Rome Newsroom, September 25, 2022 / 07:00 (CNA).
Pope Francis has appealed for the release of nine Catholics kidnapped in southwestern Cameroon.
“I join in the call of the bishops of Cameroon for the release of certain people kidnapped in the diocese of Mamfe, including five priests and a nun,” the pope said September 25.
Speaking in his Angelus address at the end of a Mass in the southern Italian city of Matera, the pope said he was praying for the Lord to grant peace to Cameroon, where a civil war has been raging since 2017.
Gunmen set fire to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nchang, Cameroon, on the night of September 16 and abducted five priests, a nun, a cook, a catechist and a 15-year-old girl living at the convent, according to Vatican News.
Cameroon’s Catholic Bishops have strongly condemned the attack in a statement calling for the immediate release of the kidnapped Christians.
“We insist on this because this act has now crossed the red line and we have to say ‘enough’,” he said.
Cameroon has been embroiled in a civil war known as the “Anglophone Crisis” in which armed separatists from the country’s English-speaking northwestern and southwestern regions took part in an uprising against government forces. Both sides have been accused of atrocities, including the murder and torture of civilians.
The Catholic Church has recently been the target of a “wave of persecution against the Church hierarchy”, according to local bishops, who noted that Presbyterian and Baptist churches have also been targeted.
“All kinds of threatening messages are being sent against missionaries who have sacrificed their lives to work for the people,” the Bishops’ statement reads.
Bishop Aloysius Fondong Abangalo of Mamfe found that the sacred hosts and the ciborium had been kept intact in the tabernacle of St. Mary’s Catholic Church after the arson.
In a video posted Sept. 21 by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Abangalo is seen genuflecting in front of the burnt-out church tabernacle as he retrieves the hosts from the ruins.
The 41-year-old Cameroonian bishop said that the rapture and desecration of the church “has dealt a very heavy blow to us as a Church”.
He added: “We have not failed to associate such pain with the saving passion of our Lord Jesus Christ…the source of our hope and our victory.
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