“A decisive turning point”: Catholic Archbishop on DR Congo’s Third Eucharistic Congress

Catholic Bishops in DR Congo in procession during the closing Mass of the third National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: CENCO

The third National Eucharistic Congress in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that concluded on Sunday, June 11 marked “a decisive turning point” for the followers of Jesus Christ in the Central African nation, the President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the country has said. 

In his speech at the conclusion of the June 4-11 spiritual event that was held at the TP Mazembe Stadium in Lubumbashi, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa said the spiritual engagement “we have just experienced marks a decisive turning point in our journey to follow Christ.”

“This third Eucharistic Congress, rich in teachings and signs, has opened our eyes. We could also say, our hearts were burning during the theological colloquia, during catechesis, during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament and finally during this Eucharistic celebration on the feast of the Blessed Sacrament,” Archbishop Utembi, who is the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) said. 

He added, “Our pilgrimage does not end here with the mass we have just celebrated. We will continue with God's help to strengthen unity in our families and everywhere.”

“We have discovered even more that the Eucharist is a commitment that goes as far as the gift of one’s self for the weakest, the poorest, the sinners.” Archbishop Utembi said, and added, “We experienced the Church's missionary dimension and universal brotherhood.”


The Local Ordinary of DRC’s Kisangani Archdiocese continued, “Having come as pilgrims to contemplate the Eucharist in all its dimensions, we feel like the disciple Jesus carried up the mountain where Jesus manifested his glory to them in the mystery of the transfiguration. We feel so good that we'd also like to build three tents here in Lubumbashi, but it's time to go back to the values of our families and communities.”

Turning to the challenges the Central African nation is facing, the Congolese Catholic Archbishop highlighted the challenges the country is facing even at the Eucharistic Congress was going on. 

DRC, he said, is “facing multiple crises: recurrent insecurity, massacres, war and natural disasters in certain areas.”

“Added to this is the fear of tomorrow. Our families are hungry, and many parents are unable to meet their children's food and other needs on their meager salaries,” Archbishop Utembi said.

He said that beyond all the challenges, “there is the hunger for love, for justice and peace, for a full life; hunger for care, forgiveness, mercy.”

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“We're not alone in our suffering. Jesus stands beside us, present in the Eucharist, walking with us. He is the bread from heaven. The only bread that comforts us and is able to satisfy these different types of hunger,” Archbishop Utembi said on June 11, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

He continued, “The fact that we have come together in Lubumbashi from different parts of the country shows that we are capable of being together, of living together in communion, for in Christ we are one family.”

“It's also a message we're sending out to all those who want to separate us by trying to balkanize our country. Indeed, beyond our ethnic and cultural diversity, we form one nation living in this land of choice, the DRC,” he said.

The Congolese Catholic Archbishop implored, “May God make us missionaries of the Eucharist in our families and communities.”

Held under the theme, “Eucharist and Family”, the national Eucharistic Congress that opened on June 4 was organized after two earlier ones, the first held in Kisantu, in the Western part of the country in 1933, and the second that took place in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, in 1980.


In his homily during the June 11 closing Mass, the Papal special envoy to the DRC Eucharistic Congress said, “The Eucharist makes us God's family. Though we are many, though we are different from one another, we are one family in Jesus Christ and the life of this family is the love of the Holy Spirit, who makes us grow into the full stature of Christ, the Head of the Body.”

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle added, “To live by the Word of God, which became flesh and blood, is to live as He lived, always in filial communion with God, and always in fraternal communion with our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most forgotten.”

Cardinal Tagle cautioned the people of God in DR Congo against wasting “the spiritual food that gives authentic life that is Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“Beware of bad food and toxic drinks that weaken and destroy mutual understanding, mutual respect, mutual forgiveness, mutual belonging and mutual service,” the Pro-Prefect of the  Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization said.

The 65-year-old Filipino Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in December 2001 as the Bishop of Imus in the Philippines further said, “As a family, as a Church, as a people, hunger for Him, thirst for Him, come to Him, abide in Him and live in Him. Love and serve one another in remembrance of Him.”

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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.