Last Sunday, July 4, the Archbishop of Kinshasa had invited the people of God in DRC to accompany Cardinal Monsengwo “with our prayers” explaining, in a message on Twitter, that the Cardinal’s “health is deteriorating and he is in a critical state.”
Cardinal Monsengwo who retired in November 2018 is known to have spearheaded the role of the Catholic Church in DRC in moving the Central African nation toward respect for the rights and freedoms of the Congolese people and greater democracy in the country.
In 1991, the late Cardinal chaired the Sovereign National Conference that created a framework for the post-Mobutu political transition.
While the process was interrupted by a protracted civil war due to deliberate efforts to ouster Mobutu, Cardinal Monsengwo-led Catholic Church fostered peacemaking efforts through negotiations, leading to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (2001-2003) that ultimately contributed to the end of the civil strife.
Under the leadership of the late Cardinal, the “influential Catholic Church mediated the December 31, 2016 Saint-Silvestre Peace Accord, which was supposed to have led to the formation of a transitional government, reforms within the electoral commission, and elections by the end of 2017, without Kabila as a candidate,” the Africa Center for Strategic Studies reported.
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During the 2018 crisis occasioned by President Joseph Kabila’s bid to vie for a third term that was constitutionally prohibited, Cardinal Monsengwo was described as being highly influential and the most listened to voice in DRC.
In February, the Laity Coordination Committee (CLC) in DRC recognized late Cardinal Monsengwo for his “concrete and exceptional acts,” giving him the Bakanja-Kimbangu Grand Citizen Merit Award.
Addressing members of the Press after receiving the award, Cardinal Monsengwo paid homage to Isidore Bakanja and Simon Kimbangu saying, “The title of this award by which you honour Dr. Mukwege and myself is striking. Bakanja-Kimbangu brings into peaceful coexistence a blessed Catholic and a founder of traditional African religions.”
The Congolese Cardinal who was at the helm of Kinshasa Archdiocese from February 2008 until his retirement 10 years later added, “If religious affiliation separates these two historical figures, the same values and intellectual convictions bring them together, the most fundamental of which is the dignity of the human person as a human creature.”
Ordained a Priest in 1963 and then a Bishop in February 1980, the Cardinal served in various capacities including, Auxiliary Bishop of Inongo, Auxiliary Bishop of Kisangani, Archbishop of Kisangani, and Archbishop of Kinshasa.
The late Congolese Prelate who served as a member of the Vatican’s Council of Cardinals, whose members have the responsibility of advising Pope Francis was elevated to Cardinal on 20 November 2010.
Cardinal Monsengwo was appointed to the Vatican’s Council of Cardinals at its establishment in April 2013 and served as a member until his resignation in October 2018, a month before he retired as the Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa.
Funeral arrangements for the late Cardinal “will be communicated shortly,” the Chancellor of Kinshasa Archdiocese, Fr. Georges Njila says in a statement shared with ACI Africa, adding, “The Archbishop (Cardinal Ambongo) offers his condolences to the biological family of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo and to all those who have suffered and assures us all of his prayers.”
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.