Traditional African king says meeting Francis was ‘like a miracle’

Traditional African king says meeting Francis was ‘like a miracle’

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – A traditional African leader from a region of Cameroon currently torn by conflict has described a June 3 meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican as “like a miracle,” saying it may contribute to the cause of dialogue and peace.

Fon Moolo II of Nkar was in Rome for an interreligious dialogue conference sponsored by the Focolare movement.

In Cameroon, “Fon” is the local term for a king. Moolo II’s territory is in the troubled English-speaking northwestern region of Cameroon, a nation of roughly 30 million people in west Africa.

“I could never have imagined that I would ever see the pope, much less meeting him,” Moolo II told Crux upon his return to the Douala International Airport in Cameroon on Saturday.

“It was like a miracle. The entire world knows the pope, so it was a privilege for me to greet the pope. The pope even blessed the staff of power and authority that I use in ruling my people,” he said.

“He gave me a gift, and I plan to contact the bishop of Kumbo, my bishop,  so we can organize a Holy Mass to present the gift and thank the Holy Father for it,” he said. Bishop George Nkuo is the head of the Kumbo diocese.

Moolo II didn’t feel comfortable talking specifically about the separatist war threatening to tear Cameroon to shreds, but noted that the theme of dialogue and peace discussed at the meeting spoke directly to the heart of the Cameroon conflict.

Peaceful demonstrations by Anglophone teachers and lawyers in 2016, over what was perceived as the undue influence of French in Anglo-Saxon schools and courts, were met with lethal violence from the Cameroon military.

The protests then morphed into political violence, with an increasing number of Anglophones asking for reforms that would grant them a level of authonomy. An extremist fringe developed and took up arms, demanding outright independence for Cameroon’s English-speaking populations, and the creation of a new nation to be called Ambazonia.

Speaking broadly to members of the Focolare movement, Pope Francis highlighted interreligious dialogue as critical to the building of global peace.

“Dear friends, your witness are a source of joy and a source of consolation, especially in this time of conflict, when religion is often misused in order to fuel division,” Francis said.

“Indeed, interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities,” he said.

Francis thanked Focolare members for continuing their dialogue “with people of non-Christian religions who share the spirituality of unity. It has been a revolutionary journey that is so good for the church.”

He said interreligious dialogue and friendship “is an experience animated by the Holy Spirit, rooted, we can say, in the heart of Christ, in his thirst for love, communion and fraternity.”

The Focolare Movement brings together persons of every age, vocation, religion, conviction and culture to work cooperatively to build a more united world. It was founded by an Italian elementary school teacher, Chiara Lubich, in 1943 and approved by the Catholic Church in 1962. The movement has now reached 183 countries, with a membership of about two million people.

“We were at the Vatican for peace and love,” Moolo II told Crux. He then spoke about his background as the son of the first Catholic catechist in Nkar, and how his Christian faith has shaped his reign as a king.

“Nkar is a Christian fondom, and the church is right in the Palace,” he told Crux.

“My Father was the first Catechist of Nkar Parish, so Christianity runs in our blood. There is no difference between our tradition and Christianity, because our tradition aligns with the principles of the Church,” Moolo II said.

“The Church hates bad things, and so too is our tradition,” he said. “There were certainly bad things in our tradition in the days of old, but with the presence of the Church, those bad things have been expunged from our tradition.”