, 02 March, 2020 / 8:06 PM
Against the backdrop of accusations against the Catholic Bishops in Gabon for remaining silent over kidnappings and ritual killings in the Central African nation, the President of the Bishops' Conference of Gabon has, in a Lenten Message, come to the defense of the Church leaders, reaffirming the Church’s commitment in denouncing evil in society.
“The Church - which at every Mass celebrates the glory of God, instructs and encourages the faithful, denounces the evils that grow in society and challenges consciences through homilies - cannot remain silent,” Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan said in a message availed Sunday, March 1.
“The Holy Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ Himself, has the mission of announcing Christ: to teach, sanctify and govern the people of God,” he added.
Bishop Madega argued that Catholic Church leaders are always speaking out against “ritual crimes” and that “only those who are distracted or who do not attend the Catholic Church, or those who completely disregard it, can say that the Catholic Church is silent.”
The Bishop Gabon’s Mouila recalled that on December 28 each year, “the Church in Gabon prays especially for these crimes which are an abominable and unspeakable evil, without omitting its support for the Association for the Fight against Ritual Crimes (A.L.C.R.).”
He added, “In the homily at the closing Mass of our Plenary Assembly last January, these crimes were vigorously denounced.”
The 59-year-old Gabonese Prelate emphasized the stand of the Church on human life saying, “The culture of defending life - from conception to natural death - in the face of the culture of death is a fundamental option for the Church in Gabon at all times and in all places.”
Catholic Church leaders in Gabon have come under attacks in recent times following an upsurge in kidnappings and ritual killings.
Last month, some unidentified individuals used blood-stained paintings on the central fence of the Saint Mary Cathedral in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, to denounce crimes of child abduction, in particular that of 3-year-old Rinaldi who mysteriously disappeared from Abbé village, near Bitam in the province of Woleu-Ntem (north of the country).
Messages such as “Church of silence in the face of crimes. God will judge you” and “Christian, which God do you pray to accept the evil in Gabon” were also written on the walls of the Cathedral church.
Several messages are also circulating on social media condemning the silence of the Church in Gabon in the face of these evil crimes.
“There are many messages, too many messages. And in the face of the different messages which you receive, read or listen to, you must discern, that is to say, choose well,” Bishop Madega stated in the 8-point statement.
“Discernment, good choice of messages, is very important,” the Prelate remarked in his message and added, “Above all, do not accept messages that carry within them germs of death, germs of curse. Each of you wants life and blessing. So, avoid messages that give death and curse.”
According to Bishop Madega, “Faith is a vital and very precious gift. And as Christians, avoid messages that "defile" and "disfigure" the Church of Christ, that undermine and destroy the whole Creed or only one part of the Creed, the summary of Faith.”
Faced with any message that is delivered to them, the Local ordinary of Gabon’s Mouila diocese encouraged Christians to ponder if “the message encourages me to remain firm in the Faith and make it grow", or on the contrary, does it discourage me and try to extinguish my Faith?”
“Believing "in the Church" and denigrating it at the same time is not worthy of a Christian,” the Prelate lamented and warned, “to raise, support and propagate against the Catholic Church, uncivil and insulting, inaccurate and false, irreverent and pernicious, evil messages that lead to ungodliness, is very dangerous.” Therefore, flee from these kinds of messages, erase them.
“The Catholic Church encourages Christians to have a Bible,” the Prelate said and probed, “How is it that Catholics can still believe the BIG LIE that the Catholic Church hides the truth from them, the truth that is in their Bible and the Bible is in their hands?”
“Does the Church Offer Bibles with pages removed?” he questioned.
The Gabonese prelates however cautioned Christians to “beware of misinterpretations of the Bible that use verses out of context, refuse to know the true meaning of words, ignore literary genres and the biblical use of certain expressions, or contradict the very words of Christ as understood and handed down by the Apostles and their Successors to the present day.”
The Bishop who is also the moderator of the Catholic Biblical Federation of Gabon expressed the hope that the present invitation to discernment, to the right choice of messages, can help those who are distracted, "to convert, to know the truth, and to return to reason, once they have been freed from the nets of the devil, who holds them captive, enslaved to his will.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa