Grave of bishop who died under suspicious circumstances is desecrated
The grave of Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala of Bafia, whom the Cameroonian bishops’ conference claims were murdered, was desecrated with traces of blood. San Sebastian Cathedral where his body rests has been temporarily closed as a result.
“There was a clear act of desecration in the cathedral of Bafia in the night…Traces of blood were found in the cathedral. The cathedral is closed to public worship until a penitential rite will be celebrated as prescribed by the Code and the liturgical rite” because of the nature of the desecration said Bishop Sosthène Léopold Bayemi Matjei of Obama.
Bishop Bala disappeared the evening of 30 May after being seen leaving his residence alone. His body was discovered several days later in the Sanga River about 10 miles from his car. The authorities found a fake suicide note in his car that reportedly read: “Do not look for me! I am in the water.” The note initially suggested that Bishop Bala had committed suicide, but the Cameroonian bishops later determined that he had been murdered because an autopsy report indicated that he did not die from drowning and his body showed evidence of torture.
While local government authorities ordered investigations into the death, they have maintained that Bishop Bala committed suicide. An investigation commissioned by the intergovernmental organization Interpol concluded Bishop Bala had died by drowning. The results of two autopsies conducted by Cameroon’s bishops were never made public.
The bishops of Cameroon have called on the government “to shed complete light on the circumstances and the motives” for Bishop Bala’s murder and that those responsible be identified and handed over to the authorities. They urged further investigation to determine the true cause of Bishop Bala’s death. The bishops also noted there have been a number of priests and religious in the country whose murders have never been solved. These include Fr. Joseph Mbassi, killed in 1988; Fr. Antony Fontegh, 1990; Archbishop Yves-Joseph-Marie Plumey, 1991; a group of religious sisters in Djoum, 1992; and Fr. Engelbert Mveng, 1995.