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Late Congolese Cardinal Eulogized as a Champion of Justice, Civil Rights for Marginalized

Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of the Democratic Republic of Congo who died 11 July 2021 aged 81/ Credit: Archdiocese of Kinshasa

Catholic Church leaders and government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have eulogized the Archbishop emeritus of Kinshasa, Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, as a champion of justice and civil rights of the marginalized in the Central African nation and beyond.

The 81-year-old late Cardinal died Sunday, July 11 in France.  

In an interview with Vatican News shortly after the death of Cardinal Monsengwo, his successor in the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo described the late Cardinal as a man who devoted his life to building “a more just world.” 

“I believe that Cardinal Laurent was truly a man of God, a man who believed in God and in man, in the value of the human person,” Cardinal Ambongo said, adding, “Throughout his life he gave himself for the uplifting of his brothers through an integral evangelization, but also through his fight for a more just world, a more fraternal world.”

The Church in the DRC, Cardinal Ambongo further said, has lost “a man of international stature.”

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“It is also a loss for the faithful, to whom he was always close, even as Archbishop emeritus ... He always kept a very good relationship, both at the level of the church and at the level of society,” the Congolese Cardinal eulogized his predecessor, whom he succeeded in November 2018.

“We all feel that we have lost something precious that will take time to fill,” the Local Ordinary of Kinshasa Archdiocese further said, and explained, “I think that Cardinal Laurent's personality is first of all this fight that comes from the involvement of his faith in God. He believed in God and he was convinced that you cannot believe in God without at the same time believing in the human person, in his dignity.”

From the late Cardinal, he went on to say, “we will learn that if you claim to be a man of faith in Jesus Christ, a religious man, you must also take the fate of your brothers and sisters very seriously. Forget yourself and give everything in your power so that your brothers and sisters can live with dignity.”

The former Prefect of the Vatican-based Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Robert Cardinal Sarah has recalled the many years of friendship he shared with the late Congolese Cardinal.

“I have lost a faithful, good and generous friend whom I knew for a very long time,” Cardinal Sarah says in a Facebook post.

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The native of Guinea adds in his July 11 message, “My sorrow is great. Africa will miss him. I ask you to pray for the repose of his soul.”

Meanwhile, DRC’s President, Félix Tshisekedi has eulogized the late Cardinal as “a true servant of God who loved all people and served our country well.”

“Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo was a socio-political library, a scientist of high calibre, a dedicated Prelate, a staunch defender of the interests of the Church and the Congolese people,” the President of DRC says.

The death of the Congolese Cardinal was confirmed by Cardinal Ambongo. In a Tweet following the demise of the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Kinshasa stated, “It is with profound sorrow that I announce to the community of Catholic Christians and all people of good will the death of Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo this Sunday, July 11 at Versailles in France.”

Cardinal Ambongo added, “Let us intensify our prayers for this eternal rest with God He served.”

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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.”