Death Penalty Degrading, “incompatible with the Gospel”: Catholic Bishops in DR Congo

Members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). Credit: CENCO

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have condemned the decision by the government of the Central African nation to lift a 2003 ban on the death penalty, saying it is a “degrading treatment” that is not in accordance with the Gospel.

In a statement issued March 13, DRC’s Justice Minister, Rose Mutombo announced the lifting of the two-decade-old moratorium on the death penalty in the Central African nation.

Minister Mutombo has been quoted as saying that “acts of treachery or espionage have taken a toll on the population and the Republic”, and that the restoration of the death penalty is to “rid our country’s army of traitors… and curb the upsurge in acts of terrorism and urban banditry resulting in death.”

In a Friday, March 22 statement, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) reaffirmed their “unconditional commitment to the defense of life and the abolition of the death penalty in our country.”

“The death penalty and its logic of retribution are not compatible with the Gospel. No matter how it is carried out, the death penalty implies cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Jesus does not close the door to life for the condemned. He is the one who always gives everyone a chance,” CENCO members said.


They added, “God's infinite love gives every human being a dignity that even crimes cannot take away.”

“Soon we will be celebrating Easter, the pinnacle of Christian festivals. The resurrection of Jesus, the triumph of life, shows that God is against the death penalty for his Son. Nor does he allow the taking of a human life,” Catholic Bishops in DRC said. 

They urged the government to “fight against the various facets of the culture of death in our society.”

CENCO members also urged the government to abolish capital punishment for all crimes but to instead set up more effective detention systems and improve prison conditions for detainees.

The Catholic Bishops encouraged the Congolese people to train and educate themselves in the respect and promotion of human dignity, saying, “Educate children and young people by moving them from the culture of death to the culture of care and protection of life.”

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With the lifting of the moratorium in DRC, the death penalty is to be carried out following any judicial conviction for offenses that include criminal conspiracy, treason, espionage, participation in armed gangs, participation in an uprising, crimes against humanity, military conspiracy, and rebellion, among others. 

In a March 17 interview with the French-language Catholic television channel, KTO, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo said the decision to lift a 2003 ban on the death penalty is retrogressive.

“This is a step backwards! I don't think that a responsible government can raise such an option to punish people who are called traitors,” he said, adding, “First of all, on the notion of traitors, we must first agree on what that means. And when I look at the reality here in the Congo, the great traitors to the country are precisely those in power.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.