A year after this appointment he became President of the Cameroon Episcopal Conference. He received the extreme honor of membership in the Sacred Conclave when the Pope included him in his Consistory of June 28, 1988 when he received his red-hat and the titular church of the Martyrs of Uganda a Poggio Ameno. Three years later on August 31, 1991 the Holy Father promoted him to Archbishop of Douala on the Atlantic Coast where he still remains today residing at Archeveche, B.P. 179, Douala, Cameroon.
Cameroon, a republic in west Africa bordering on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic and the Nigeria to the north, boasts over three and a half million Catholics comprising over a fourth of the total population. The Faith was first brought to Cameroon 1890 by German missionaries, but it really mushroomed during the time the country was divided by British and French occupation between 1920 and 1960, Catholicism mushroomed from 60,000 to 700,000. Cameroon achieved independence in 1960 and, as has happened in so many African countries, experienced a period of civil unrest in 1990. The first native priests were ordained in 1935 and in 1944 the first hierarchy established with the first native bishops being ordained. Cardinal Tumi is the first ever cardinal from Cameroon.
He enjoys curial membership in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for Catholic Education as well as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Holy Father holds private ceremony in the Sistine Chapel to baptize infants from eight different countries including America
It was a very different celebration from those that have been taking place since the beginning of the Jubilee. It was an extremely private ceremony, during which parents presented their children to the Pope to receive the first sacrament through which they become children of God.
"Dear mothers and fathers, I welcome you, as well as the godfathers and godmothers, and, on behalf of the great family of the Church, I welcome with joy these very dear children whom you have brought to the Sistine Chapel to receive the sacrament of Baptism," the Holy Father said, interrupted by the cries of some of the infants.
The 18 fortunate babies included 8 girls and 10 boys, the majority of whom were Italian, but also Spanish, American, Brazilian and Swiss.
"It is especially moving to administer the sacrament of Baptism in this Sistine Chapel, in which extraordinary masterpieces of art remind us of the prodigies of the history of salvation, from the origins of man up to the Universal Judgment. But it is more significant to contemplate the signs of God's action in our life in the course of the Jubilee Year, which is totally centered on the mystery of Christ, who was born, died and resurrected for us."
After expressing his prayer that the infants might grow in the faith, John Paul II made a heartfelt appeal to their emotional parents: "These little ones must find in you, as well as their godfathers and godmothers, support and guidance in the road of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Be examples of solid faith, profound prayer, and active commitment in ecclesial life to them."
At the end of the papal homily, the cries and whimpers of the 18 infants could only be silenced with bottles offered by embarrassed mothers. This was followed by the invocation of the saints, especially those after whom the newly baptized were named; the exorcism prayer and the pre-baptismal anointing administered by two bishops who helped the Pope during the ceremony. Following the blessing of the baptismal water, the rejection of Satan, and profession of faith, the much awaited moment of the actual administration of the sacrament followed: pouring water on the infants' head into an artistic bronze basin placed in front of the Last Judgment. The brothers and sisters of the baptized babies crowded around to get a good view, and one of them took advantage of the situation to give the Pope a big kiss.
The ceremony continued with the donning of the white garment and lighting of the Baptismal candles. The offertory procession was the task of the infants' brothers and sisters, some of whom were altogether distracted. But one day it will be up to them to tell those baptized today what the event was all about. ZE00010902
The same day, two Christian women were massacred in northern Lebanon by the Islamist group "Al-Takfir Wal Higra." One of the women was pregnant, and was found hacked to pieces. The New Year opened with a car-bombing in the Christian village of Kolaia. Several churches have been directly attacked, with four attacks occuring in the month of November.
As Syrian-Israeli peace talks continue, Lebanese Christians worry about the outcome. Israel is to pull out of the security zone in July, leaving the Christians that populate the area alone to face Syria, the Hezbollah, and the pro-Syrian Beirut regime.
Israel invaded Lebanon in March 1978 and again in June 1982, later pulling back into the so-called security zone (some 10%) of the country. Syria began its invasion from the north in 1976, entering the last free enclave in 1990. The U.N. has called for the pullout of both Syria and Israel, but only the Israelis seem ready to leave. To date, the Israeli forces in southern Lebanon have been the only protection against Syrian aggression for the beleaguered Christians, who are calling for international forces in the area to protect them after the Israeli pullout.
Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, stated, "It is becoming increasingly clear that the plight of the Christian minority in Lebanon will become intolerable once Israeli troops pull out of Syria unless preventive action is taken quickly by the international community. Pressure must be put on the Syrian government to respect the conditions of UN resolution 520 and the Taif Agreement, and to withdraw their forces from Lebanon. In the meantime, the international community must look at ways in which it can assist the southern population as they seek to establish the necessary structures for local government." ZE00010721
At present, there are five specific projects: a home for young Colombian prostitutes; a formation center for rural youth in Cameroon; a pastoral center in Romania; a social center in East Timor, and a residence for handicapped people in Pakistan.
The funds needed to implement these projects will be donated by youth coming to Rome on pilgrimage during the Holy Year. The greater part of the funding will come from collections made during the international youth Masses, celebrated every Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Church of Ss. Ambrose and Charles on Via del Corso in Rome. The first such Mass will be celebrated tomorrow, January 8. ZE00010706
On January 6, French authorities authorized the distribution of the Norlevo contraceptive pill in schools. School administrators are now allowed to give the pill to teenage girls, without informing their families. In the January 8 edition (which appeared in print, following the usual publication schedule on the afternoon of January 7), the official Vatican newspaper said the new policy shows "cruel hypocrisy."
The "morning-after pill," the Vatican paper pointed out, is in fact an abortifacient. "It has the effect of destroying an egg which has already been fertilized, and thus is a human embryo, rather than by preventing conception," L'Osservatore said.
Although some French authorities have argued that the contraceptive pills would prevent pregnancies, and thus limit the demand for abortion, the Vatican newspaper dismissed that argument. In using the "morning-after pill," the column observed, "the intention to abort is manifest-- for the adolescent and for the public authorities as well."
The Vatican paper also deplored the fact that the pill will be administered without informing the families of the teenage girls involved. While admitting that some parents may neglect their responsibilities toward their adolescent children, L'Osservatore reasoned that the French policy, "far from helping the family with its educational responsibility, discredits the family in practice."
The distribution of abortifacient pills also causes serious harm, the newspaper argued, by encouraged "the illusion that the consequences of irresponsible behavior can find easy medical remedies."
In the same issue, the official Vatican newspaper also sharply criticized a new Belgian government policy which allows for legal registration of non-marital unions.
The Belgian policy was approved by the country's parliament in November 1998, but only took effect in January 2000.
L'Osservatore Romano said that the policy represents a move "toward the disintegration of society." The January 8 edition of the newspaper (which appears in the afternoon of the day prior to the cover date) emphasized the fact that the new law recognizes homosexual unions. Thus, L'Osservatore argued, the government policy is a "concession to deviancy," which cannot be justified on ethical or juridical grounds.
Father Gino Concetti, the moral theologian for the Vatican paper, wrote that the "dangerous and perverse" new policy risks the creation of "a society that is atomized and disintegrating." As disparate interest groups claim their own "subjective rights," he warned, there would be no understanding of the common good, and therefore no path to social equilibrium.
More NEWS & VIEWS in SECTION THREE