Beatification Cause of Murdered Congolese Jesuit Prelate “progressing normally”: Official

Servant of God Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, SJ, murdered in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on 29 October 1996.

The Beatification Cause of the Congolese Jesuit Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa is progressing as per the given guidelines, an official familiar with the process has said.

Also referred to as the “Oscar Romero of Congo,” Archbishop Munzihirwa who was vocal defending human rights was murdered on 29 October 1996.

“The Cause is progressing normally. It is not for us to fix the end of the process,” the Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of Central Africa, Fr. Rigobert Kyungu has been quoted as saying Thursday, October 29 during a ceremony to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Munzihirwa. The Archbishop who died aged 70 was the Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Fr. Rigobert added referencing the Cause that began in 2016, “Let us welcome this as a gift from God, when the Lord himself decides so.”

According to Fr. Rigobert, the Vice-Postulator of the Cause, Congolese Fr. Boniface Kanozire is working on the “summarium testium,” one of the key documents in the process of Beatification Causes.


After the “summarium testium” step is accomplished, “it will be a question of composing another part called “informatio,” the Jesuit Cleric said and explained that this is the theological part of the “positio,” a comprehensive biography of the Servant of God.

The “informatio” also includes the history of the cause as well as a chronological biography of the Servant of God and “must be written by a theologian,” he added during the October 29 event that took place in Bukavu Archdiocese, Eastern DRC.

A renowned vocal defender of human rights, 70-year-old Archbishop Munzihirwa was shot dead on the afternoon of October 29, 1996 within the Archdiocese of Bukavu, a day after he had appealed for peace and international help amid the Rwandan military invasion of DRC, then known as Zaire.

The Archbishop had fearlessly condemned the First Congo War, an international military conflict that happened in DRC between 1996 and 1997 culminating in the ousting of incumbent Congolese President, Mobutu Sese Seko who was succeeded by rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila.

The war, which was nicknamed Africa’s First World War due to the number of African countries involved escalated when Rwandan troops invaded the Eastern part of the country on October 28, 1996 in pursuit of rebel groups that had sought refuge there after the 1994 genocide.

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The Rwandan government accused President Sese seko of supporting the rebels in their quest to attack the Central African nation, which was recovering from the genocide.

On October 28, the first day of the Rwandan invasion, Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa pleaded for international intervention saying, “We hope that God will not abandon us and that from some part of the world will rise for us a small flare of hope.”

On the same day, the Congolese Archbishop who referred to himself as "sentinel of the people," is said to have evacuated Trappist nuns from Bukavu region. The nuns had expressed fears over their lives amid the raging conflict and threats.

Archbishop Munzihirwa who had been shepherding the people of God in Bukavu for 17 months met his death on the afternoon of 29 October 1996 while Rwandan soldiers attacked his two-car motorcade as he made his way to a Jesuit school in his jurisdiction.

With the occupants of his escort car dead as well as his driver and bodyguard who were travelling with him, the Archbishop is reported to have exited his damaged car clutching a Crucifix. He had been referred to as Oscar “Romero of Congo”.


He headed towards the Rwandese soldiers who are said to have interrogated him through torture before shooting him dead. His body was left lying on the open deserted streets for over 24 hours before Saverian seminarians recovered it. He was laid to rest on 29 November 1996.

Amid the violence that saw people “holed up in their homes, and corpses lay all over the city,” Archbishop Munzihirwa’s burial was attended by 71 people only, among them nine Priests, an account of the Prelate’s life by the Archdiocese of Bukavu indicates.

The Archbishop’s Beatification Cause started on 28 May 2016 after approval from the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

"Mgr. Munzihirwa died as a martyr! He was a prophet! Africa, Congo, the Great Lakes and in particular the Archdiocese of Bukavu lost a precious pearl. Woe to those who think of placing their throne on tombs,” Joseph Cardinal Tomko, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and special envoy of the Pope in Burundi said in November 1996.

During the October 29 memorial, Jesuit Fr. Rigobert encouraged the people of God in DRC to pray for the process and to exercise patience.

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"As we say in the prayer to ask for his beatification: we wait with confidence and prayer for the Church to proclaim him blessed. Let's wait without getting impatient or discouraged,” Fr. Rigobert said.

He encouraged the people of God to imitate the virtuous life of the Servant of God so that he is known around us.

He prayed that the blood of the late Archbishop facilitates the realization of “a reign of peace in the Great Lakes Region.”