Engaging Only Catholic Teachers in DR Congo’s
Catholic Schools Fosters Identity: Cardinal
The Archbishop of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Kinshasa Archdiocese has defended his decision to engage teachers who practice Catholicism in Catholic-sponsored Primary Schools within his jurisdiction, saying the move fosters Catholic identity.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Second Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo also recalled that his decision is in line with the agreement signed between the Church and the State.
“It is clear that if our schools are called Catholic schools, it means that these schools must have a Catholic identity. If there is no Catholic identity, I don't see what we are doing in our schools,” Cardinal Ambongo said Monday, October 12.
Making reference “to the agreement we signed with the State,” the Cardinal was categorical, “There is no other source.”
He added, “We don't need anyone's approval to implement this agreement that has been in force for almost fifty years.”
The Congolese Cardinal decreed, October 4, that only Catholic teachers would be engaged in primary schools saying, “Henceforth, every teacher serving in a Catholic school must be a Catholic believer, who practices the faith of this religion.”
“This decision will have a positive impact on the Catholic faith and will preserve the values and image of Catholic schools,” Cardinal Ambongo further said during his October 4 homily at the Saint Eugene Parish in Kinshasa.
He explained that every teacher must be a practicing Catholic because catechesis “is part of the curriculum of all Catholic schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The Cardinal also threatened to impose unspecified sanctions on Parish Priests and Coordinators of Catholic primary schools who will overlook the provision.
The Cardinal’s message has attracted condemnation from government officials and the leadership of the Teacher’s Trade Unions in DRC, with claims that the decision violates Article 13 of the country’s constitution prohibiting all forms of discrimination.
“We are a secular state and our country does not choose religious denominations. We only need teachers who are competent to convey the message, to give children as much information as possible so that they will be useful tomorrow in society, and we do not enshrine the policy of discrimination,” DRC’s Minister of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education (EPST), Willy Bakonga remarked October 12.
Speaking at the launch of the new school year in DRC at St. Raphael's College Kinshasa, Minister Bakonga promised to “get in touch with the Cardinal” to deliberate on the issue.
“I don't think a Cardinal who is a man of God, bringing everyone together can go as far as to discriminate against the education sector,” the government official observed.
On their part, officials of the Congo Teachers' Union (SYECO) termed Cardinal’s decision unconstitutional.
“Our Republic is first and foremost secular. A teacher cannot be forced to be Catholic, because first of all he is an agent of the State, he is paid by the Republic. To say that this teacher will be obliged to belong to this or that religious faith, in all this violates several laws of the Republic, including the Constitution,” the leadership of SYECO said in a statement issued October 9.
The Framework Agreement signed between the Vatican and DRC stipulates that the Catholic Church in the Central African nation will be able to establish Catholic schools and teach religion in these institutions.
According to the Holy See, the agreement “enshrines the freedom of the Church in apostolic activity and in the regulation of matters falling within her competence.”
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