Signed Church-State Pacts in DRC Start of “more intense collaboration”: Vatican Cardinal

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde and other Church and government officials after the signing of new agreements between the Catholic Church and the government of DRC. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Vatican Secretary of State has described the signing of new agreements between the Catholic Church and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the beginning of “a new, more intense, and orderly collaboration”. 

On July 2, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) signed five agreements with the authorities in the Central African nation recognizing the official standing of the Catholic Church, which had previously been registered as a non-profit entity.

CENCO President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa represented the Catholic Church in the pacts that were signed with the five DRC government entities, which included the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, Justice, Finance, Higher Education and Universities, and Local Affairs.

Speaking after the signing of the agreements, Pietro Cardinal Parolin said, “The Agreement consolidates the partnership which has united the Catholic Church and the political authorities of this country for centuries, at the service of the entire population.”

“The interest of the Church, in these relations with the civil authorities, is focused on working together for the integral human development of all people, without ethnic or religious distinctions, and especially the poorest and most needy,” the Cardinal said.


In January 2020, Cardinal Parolin and the President of DRC, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, “exchanged the instruments of ratification of the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of Congo on matters of mutual interest, signed in the Vatican on 20 May 2016.”

Ratified in 2019 and entered into force in 2020, the Framework Agreement has never been fully implemented, Vatican News reported.

A decree last June by Prime Minister Sama Lukonde called for its implementation and thus recognition of the Church as a legal entity.

According to Vatican News, “Following months of negotiations and considerable engagement by CENCO, the Apostolic Nunciature, and the relevant government ministries, a Joint Commission then drew up five specific agreements governing the areas of religious instruction in schools, Catholic educational institutions, the Church's charitable-assistance activity, pastoral care in penitentiary and hospital institutions, and the Church’s patrimonial and fiscal regime.”

Speaking during the July 2 ceremony, the Vatican Secretary of State said that the Framework Agreement would not only represent “the end of a long process, but rather the cornerstone of a new, more intense, and orderly collaboration.” 

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This, the Vatican-based Cardinal said, will lead to “the peaceful and fruitful collaboration of the Church with the civil authorities and the just recognition of its contribution to the common good.”

Also speaking at the July 2 event, the Archbishop of Kinshasa highlighted the importance of the gesture for DRC government and the Congolese Catholic Church. 

“It is a historic day for the Congolese Church that has been awaited for over six years,” Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Besungu said.

Cardinal Ambongo added, “As of today, everything will become easier for us in the field of education, health, and social work, as well as in everything we do for the poor and all the work we have been doing for years.”

“The agreements will therefore give us new impetus,” the Congolese Cardinal said, adding, “Before we worked and no one—including diocesan bishops—knew what the Church’s rights and duties were with respect to the government; now things will be clearer.”


The Congolese Church, he said, “will know that all the work we do is done within legislation recognized by the State.”

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.