DR-Congo

Pope accepts Kinshasa archbishop’s resignation

Francis' decision comes just weeks before key elections to replace President Joseph Kabila

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of 79-year-old Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, a vocal government critic, who will automatically be succeeded by Kinshasa’s Coadjutor Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu.

The Holy See’s Press Office made the announcement on Nov. 1, the Feast of All Saints. Canon law requires bishops to request retirement when they reach 75; the pope is not required, however, to accept them.

The pope's decision to accept Cardinal Monsengwo’s resignation as archbishop of Kinshasa comes just weeks before key elections to replace Joseph Kabila as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cardinal Monsengwo had been in the forefront of the local church’s two-year-long socio-political crisis.

The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a whole and Cardinal Monsengwo in particular had been at loggerheads with Kabila who had reached the end of his constitutional second term of office in December 2016, but refused to abandon power, angering many opponents and civil society organizations.

A church-sponsored agreement to resolve the crisis and salvage the situation had already been violated several times by the government.

To show their discontent, Catholic laypeople from Kinshasa organized a series of protest marches since Dec. 31, 2017 that were severely repressed by police.

“Are we living in an open prison? How can they kill men, women, children, young and old, who are singing religious hymns, carrying bibles, rosaries and crucifixes?” asked Cardinal Monsengwo a day after a Catholic protest march against the Kabila government on Jan. 21 left at least six people dead.

“What do they really want? Power for power’s sake or power for the integral development of the people in peace, justice and truth?” Cardinal Monsengwo said. “We want the rule of law and not the law of force,” he said.

The cardinal had called on laypeople not to give in to violence, to remain unshakable in their faith, to act always with love for their neighbor and to live “in joyful hope that the Lord will not abandon us.”

Kabila eventually renounced a third term as president. On Aug. 8, the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy revealed the former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would represent the party for the presidential election on Dec. 23.

Cardinal Monsengwo was appointed Archbishop of Kinshasa in December 2007 and was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 2010. He has served on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisers (also known as the C-9) since its inception in April 2013.

The cardinal is succeeded by Archbishop Besungu, 58, a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa in February 2018.

As coadjutor, Archbishop Besungu assisted Cardinal Monsengwo with the view that when the latter's term ends, will automatically succeed him.

Earlier, Archbishop Besungu served as a parish priest, professor at the Catholic University of Kinshasa, as a major superior for his Order in the DR Congo, and as President of the Assembly of Major Superiors (ASUMA).

He then became Bishop of the Diocese of Bokungu-Ikela in 2005 and made the Archbishop of Mbandaka-Bikoro in 2016.

Since June 2016 Archbishop Besungu has served as vice-president of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.
About 80-85 percent of the 80 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are Christian, roughly half of that Catholic.

Source :  la-croix.com

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