Bishop Emmanuel B. Bushu, who retired from the pastoral care of Cameroon’s Catholic Diocese of Buea in December 2019, has been prohibited from celebrating or concelebrating Holy Mass in public in the Cameroonian Episcopal See without the “explicit permission” of his successor.
In a letter circulated on Sunday, January 7, the Local Ordinary of Buea Diocese, Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi, communicates to Bishop Bushu two prohibitions after highlighting reasons behind his decision.
“You shall no longer be allowed to concelebrate with me on any Diocesan Liturgical celebration until further notice,” Bishop Bibi tells his immediate predecessor.
In his second prohibition, the Cameroonian Bishop who has been at the helm of Buea Diocese since December 2019 as Apostolic Administrator, and later, from February 2021 as the Bishop of the Diocese, bars Bishop Bushu from celebrating or concelebrating “any public Mass in any Parish in the Diocese of Buea, without an explicit permission from me”.
In the one-page letter dated 22 November 2023, Bishop Bibi cites “deep opposition and interference” as some of the reasons behind his two decisions.
“From the very beginning of my mission in the Diocese of Buea … I have had to live through the unhappy reality of deep opposition and interference from you, that has even led you to the screen media to make this opposition public,” he states.
Bishop Bibi expresses his awareness of Bishop Bushu’s “opposition and interference in my administration for three years now, including, but not limited to your trips to the Nunciature and to Rome against my decisions over certain important sectors of the Diocese.”
“The present state of affairs indicates a total absence of communion between us, which makes you ready to align yourself with persons and groups that seek to bring down my administration,” he further writes.
The Cameroonian Catholic Bishop, who started his Episcopal Ministry in March 2017 as the Auxiliary Bishop of Cameroon’s Bamenda Archdiocese says that his two prohibitions are aimed to “protect” his administration of Buea Diocese.
In his letter, Bishop Bibi wishes his 79-year-old predecessor “grace and peace” from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in Communion with the Holy Spirit.”
A past decision that 52-year-old Bishop Bibi had to battle with involved the administrative changes he made at the Catholic University Institute of Buea (CUIB) in June 2020, when he appointed Professor Victor Julius Ngoh as Vice Chancellor, to succeed Fr. George Nkeze Jingwa. In his capacity as Apostolic Administrator of Buea, Bishop Bibi asked Fr. Nkeze to take a sabbatical leave.
The University Council disapproved of the 11 June 2020 administrative change, with Sobe Clive Ndikum who was serving as the legal representative of the University describing the change as “improper interference”.
He accused Bishop Bibi of causing “irreparable damage and mistrust amongst students, faculty members, the laity and other well-wishers of our Christian Community by making uninformed, ill-advised and rash decisions beyond the scope of his mandate and authority.”
However, in a 15 June 2020 clarification, the then Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon, Archbishop Julio Murat, came to the defence of Bishop Bibi, and outlined his mandate of Apostolic Administrator as “having jurisdiction to act for and on behalf of the Diocese of Buea in all matters concerning the Diocese and all other Institutions belonging to the Diocese.”
“The Apostolic Administrator is the legitimate authority over all priests, Religious and other mission personnel within the Diocese of Buea and reserves the right to appoint, transfer, remove, or dismiss persons according to the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law and the specific instructions given to him by the Holy See,” Archbishop Murat stated.
In March 2022, Bishop Bibi lamented the protracted controversies in the administration of CUIB and affiliate institutions, apportioning blame on the the administration that he had dismissed and that some disgruntled members “aimed at undermining (his) decisions”.
“Sadly still, up to this moment, some of the members of the then Administration of CUIB have resorted to diverse means aimed at undermining the decisions I made, and in the process, they have created confusion in the minds of God’s people and people of good will in the Diocese of Buea and beyond,” Bishop Bibi said in his 13 March 2022 statement in which he also narrated his being drugged to Cameroon’s labor court with “false or misguided” claims.
Earlier, in February 2022, Bishop Bibi weighed in on the online petition, a Facebook post and other attacks against him.
In his 25 February 2022 homily during Holy Mass to mark a year since he took canonical possession of Buea Diocese, the Catholic Church leader bemoaned the “many attacks … over social media, over some newspapers, over some TV stations by clerics, all the staged interviews that were brought out and sent out to the public” as what he termed “signs of total interference in the governance of the Diocese of Buea.”
This was days after members of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) Province expressed their “solidarity and communion” with him.
In their 11 February 2022 statement, BAPEC members said that their “hearts were deeply saddened by the unfortunate turn of events in the Diocese of Buea, characterized by gross disrespect of the hierarchy of the Church, casting of aspersions on Bishop Michael Bibi.”
Last November, members of the Clergy of Buea Diocese expressed their support for Bishop Bibi, weighing in on social media posts against their Local Ordinary, including those from Nchumbonga George Lekelefac such as an ongoing apostolic visitation, Seeking Transparency and Accountability: An Examination of Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi’s Leadership, Bishop Michael Bibi, The Father, The Bishop, The Rock On Which Buea Diocese Is Built, The Truth and nothing but the truth about Buea Diocese under Bishop Michael Bibi, and Ex-cardination of suspended priests of Buea Diocese: a solution?
“We, the Priests of the Presbyterium of Buea, have watched with dismay at the smear campaign orchestrated by some individuals and even some members of the presbyterium and groups on social media against the person of the Bishop and the work he is doing in the Diocese of Buea which is already yielding fruits in abundance,” they said in their statement issued on 22 November 2023.
Despite the controversies, last September, Bishop Bibi was honored by Cameroon’s NewsWatch Newspaper for his “exceptional skills” in leading the people of God and managing the property of his Episcopal See.
Culled from aciAfrica