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Church, Government in DR Congo Have “no problem”: Lawmaker Says amid Media Speculations

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo addressing journalists after an audience he granted a section of government officials in the country led by the Speaker of the National Assembly. Credit: Courtesy Photo

There is “no problem” between the State and the leadership of the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a lawmaker in the Central African country has said amid media speculations of tensions between the two entities. 

Reports making rounds on social media have indicated that the government and the Catholic Church in DRC have had a rift because of the latter's opposition to the appointment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) chairperson.

A section of government officials in the country led by the Speaker of the National Assembly paid a courtesy visit to the Archbishop of Kinshasa Archdiocese, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Tuesday, November 23 to clarify the speculations.

Addressing journalists after the courtesy visit, Christophe Mboso Nkodia highlighted “the regular and familiar nature of these kinds of visits to the one that everyone considers first of all as a spiritual Father.”

“There is no problem between the State and the Catholic Church and as for the Cardinal in particular, there is none,” Mr. Mboso told journalists November 23, and added, “We are used to coming here to our spiritual father, our Archbishop. But today, we came because of rumors that you know have been spreading on social media.”

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“We came to discuss with his eminence, to clarify certain things because there are people who want to taint the image of the Church,” the lawmaker said, adding that the Congolese government “will continue to collaborate with the Church as an institution, for the well-being of our population and for the progress of the Catholic Church in Congo.”

The two-hour courtesy visit to Cardinal Ambongo had the Senate President, Modeste Bahati, the Prime Minister, Sama Lukonde and the special adviser of the Head of State on security, François Beya in attendance.

Leaders from the country's main religious denominations including the Catholic Church leaders under the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) rejected the endorsement by the National Assembly of Mr. Denis Kadima as the head  of CENI and the confirmation of this endorsement by President Félix Tshisekedi.

For CENCO and ECC members, Mr. Kadima and President Tshisekedi have a closeness that points to a conflict of interest. 

In August, a group of young Congolese reportedly stormed the Lindonge center in the town of Limete before they accessed the residence of Cardinal Ambongo, chanting songs against the Catholic Church leader and throwing stones at his residence.

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Addressing journalists October 30 after his meeting with the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou N'Guesso, Cardinal Ambongo reiterated the Catholic Church leaders’ disapproval of Mr. Kadima as CENI president.

“Our stance on the choice of Denis Kadima, endorsed by the National Assembly and confirmed by the President of the Republic as President of the CENI is clear. We are against it,” Cardinal Ambongo said.

“The population of Kinshasa being 90% Catholics, we told President Tshisekedi that his designation as head of the CENI was not the right choice,” the Congolese Cardinal said during the October 30 press conference, noting that President Tshisekedi "did not listen to us and decided to confirm this one. But we are concerned because it could be a kind of seed of protests for future elections.”

In his address to journalists following the November 23 courtesy visit, Cardinal Ambongo said he was happy and honored to receive the leaders of the country's main institutions.

“We talked about everything that can be misinterpreted, as you are used to reading on social media where anything is written about the Cardinal,” the Archbishop of Kinshasa said, adding that the encounter “was an opportunity for us to clarify things and to establish a new basis.”

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“The Church as well as the State are at the service of the same people,” Cardinal Ambongo further said, and added, “It is in our interest to work together to move forward so that our people can live in dignity.”