The burial program for Catholic Bishop Bala, who, according to police sources, was murdered recently, failed to take place on June 14 and 15 as initially planned. While government has maintained sealed lips on the sudden change in program, NewsWatch newspaper reported yesterday that the program was cancelled following an order from the Holy Sea. The Vatican, according to NewsWatch, insisted that the prelate will not be burried until explanations are made on his assassination.
The newspaper also said Bishops of Cameroon, meeting in an extra ordinary National Episcopal Conference in Yaounde in relation to Bishop Bala’s death, came out with an eleven point declaration which amongst others confirmed that their colleague did not commit suicide but was “brutally assassinated,” adding the Catholic church is going through a “difficult and delicate moment” in its history and mission in the country.
In a media outing in Yaounde on Wednesday June 14, the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon said the clergy in the country “are particularly persecuted by obscure and evil forces.”
“From initial findings, we the Bishops of Cameroon affirm that Msgr Jean Marie Benoit Bala did not commit suicide; he was brutally assassinated. This is one more murder, one far too much,” the prelates’ declaration signed by the Archbishop of Douala and president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Msgr. Samuel Kleda stated.
“We the Bishops of Cameroon demand that all the circumstances and motives of the assassination of Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala be clarified and made known. That the culprits be identified by name and brought before the law in order that justice may take it course,” the Bishops’ statement said further.
The Bishops said they are yet to know the perpetrators and reason for the murder of Bishop Benoit Bala but “recalled with sadness” that it is not the first time a Roman Catholic priest has been assassinated under similar circumstances in the country.
The body of Bishop Benoit Bala, who disappeared on the night of May 30, was extracted from the Sanaga River near Yaoundé on June 2, in the presence of administrative and religious leaders, including the Apostolic Nuncio to Cameroon, His Lordship Piero Pioppo and the Archbishop of Yaounde Msgr. Jean Mbarga.
The Archbishop of Douala and president of the Episcopal Conference, Msgr. Samuel Kleda said the body of the 58-years old Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala is now in the custody of judiciary authorities who are probing the murder.
On the list of bishops, members of the clergy and consecrated persons assassinated in similar “unclear circumstance” in the country were the Emeritus Archbishop Emeritus of Garoua, Msgr. Yves Plumey who assassinated in Ngaoundere in 1991, Father Joseph Mbassi murdered in Yaoundé in 1988.