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Catholic Bishops in DR Congo "strongly condemn" Series of Attacks on Church

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 condemned the recent attacks targeting the Catholic Church and her leaders. 

In a Monday, August 2 statement, the members of the Standing Committee of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) say the targeted attacks go against the principle of freedom of worship in the country.

They highlight multiple cases of desecration in the Diocese of Mbujimayi, the storming of Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo’s residence, and the uttering of derogatory remarks against the Congolese Cardinal among attacks targeting the Catholic Church.

"CENCO strongly condemns these inadmissible acts of violence which are a serious attack on freedom of religion and expression, but also a violation of democracy," the Catholic Bishops say.

The attacks targeting Catholic Church leaders and facilities are "a big step backwards on the road to the rule of law to which the Congolese people aspire," they add in the statement obtained by ACI Africa.

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Members of CENCO’s Standing Committee say they received a letter from Bishop Emmanuel-Bernard Kasanda of Mbujimayi stating that "since April 2021, abominable acts of desecration in places of worship: parishes, Marian caves, altars, sanctuaries …  acts going so far as to desecrate our tabernacles where the Blessed Sacrament rests."

The Bishops were also "dismayed" by the July 31 derogatory remarks by the Secretary General of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), DRC’s the ruling party, Augustin Kabuya, they say, accusing Cardinal Ambongo and CENCO's Secretary General of politicizing the Church. 

The Bishops say they were also disturbed by the attack on the Cardinal's residence which came a day after the remarks made by the UDPS official.

A group of youthful Congolese reportedly stormed the Lindonge center in the town of Limete before they accessed the residence of Cardinal Ambongo, chanting songs against the Cardinal and throwing stones at his residence.

In a statement following the incident, the Chancellor of Kinshasa Archdiocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Fr. Georges Njila condemned the August 1 incident saying, “We strongly condemn this irresponsible attitude as well as its consequences.”

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In their August 2 statement, members of CENCO Standing Committee say, "Our pain is all the greater as all these acts show hatred against the Catholic Church."

They defend the Congolese Cardinal who is being accused of delaying the electoral process in the country saying he "did not take a position, which is not that of the CENCO within the framework of his prophetic mission." 

The Catholic Bishops also question why the Church is being attacked yet the Bishops preach national cohesion saying, "Why attack her when she defends the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).”

The Catholic Church leadership, they said, “is only accomplishing its prophetic mission in the search for the well-being of the Congolese people."

"While condemning these despicable acts, we ask our faithful Christians and defenders of democracy not to react violently," members of CENCO Standing Committee say, adding, "Violence is the weapon of those who lack the arguments in a democratic and citizen debate."

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Violence, they further say, "kills democracy and replaces it with dictatorship." 

The Catholic Bishops who oversee CENCO also call on the perpetrators of the violence to stop their violent actions and urge the government to take urgent action against those found guilty of engaging in violence.

They pledge to continue supporting the Congolese people in "consolidating democracy and improving their living conditions" and add, "For the love of the Congolese people, CENCO will not be silent."