, 25 April, 2020 / 3:08 AM
The third National Eucharistic Congress that had been scheduled to take place in June in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been postponed to a later date due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Bishops in the Central African country announced Friday, April 24, calling on the pilgrims not to break the momentum that they had gained over time.
“The coronavirus pandemic which has affected our country, DR Congo, obliges us to postpone the celebration of this congress to a later date,” the Bishops announced in their collective statement as members of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (CENCO).
“We know that many of us have prepared with faith and joy to live this moment of grace,” the Bishops stated and added, “this postponement must not break the momentum already gained in preparation. We must keep the spiritual dynamic in which we have already engaged until the next celebration of this congress.”
Planned for June 7-14, the Eucharistic Congress, the third in the country, is expected to be held in in Lubumbashi, a southeastern copper-mining town, under the theme, “Eucharist and Family.”
The first Congress was held in Kisantu, in the western part of the country in 1933 followed by the one in the capital, Kinshasa in 1980.
Pope Francis appointed the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, also known as Propaganda Fide, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as his special envoy to this year’s Congress.
In their statement announcing the postponement of the Congress, the Bishops in DRC have reiterated their appeal to all in the country “to respect the measures taken by the health authorities to protect all of us: lockdown, social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, no public gatherings, etc.”
“While following the provisions decreed by the authorities, let us remain in prayer and strengthen our faith by sharing the Word of God. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Risen Lord liberate the world from all forms of pandemics,” the Bishops have stated in their collective message.
Meanwhile, in a separate letter dated April 23, the Bishops in DRC have condemned the violence taking place in Ituri Province in the Eastern part of the country.
“We condemn any violation of the dignity of the human person, wherever it comes from. Human life is sacred. Under no circumstances can land or administrative conflicts legitimize inter-community killings,” the Bishops stated.
Djugu and Mahagi territories in Ituri Province have been experiencing an increase in inter-ethnic violence between the native Lema and Hendu communities since 2017. This year, more than 200 people have been killed while scores of other civilians have been wounded and abducted, the U.N. Human Rights Office reported.
According to the Bishops, the violence is increasing the risk of the “spread of Ebola and COVID-19 diseases already present in the region.”
The Prelates have appealed to the political class and the authorities in the region to take the necessary measures “to guarantee calm and security in the region, to establish responsibilities and to prosecute the perpetrators of these horrible and unacceptable acts.”
For the people of Mahagi and Djugu territories, the Bishops have called for the cultivation of “the spirit of love and mutual tolerance for peaceful inter-community coexistence.”
“Love and peace grow in a civilization of mutual help and harmony,” the Prelates in DRC stated, appealing for urgent humanitarian aid for the people of the violence-stricken region.
“In these fragile areas, entire families live in heightened precariousness, and humanitarian aid is urgently needed,” the Church leaders pointed out and added, “Once again, we cry out in distress to the Congolese Government, to humanitarian organizations and to people of goodwill to pay special attention to the suffering people of Ituri.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa