Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Pope visit raises Cameroon hopes

President Paul Biya (right) and his wife Chantal accompany the Pope into the Unity Presidential Palace
President Biya (r) listened as the Pope told Christian Africans to tackle corruption

As Pope Benedict XVI makes his first papal visit to Africa, the BBC's Caroline Duffield talks to some of those who have turned out to welcome him to the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde.

Father Paul, a parish priest from Douala, stood in Cameroon's midday heat for five hours, waiting.

"I have come because my boss is coming. My boss is here!"

Tens of thousands of young nuns, priests and monks sang and danced in the streets, waiting.

They are acutely aware they symbolise the church's future.

'Re-evangelise Europe'

The Catholic church is growing in Africa.

Father Paul
Father Paul was delighted for a chance to glimpse "the boss"

Young men and women are still taking holy orders - unlike in Europe and America, where church attendance is falling and almost no-one enters religious life.

Father Paul points out it is now the turn of African missionaries to spread the church's message.

"Years ago, Africa was nothing in the church. The missionaries had to come here," said Father Paul.

"But today it is our turn to become missionaries, to re-evangelise Europe, to evangelise America.

"If the Pope were here? I would just say to him, 'Pope Benedict, Africa - in a special way Cameroon - loves you!'"

In Europe and America, the Roman Catholic church often looks like a church for older people.

Delphine Mauvenir
God sees that it is the patient who needs the doctor, we are the patient
Delphine Mauvenir

In Africa, it is clear it belongs to the young.

Delphine Mauvenir had four days off work to celebrate the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI.

She brushed aside concerns about the money the government had spent on the visit.

"He came here because God sent him. God sees that it is the patient who needs the doctor. We are the patient," she said.

She believes that if the Pope is coming to Cameroon, it is because there is something God needs him to do.

"We need changes. We need peace, love and reconciliation," said Ms Mauvenir.

Corruption concerns

Cameroon has been ruled for 26 years by the same man, Paul Biya. He has won sweeping election victories again and again.

But each election has been widely condemned as rigged.

Cameroon's economy is also stifled by corruption. Many people live in poverty.

Antem Cecilia
I want him to come and bless this country, so there might be some changes at last
Antem Cecilia

It is considered one of the most corrupt countries in Africa.

As he arrived, the Pope urged Christians in Africa to tackle corruption and abuse of power wherever they found it.

Mr Biya listened to those words in silence.

On Wednesday, the Pope had his first real chance to sit in private and talk to the president.

People here are praying he delivered that same message face-to-face.

Many Cameroonians believe that that is why he is here.

"Our guy! He knows what he aims to say to our president, concerning this country," said Madam Antem Cecilia, a teacher.

"He has his aim in coming here. I want him to come and bless this country, so there might be some changes at last."

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific