– In the wake of an attack on a Catholic seminary, the leader of the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has issued an appeal about “the alarming security situation” in his country.
In a message sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, reported on a February 18th “arson attack” on the Malole major seminary.
The prelate charged the perpetrators were “violent thugs, who have [also] sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters” in nearby Kananga.
The cardinal described the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as marked by a “resurgence of fear, anger and insecurity” among the population. He stressed that the Catholic Church in particular has come under attack recently.
On February 19, the parish church of St. Dominic in the Limete municipality of Kinshasa was desecrated by a gang of youth. Pasinya wrote that “they overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church. The material damage is considerable.”
The archbishop believes the Catholic Church is “being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”
The Church played a crucial role as mediator in negotiations that led to a December 31, 2016 agreement that DRC President Joseph Kabila will step down following elections to be held late this year. The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war.
In his message, Pasinya called on the country’s politicians to assume their responsibility of leadership, reminding them that the country’s bishops were only acting as mediators.
He wrote: “It is now down to the men of politics to acknowledge with humility, both before the nation and before the international community, their political weakness and the turpitude of their selfish choices that have led to a political impasse and the paralysis of the institutions.”
He called on each and every political leader to “demonstrate wisdom, self-restraint and a democratic spirit in order to resolve the question regarding the designation of the Prime Minister and the other related issues” in order not to risk “imperiling the planned elections scheduled for the end of this year.”
ACN supports a number of projects in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, providing funding for the building of rectories and churches as well as priestly formation programs.
The Daughters of the Resurrection, an order of African Sisters that was founded with the aid of ACN, receives special support in the form of living expenses for the sisters. The community has been hard-hit by violence in the past decade; a number of convents were forced to close and several sisters were killed.
ACN also supports yearly retreats for priests, in an effort to give them some respite from the intense psychological stress of performing their ministry in highly stressful and often violent settings.