“The Know how” : What can we learn from the burial of Christian Cardinal Tumi?

COLUMN 28 Apr 2021
“The Know how” : What can we learn from the  burial of Christian Cardinal Tumi?

What can we learn from the burial of Christian Cardinal Tumi? Part I


BY Nchumbonga George Lekelefac is a Doctorate Candidate at the WestfälischeWilhelms-Universität, Münster, Germany

Dear revered lectors,

Last week, I promised to continue this week with the ‘phlegmatic temperament’. However, due to the utmost capital importance of two key events that took place last week, namely, the burial of Cameroon’s pioneer Cardinal, and the episcopal ordination of Msgr. Jerome Feudjio, our own Cameroonian from Fonakeukeu, Dschang, who made history by becoming the first-ever African bishop to be consecrated from no other country in Africa than Cameroon, I thought it wise to carry out a profound reflection on these two events before continuing with the types of temperaments.

Cardinal Tumi was honored on April 20, 2021 in a majestic and intricately planned Roman Catholic funeral Mass that, though rooted in ancient traditions that viewed death as a bleak event, celebrated his anticipated ascension into heaven and eternal life with God.Today, I will concentrate on the burial of Christian Cardinal Tumi, and I hope to continue next week with the lessons we could learn from the episcopal ordination of Msgr. Jerome Feudjio.

Before I enlighten you on what we could learn from Cardinal Tumi’s burial, I would like to answer some questions regarding the burial of the pioneer Cameroon Cardinal. These questions arise because it is the very first time Cameroon is witnessing the burial of a Cardinal.

  1. a) Why was Cardinal Tumi buried in the Cathedral?

According to the 1983 Code of Canon law, canon 1242 states that“Bodies are not to be buried in churches, unless it is a question of the Roman Pontiff or of Cardinals or, in their proper Churches, of diocesan Bishops even retired.” In addition, canon 1178 stipulates that “The funeral ceremonies of a diocesan Bishop are to be celebrated in his own cathedral church, unless he himself has chosen another church.” From the cited canons therefore, we now understand why Cardinal Tumi’s mortal remains was inurned in the Cathedral at Douala, and not outside.


  1. b) Why was the book of the Gospel laid on Cardinal Tumi’s coffin?


Many were surprised to see a Gospel book placed on the coffin of Cardinal Tumi. The placing of the Gospel Book on the coffin of Cardinal Tumi signified the sign that those who remain must carry on the Gospel of Christ to the world. The Gospel message must be proclaimed, witnessed and emulated in season and out of season to the ends of the earth: everywhere.


  1. c) Why was Cardinal Tumi’s coffin blessed with Holy Water?

Cardinal Tumi’s wooden coffin was blessed with holy water to signify the reminiscent of the joy of baptism.


Lessons from Cardinal Tumi’s burial

1) The simple coffin instead of an expensive casket: Nowadays, a lot of money is spent on burial ceremonies especially in Africa. Lavish funerals and burial ceremonies have become the order of the day in Cameroon in particular and in Africa in general.

This can be a daunting experience especially for those who are living below the poverty belt. We have seen a wretched man buried in “pomp and loudness” while impoverishing the family the more. The cost of burials can be heart-bleeding. There are places where a low budget burial can bring ridicule to the bereaved family. The question reminds why wasn’t this money spent on the person while living? Many people are recognized more in death than when they are alive.

I fully understand its culture but it places a heavy burden on bereaved families. When a person dies in a poor family, some relatives no longer cry because they miss the dead, they cry because of the huge cost of burial. Sometimes, they borrow or sell plots of land to afford a burial. This expensive burial tradition is something this present generation ought to discard. Culture is beautiful but any culture that will stress out the family and the kids should be damned. Expensive burials have become a “sucking blood demon” on some Cameroonians and Africans who are held bounds by culture and self- imposed standards.Sometimes it is out of choice for reasons of status, but other times, it’s simply out of the social pressure, and it is certainly putting burdens on people when they don’t have a lot of money.

In Cameroon, some people at times would opt for saving money for a funeral instead of contributing for medical costs while a person is still alive.People know that these funerals can be so expensive that they’ll actually save money for that and spend it on that rather than health expenses that could actually keep the person alive longer.It is not when someone dies that we have to express our love for him or her. No, more than ever, we need to express that love and kindness when the person is still alive.

The simple coffin and burial ceremony of Cardinal Tumi despite his social status should make us reflect profoundly on the fact that we need to be simpler in our burial ceremonies. That what matters most is not the lavish expenses, expensive coffin, but most importantly, what matters most is the spiritual preparation and prayers for the deceased so that he or she may be worthy to be with God.

Please, the second part of this article will be published next Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Thank you.



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