BRAZZAVILLE, JAN. 7, 2001 ( Christians in the Republic of the Congo observed the closing of the Holy Year by rejoicing in peace after the massacres suffered. Their preparation for the Jubilee, which the Bishops described as the "dynamic remembrance of our salvation," took place in the midst of violence.

In this very small country of 2.5 million inhabitants, 40% of whom are Catholics and 25% Protestants, two cruel civil wars have been fought between 1997 and 1999, resulting, among other things, in hundreds of thousands of refugees, including some bishops.

Despite the effects of these two wars, Bishop Anatole Milandou of Kinkala, president of the Episcopal Conference, celebrated the solemn closing of the Holy Year by reaffirming communion with the entire universal Church: "God has become flesh in the refugees, the homeless, and the victims of the catastrophe," he said.

Bishop Milandou reminded the Vatican agency Fides that the Brazzaville dioceses of Kinkala and Nkayi suffered the wounds of the two wars. "The people couldn´t be joyful in the midst of the dead, homeless, wounded, and refugees in the Pool forest and Niari valley. I admit that it is difficult to give signs of hope to Christians who have suffered so much. As pastor, I had to find reasons to rejoice. In the end, there is only one reason, which is embedded in the depths of violence and abandonment: Christ gave his life for us, so that we would have life in abundance," the bishop said.

Despite the harsh reality, the Jubilee was lived under the sign of forgiveness and reconciliation. In the aftermath of sackings, wounds, and hatred, the Church has started to work among the country´s inhabitants in favor of reconciliation. The bishops made their voice heard, calling politicians to dialogue and, despite lack of understanding and hostilities toward the Church, something new has come into being.

Fr. Stanislas Maweni, vice-president of the National Commission for the Holy Year, said to the Italian newspaper Avvenire that the "Jubilee and its preparations contributed to reconcile the belligerents to the point of signing agreements for an end to hostilities between the Army and armed factions, and a cease-fire in Brazzaville on December 29, 1999."

During the Jubilee period, Christians worked to reconcile the homeless and refugees. In addition to those already in the country, over 150,000 from other African conflicts arrived, especially from Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All need food, work, homes, and justice.

Fr. Abraham Roch Okoko-Esseau, national head of the Immigration Commission, said that the Jubilee was "a moment of grace to open us to the needs and want of others in the mist of our own poverty and pain."