to register in their dioceses and to come in great numbers. This mobilization implies careful planning.
Moreover, we must be attentive to the Holy Father’s messages regarding the problems of which he has been made aware, as well as the situation of the Church in Cameroon and in Africa.
Q: How is the Church preparing for the papal visit from the pastoral and spiritual point of view?
Archbishop Tonyé Bakot: The archdiocese of Yaoundé began a novena of prayer March 7, and there are similar initiatives in other dioceses. The bishops have published a pastoral letter in preparation for the Holy Father’s visit, which stresses the role of the Successor of Peter as Universal Pastor, Vicar of Christ, whose teaching must be taken by all as a call to holiness.
Each believer must take his baptism seriously with a lively faith, in conformity with the Gospel and the will of God. A Christian must live in dignity, as he has a compass that guides him in life, and this compass is the Gospel of Christ.
We must not forget that the Pope is coming to Cameroon in the middle of Lent and his message has preceded him. This message is centered on fasting, prayer and sharing. The Pope stresses fasting especially to learn to control our disordered desires and to help us fulfill the will of God. The best kind of fasting is that which helps us to hear the Word of God and to put it into practice.
In his Lenten message, the Holy Father recommends regular attendance at Sunday Mass, reception of the Eucharist, and frequent confession.
[Translation by ZENIT]