Jean-Marie Benoît Balla

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Jean-Marie Benoît Balla (5 May 1959 – 31 May 2017) was a Roman Catholic bishop.

Biography[edit]

Balla was born in Oweng, Cameroon, on 5 May 1959. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Yaoundé on 20 June 1987 and assigned to parish work. He then headed the minor seminary of Yaoundé and taught at the major seminary in Nkolbisson.[1]

Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Bafia on 3 May 2003 and he was consecrated a bishop on 12 July by Archbishop Jean Zoa of Yaoundé.

He was reported missing on the evening of 30 May 2017.[1] When his car was located on a bridge over the Sanaga River on 31 May, it contained a note that said: "Do not look for me! I am in the water." There was no evidence of violence.[2] On 2 June fishermen discovered his body seven kilometers from the bridge, and authorities estimated his death occurred on 31 May. An autopsy found signs of torture and that he had died days before his body was placed in the water only to be found after a few hours. Other murders of priests in Cameroon have gone unsolved, included that of the rector of the minor seminary of Bafia earlier in May.[3]

Interpol commissioned a second autopsy by two German doctors who reported that "no trace of violence was found on the body of the deceased", after which the Central Appeal Court determined that “drowning is the most probable cause of death of the bishop". Some of Bala's relatives questioned whether the authorities had substituted a different body for the Interpol autopsy.[4]

On 3 August 2017, Joseph Akonga Essomba, the interim administrator of the diocese, claimed Balla's murderers were being protected by government officials. He attacked gay priests who pretended to mourn him when in fact his opposition to homosexuality had prompted his murder.[5]

Roman Catholics whose murders remained unsolved include Yves Plumey, the Archbishop emeritus of Garoua (1991); the editor of the Catholic daily L'Effort camerounnais Joseph Mbassi (1988); Jesuit theologian Engelbert Mveng [fr] (1995); and the French sisters Germaine Marie Husband and Marie Léone Bordy (1992).[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Musangania, Jean-Paul (2 June 2017). "L'évêque porté disparu au Cameroun est mort". La Croix (in French).
  2. ^ "Body of African bishop who reportedly committed suicide found". Catholic World Report. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Autopsy raises questions about circumstances involving African bishop's death". Catholic News Agency. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  4. ^ Besmond de Senneville, Loup (6 July 2017). "New autopsy refutes murder theory of Cameroon bishop". La Croix International. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  5. ^ Chimtom, Ngala Killian (5 August 2017). "Cleric alleges Cameroon bishop killed for resisting gay priests". CRUX. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  6. ^ Cousturié, Isabelle (7 June 2017). "Cameroun: Mgr Benoît Balla, évêque de Bafia, a-t-il été assassiné?". Alteia (in French). Retrieved 10 June 2017.