It seems that three is the magic number when it comes to the Popes. Having met the two previous Pontiffs, John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, Cameroonian President Paul Biya was recently on an official visit to the Vatican and Rome to meet the 266th successor to Saint Peter in person, the new pope Pope Francis.
Cameroon and the Vatican have, for at least the past four decades, always enjoyed a close relationship. Four years into his reign, Pope Benedict XVI set foot on African soil. And while pragmatic consensus pointed to the fact that the Pope's visit would boost Catholicism in Africa and highlight the continent's problems and needs at the time of a global economic recession, the pontiff's choice of Cameroon as his first stop for this key visit showed the important and strong relationship this central African country has with the Vatican.
His predecessor, John Pope Paul II, visited Cameroon twice in 1985 and 1995, and made numerous trips to other African countries. Francis Rocca of Religion News Service had said at the time that Africa had become the church's most fertile mission field. "Pope Benedict visited the region that has produced the greatest growth and some of the greatest challenges for the Catholic Church." Over the course of the 20th Century the Catholic population in sub-Sahran Africa has grown from less than 2 million to nearly 150 million today. And the Vatican recently reported that the African continent was producing priests at a higher rate than any other part of the world.
Pope Francis has indicated that he will be coming to Africa next year, and it is likely that he shall be visiting Cameroun as did his predecessors. President Biya met the Pope on the 18th October. Even though it is impossible to be privy to the confidential discussions between the Pope and the President, one cannot help but assume that the main topic of conversation will have centred around the appointment of the next Archbisop of Yaounde, since the post has been left vacant by Msgr Victor Tonye Bakot. The outgoing Archbishop officially stepped down at the end of July, and the appointment of the next one is a sensitive issue in this country where a quarter of the population is catholic (estimates say that there are some 4.5m catholics in Cameroon).
Biya has put an emphasis on strengthening international ties, both economically and diplomatically. He has been on a number of international state visits in 2013, not least to emerging countries such as...