It is in the faith in Jesus Christ, the CENCO President said, “and in this hope that we want to root the Church-Family of God in DR Congo.”
“In communion with Your Holiness, we have consecrated, with joy and hope, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our country, the DR Congo, the Church and the whole of humanity, and in particular Russia and Ukraine,” Archbishop Utembi said.
He implored, “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Congo, watch over you throughout your apostolic journey.”
In his address to the Congolese Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis said that during his January 31-February 3 stay in the country, he had experienced the Church in the DRC as “a young, dynamic and joyful Church, motivated by missionary zeal, by the good news that God loves us and that Jesus is Lord.”
“Yours is a Church present in the lived history of this people, deeply rooted in its daily life, and in the forefront of charity,” Pope Francis told CENCO members.
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He added, “It is a community capable of attracting others, filled with infectious enthusiasm and therefore, like your forests, with plenty of ‘oxygen.’ Thank you, because you are a lung that helps the universal Church breathe!”
According to the Vatican, there are more than 52 million Catholics in the DRC, almost half of the country’s total population of over 105 million people. The country, which covers 905,600 square miles, is divided into 48 Catholic dioceses.
After praising the beautiful features of the Church in the DRC, Pope Francis said he was sorry to have to speak of another side to the Catholic Bishops’ country.
“Sadly, I know that the Christian community of this land also has another face,” he said.
He continued, “It is the face of a Church that suffers for its people, a heart in which the life of the people, with its joys and trials, beats anxiously; a Church that is a visible sign of Christ, who even today is rejected, condemned and reviled in the many crucified people of our world; a Church that weeps with their tears, and like Jesus, a Church that also wants to dry those tears.”
He encouraged Catholic Bishops in DRC to be close to the Lord in prayer in order to be prophets for the people of God under their pastoral care.
The Holy Father urged the Catholic Bishops to console their people, and above all, to be “shepherds and servants of the people, not entrepreneurs, not moneymakers.”
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.