New Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bamenda His Grace Andrew Nkea Fuanye
Here are the words of the veteran journalist Dr. Ngobesing Suh Romanus, former Station Manager of Radio Evangelium Bamenda: “December, the month of surprise announcements. It started with the surprise of the announcement of a new Director of Communication and Manager of Radio Evangelium, then moved upwards to the announcement of an apostolic administrator for the diocese of Buea. All ears are open to hear what will be announced at mid day. To God be all the glory. In his wisdom he will always give us the right people to lead us”. These are the words of faith.
Shortly after the Friday 27th December information, convoking the priests, consecrated persons and the entire Christian body of Buea, to gather at the Cathedral on Saturday 28th December at midday, for an important announcement, 2 days later, a similar announcement has come from the Archdiocese of Bamenda. In the Bamenda announcement, the Auxiliary Bishop, Msgr. Michael Miabesue Bibi, writing on behalf of the Archbishop, Most Reverend Cornelius Fontem Esua, convoked the Clergy, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Lay Faithful of the Archdiocese, to gather at the St. Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Mankon, on Monday 29th December as from 11:45 a.m. for an important announcement to be communicated at 12:00 noon.
Given the fact that the Archbishop had a couple of years ago clearly indicated, during his birth anniversary celebration, that he had already reached the age of retirement and so had tendered in his letter of resignation, all ears have all this while been waiting for the announcement of his successor. “Would this convocation be for that?” This was evidently the question on the various lips as the faithful went to bed on Sunday 29th, looking up to the “important announcement” meant for the following day. Some minds, reflecting on the large nature of the Archdiocese even went as far as projecting the possibility of the creation of another diocese. And it did happen in one of the ways. It was to be the announcement of the new Archbishop in the person of His Grace Andrew Nkea Fuanye
Archbishop His Grace Andrew Nkea Fuanye (54 years 33 days old) hails from Fontem in the Lebialem Division of th South West Region. Until his new appointment, he has been the bishop of Mamfe Diocese. Born on 29th August 1965, he was ordained into the priesthood on 22nd April 1992 for the Diocese of Buea. On 10th July 2013, at the age of 47 years 8 days, he was nominated Coadjutor Bishop of Mamfe and later took over the governance of the diocese from Msgr. Francis Teke Lysinge at his retirement on 25th January 2014. His Excellency Right Reverend Andrew Nkea is a seasoned Canonist of the Catholic Church. He had taught Canon Law in the Major Seminary of Bambui for some years, and is known for his outspokenness especially in the face of injustice. There is no other thought apart from the fact that he would not relent to talk and preach the message of justice as the English speaking population keeps crying out for lack of the same.
The church in Bamenda was first of all erected to the level of a diocese on 13th August 1970 (with the name Bamendana), as an off-shoot, branching out from the Diocese of Buea. The pioneer bishop was Msgr. Paul Mbiybe Verdzekov (retired on 23rd January 2006 and RIP 26th January 2010). By the time of its creation as a diocese, it was under the Metropolitan See of the Archdiocese of Yaounde. On 18th March 1982 it was raised to an archdiocese and given the name Archdiocesis Bamendana, thus becoming the Metropolitan of the present-day suffragans of Buea, Kumbo, Mamfe and Kumba. On the same day part of the territory was lost to the newly created Diocese of Kumbo, placed under the pastorship of Msgr. Cornelius Fontem Esua. At the retirement of Archbishop Paul, the See was handed to the pastorship of Most Reverend Cornelius Fontem Esua (then bishop of Kumbo), who till this day of the “important announcement” clocks 76 years 49 days. Rt. Rev. Agapitus Enuyehnyoh Nfon was appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda on 8th April 2011. He is currently the Bishop of Kumba from 15th March 2016. Later on, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Michael Miabesue Bibi was appointed as the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda on 24th January 2017. The Archdiocese of Bamenda is of Latin Rite and covers an area of 10,000 square kilometers, 3 square kilometers less than Buea.
Since the retirement of Father Paul Verdzekov (as he later asked to be called) on 23rd January 2006, the Most Reverend Cornelius Fontem Esua, has been pasturing the Archdiocese till the day of the announcement of his successor Right Reverend Andrew Nkea.
The Right Reverend Andrew Nkea takes over the administration of the Archdiocese of Bamenda at a critical time in the history of the country. The current socio-political crisis, which started showing its ugly face towards the end of 2016, has given a particular touch to the mission of the out-going Archbishop and the current Auxiliary – a mission guided by unreserved closeness to the suffering population. This is also a time in which every single person and groups of person think they could dictate on how the Church should do her mission. It is a time when social media manipulation is whipping unhealthy sentiments for groups of persons to rise up in rebellion against the Church. But the Church will always triumph!
According to the 2015 statistics, the Archdiocese of Bamenda has a population of 1,413,000 persons with a Catholic Population of 410,071 (29.0%) and 67 diocesan priests. At that time there were 46 religious priests giving a total of 113 priests, and an estimate of 3,628 Catholic Christians per priest. It had 167 religious men and 234 religious women, giving a total of 401 consecrated persons. There were 40 parishes at that time. Recently, with the idea of making the clergy get closer to the people, the out-going Archbishop has created a number of parishes pastoral zones and handed them to the ever increasing number of clergy, always trying to ensure that the number of clergy per parish be 2. At the moment of writing, these figures have greatly risen higher. The official website of the Archdiocese is http://bamendaarschdiocese.org.
- Father Paul Mbiybe Verdzekov (Ordained priest on 20th December 1961, appointed Bishop on 13 Aug 1970, raised to Archbishop of Bamenda on 18 March 1982 to 23 January 2006, died on 26th January 2010).
- Msgr. Cornelius Fontem Esua (Priest of Buea Diocese since 29th December 1971, Bishop of Kumbo on 10th September 1982 and Co-adjutor Bishop of Bamenda on 7th December 2004, Archbishop on 26th January 2010, out-going metropolitan).
- Msgr. Agapitus Enuyehnyoh Nfon (Priest of Kumbo Diocese since 22nd March 1991 and Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda from 8th April 2011 to 15th March 2016 when he became the pioneer bishop of Kumba Diocese).
- Msgr. Michael Miabesue Bibi (Priest of the Archdiocese since 26th April 2000, Auxiliary Bishop since 24th January 2017, Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese from 28th December 2019).
This is the ecclesiastical circumscription which our new Archbishop is about to embrace at this challenging time in the history of the country and of the Church. Our time is one in which the politic has been badly marred by personal egoistic interests. This has led to the current socio-political crisis. Some have unfortunately tried to bring this political trend into the Church, with the misled conviction that any Tom and Harry could determine how the affairs of the Church should be run. We only pray that the Lord who has chosen his servant, the Right Reverend Andrew Nkea, to lead his people may give him the required strength and wisdom to steer through the tides.
Compiled by Fr. Dufe Joseph Ndzelen OFM Cap. – Loreto 30th December 2019