News 03 Jul 2023

Cameroon: A new cathedral for the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo

8 July will see the consecration of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, in the city of Maroua, northern Cameroon. This step will conclude the nine-year construction project in the heart of the Maroua-Mokolo Diocese.

Speaking at this event, Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo said: “We are proud and happy. Finally, we have a worship space where we can celebrate the Holy Mass with dignity”. Hitherto, he explains, Mass had been celebrated either in a small and run-down church, or in what Bishop Ateba refers to as the “bio-Cathedral”, under the canopies of trees. 

According to the bishop, this new cathedral is “a sign of unity of all the city’s inhabitants”, adding that “in a city with over 600 mosques, it is important to show that the Catholic Church also has its space in Maroua”.

Maroua-Mokolo borders Nigeria and Chad, and has been the site of multiple terrorist attacks over the past years. 

The diocese faces tremendous challenges: not only is it located in one of the poorest regions of the country, but it is also home to a large number of internally displaced Cameroonians and Nigerian refugees who fled their homes to escape the terror of Boko Haram. Besides the construction of the cathedral, ACN has also been supporting the diocese in northern Cameroon with several aid projects for refugee children, as well as a refugee camp for Boko Haram victims in Minawao.

The positive reaction of the residents of Maroua to the new cathedral fills the bishop with satisfaction: “Everybody shares our joy, regardless of their religion”. According to ACN, the local authorities ceded land in the centre of the city for the construction of the cathedral, and many locals, including Muslims, were involved in the actual building. A local artist, aided by his students, painted the frescos that decorate the interior. 

The diocese says that the new cathedral, which is dedicated to Our Lady, has room for 3,500 worshippers, and its decoration is a blend of Christian motifs and local culture. The shape of the building represents a traditional African house, and the images and frescos have an African touch. “For us, these paintings are catechetical, because ours is still a very young faith”, Bishop Ateba explains. 

The main artistic themes in the new cathedral are the Assumption and the maternal protection of Our Lady, and the contours of the building are meant to evoke Blessed Mary’s mantle, embracing and protecting believers. The inner columns are positioned to form the letter M, for Mary, and the four pillars that hold up the ceiling are shaped like a star that reaches up, symbolising the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. 

Bishop Ateba is very grateful to all the Aid to the Church in Need benefactors, as well as to other aid organisations for their economic contributions that made the construction of the new cathedral possible. 

The Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo was erected in 1973 and is located in the far north of Cameroon, covering 14,332 square kilometres. With an estimated population of around two million, around 40% of the inhabitants are Muslim, with 30% Christians and another 30% of followers of traditional religions. 

- By Volker Niggewöhner 

Featured Image: The new Cathedral in Maroua, CAMEROON. Credit: Makoula-Mokolo Dicoese, Cameroon.

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