AFRICA/EQUATORIAL GUINEA - "The persecution of the past has given new impetus to the Church which is now appreciated by all"

Thursday, 13 June 2024 local churches  


Malabo (Agenzia Fides) - "We are living in a period of new dynamics in our Church," affirms the President of the Episcopal Conference of Equatorial Guinea, Juan Domingo-Beka Esono Ayang, Bishop of Mongomo, in an interview with Fides.

The Catholic Church was persecuted in Equatorial Guinea from 1968 to 1979.
What is the situation today?
The Church has experienced a new dynamic: from three dioceses with two bishops, we have become five dioceses with six bishops. We have experienced the persecution of the Church, but this has led to a new impulse of evangelization. The Church in Equatorial Guinea has remained present and active despite the persecution of its priests and lay people. Catechists have been imprisoned and suffered all forms of humiliation. But their testimony has brought and continues to bring something new and lively to the Church in our country. We pay tribute to the priests and missionaries who were persecuted, and today the apostolate of the Church in Equatorial Guinea is greatly appreciated by all.

Among the catechists who suffered persecution, the cause for beatification has been started for one, José Si Esono.
We have some canonization causes that we intend to submit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During our ad limina visit, we already presented the case of the catechist José Si Esono, who is very venerated in Equatorial Guinea. Then there is the case of a nun, Imelda Makole, co-founder of a local women's congregation ("Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and Saint Joseph", now "Missionaries of Mary Immaculate"). And beatification processes are also underway for other catechists and lay people.

In the Church of Equatorial Guinea, catechists therefore play a fundamental role...
Since the first announcement of the Gospel in Equatorial Guinea, catechists were considered the "right hand" of the priests. Even today they are "leaders", for example, responsible for the grassroots communities. Therefore the role of the laity is very visible and present in our Church.

Are there still missionaries in the country?
The Church is missionary; we cannot imagine the Church without the presence of religious from missionary orders who give us their charism and their particular experiences. We are very satisfied with their role in our country and we encourage other missionaries to come to Equatorial Guinea, whose Church has its doors open.
The Claretian Missionaries (Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary), considered the real authors of the evangelization of the country since their arrival in 1883, are still very present.
It is true that before their arrival other missionary congregations had gone to Equatorial Guinea but were forced to leave due to epidemics. The Claretians finally managed to overcome these obstacles, they remained and are still very present.

One last question: what about vocations to the priesthood?
We have a large number of vocations and we have a single Major Seminary in Bata, which has grown from about forty seminarians to about ninety in just a few years. This facility has therefore become too small and can no longer meet the needs of the increased number of seminarians. We urgently need more space and premises to be able to offer adequate formation to future priests. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 13/6/2024)