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Catholic Bishops in DR Congo Suspend Participation in Forum of Religious Denominations

Some members of the Standing Committee of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). Credit: CENCO

Catholic Bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have suspended their participation in the Forum of Religious Denominations, an umbrella body grouping religious leaders in the Central African nation.

In a Monday, November 29 statement, the members of the Standing Committee of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) say their decision follows “difference in doctrines and perception of ethical values” among religious denominations in the Central African nation. 

“With the appointment of the animators of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), we realized the great difference in doctrines and perception of ethical values with some religious denominations,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say.  

For this reason, CENCO members have decided to “suspend the participation of the Catholic Church in the forum of religious denominations.”

Faith-based leaders in DR Congo have been divided over the choice of the Chairperson of CENI, a prerogative accorded them by the country’s constitution.

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In June, religious leaders in DRC failed to announce the head of the electoral commission after several days of concertation.

In August, six other denominations proposed Denis Kadima, a recognized electoral expert, as the new President of CENI.

On October 16, DRC’s National Assembly endorsed Mr. Kadima as President of CENI, a candidate who had been rejected by the Catholic and Protestant church representatives as well as opposition parties in the country.

President Felix Tshisekedi later confirmed the appointment of Mr. Kadima as the head of CENI alongside 12 others as members of the electoral body.

In their November 29 statement signed by CENCO Secretary General, Fr. Donatien Nshole, Catholic Bishops in DRC say, “The well-being of the Congolese people and national cohesion depend to a large extent on the success of the electoral process, the objective of which is the organization of credible, inclusive, transparent and peaceful elections.”

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They express their disapproval of the “politicization of CENI and the climate of mistrust that has been created, which could lead to elections that are contested in advance and which, as a result, would seriously damage national cohesion and social peace.”

As a way forward, members of CENCO Standing Committee urge stakeholders in the electoral process “to show openness in order to reassure all citizens of the transparency and inclusiveness of the electoral process.”

They encourage the lay faithful “to assume their civic responsibility for the advent of a Congo that is more beautiful than before.”

The Catholic Church leaders also “renew their commitment to accompany the Congolese people on the path of peace building and the consolidation of democracy through pastoral orientations.”

“We asked all Catholics to take advantage of the feast of Blessed Anuarite (December 1) to invoke her intercession in favor of peace in our country,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say in their November 29 statement.

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