DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
New upsurge of violence against the Church
In a message sent to Aid to the Church in Need by the national bishops’ conference of the Congo (CENCO), Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, denounces the ”alarming security situation” in his country, following new acts of violence perpetrated against the Church this weekend.
”We recently learned with indignation of the arson attack on a section of the major seminary in Malole by violent thugs, who have sown terror among the Carmelite sisters in the nearby Carmel in Kananga “ reports Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa. In his message, relayed via the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), the Cardinal describes the worrying situation in the country, noting “a resurgence of fear, anger and indeed insecurity” among the population. The Church has been particularly hard-hit in recent days, he emphasises, with incidents such as this arson attack and other outrages, such as the desecration of the parish of Saint Dominic in the Limete municipality, last Sunday by a gang of around 20 youths. ”They overturned the Tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church. The material damage is considerable.” The Dominican brothers were not the only victims of such acts of violence and barbarism. The community of the Oblate Fathers of Limete also suffered the same fate.
The archbishop does not mince his words. According to him, these incidents “lead one to believe that the Catholic Church is being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation at a time when CENCO is continuing its mission at the Inter-diocesan Centre”.
The Archbishop of Kinshasa invites all to show wisdom, restraint and democratic spirit in order to overcome the political crisis the country is currently experiencing. With all the bishops, he continues, “we denounce these acts of violence that could plunge our country into indescribable chaos. We urge the authorities of our country to stop this tension and ensure the protection of property and people, especially the heritage of the Catholic Church, which is strongly targeted. “
The important role of the Church in resolving the political crisis
It is in fact the case that the Church has played an important role as a mediator in recent months in an attempt to extricate the country from its political crisis, culminating in an agreement on 31 December last year which envisages that President Joseph Kabila will step down from power following the presidential elections, which are due to take place at the end of 2017.
At the same time the Cardinal appeals to every politician involved to live up to his responsibilities, reminding them that the bishops’ conference has no role other than that of a mediator. “It is now down to the men of politics to acknowledge with humility, both before the nation and before the international community, their political weakness and the turpitude of their selfish choices that have led to a political impasse and the paralysis of the institutions.”
Finally, Archbishop Pasinya calls on them all individually to “demonstrate wisdom, self restraint and a democratic spirit in order to resolve the question regarding the designation of the Prime Minister and the other related issues” in order not to risk “imperilling the planned elections scheduled for the end of this year.”
The support from ACN to Democratic Republic of the Congo
In Eastern part of DRC the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helps, among other things, to build priests’ houses and churches and in formation of the clergy. In the Bukavu region it had a number of reconstruction projects following the earthquakes in 2005 and 2008. The charity also gives subsistence help for sisters, in particular Daughters of Resurrection. Those sisters were on their way to be much more self-sufficient and then with the violence spreading in the region they were forced to close 7 of their houses, some sisters were killed. Another important project is the support of the yearly retreats for the priests, because the psychological pressure on them is really high. ACN supports priests with Mass stipends and help the family apostolate which is very strong there.
Amélie Berthelin-de La Hougue