Pope Francis has promoted an African bishop known for his emphasis on family, community, and traditional values. In an announcement released on Monday, the Holy See Press Office confirmed that the pope has named Bishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya as the new Archbishop of Bamenda in Cameroon.
Bishop Fuanya, 54, has served as the Bishop of Mamfe, also in Cameroon, since 2014. He came to international attention during the 2018 meeting of the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment.
In contrast to the situation in many European countries, Fuanya said during the synod, the Church in Cameroon and in many parts of Africa is growing – including among young peoples.
“My churches are all bursting, and I don’t have space to keep the young people,” Fuanya during a Vatican press conference in October last year. “And my shortest Mass would be about two and a half hours.”
A 2018 study by Pew Research found that church attendance and prayer frequency was highest in sub-Saharan Africa and lowest in Western Europe. Four out of five Christians in Cameroon said that they pray every day.
Bishop Fuanya was born in 1965 and ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buéa, Cameroon, in 1992, at the age of 26. In 2013, he was appointed as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Mamfe, becoming the diocesan bishop the following year.
Fuanya’s new see, Bamenda, was erected as a diocese in 1970 and elevated to a metropolitan archdiocese by St. John Paul II in 1982. In recent years, the archdiocese has shown clear signs of growth and evalgelization. While the population of the archdiocese remained stable at 1.4 million people between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of Catholics rose from 29% to 42% during the same period.
During the Synod on young people, Fuanya credited the Church’s growth in Cameroon to the alignment between Church teaching and the values of wider society, and the strength of the family as a cultural institution.
“People ask me, ‘Why are your churches full?’” Fuanya said in 2018. “Coming from Africa, the family is a very, very strong institution.”
“We come from a culture in which tradition normally is handed from one generation to the other.”
Fuanya has also spoken about the need for the Church to teach unambiguously on issues of morals and sexuality, remarking during the 2018 synod that he would not accept any usage of so-called LGBT terminology in Church documents because “99.9 percent” of the young people in his diocese would “stand at my door and say, ‘What’s this?’”
“Our traditional values still equate to the values of the Church, and so we hand over the tradition to our young people undiluted and uncontaminated,” he continued, noting that a strong sense of community in the Church is something “very important that Europe can learn from Africa.”
In Africa, the newly-named Archbishop said, “there’s still a lot of things we do as community. That is the difference..”
“What we are trying to do in these small Christian communities is to fight the in-creeping of individualism,” he said.