Auxiliary Bishop of Boma Released in Congo

Auxiliary Bishop of Boma Released in Congo Government Has Unleashed Real Persecution Against Church

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KINSHASA, D.R. of Congo, JAN. 11, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- After spending 13 days in prison, Auxiliary Bishop Cyprien Mbuka of Boma was released in Kinshasa yesterday morning.

The day before, Cardinal Frederic Etsou, Archbishop of Kinshasa and president of the Episcopal Conference of the Congo, published a severe statement not only denouncing the Bishop´s imprisonment but the injustice of the measure and the authorities´ indifference to all requests.

When released, Bishop Mbuka, 57, thanked the Cardinal for his intervention. The Bishop was arrested in Matadi on December 28 and transferred to Kinshasa on January 3, where he was placed under the control of the DEMIAP, the police in charge of «anti-patriotic activities.»

The accusation, which was neither specific nor formal, was considered ridiculous by Cardinal Etsou.

Reliable Congolese authorities, quoted by the MISNA missionary agency, rejected the accusation immediately, saying it was totally unfounded.

Moreover, in his statement, the Archbishop of Kinshasa denounced the practice of random arrests, which are detrimental to religious.

In addition to Bishop Mbuka, over the past few years several other priests have been arrested, including Bishop Theophile Kaboy of Kasongo, and two missionaries who were later sent to Kinshasa; retired Bishop Joseph Kesengue of Molegbe, and Fr. Fridolin Ambongo, Provincial Superior of the Capuchins; and Bishop Nestor Ngoy Katahwa who at the time of the arrest was Bishop of Manono and at present is Bishop of Kolwezi.

Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, president of SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) also intervened at the end of last week, and issued a statement condemning the arbitrary arrests of bishops by the Congolese government.

According to the Vatican agency Fides, the bishops were accused of «complicity with the rebels,» in «covering up the arms traffic» and «favoring the entry of rebels into the country.» With reference to the most recently released Bishop, Cardinal Frederic Etsou said that all discussions with the authorities had been in vain. «I was immediately in touch with the authorities to ask that Bishop Mbuka be allowed to return to the Archdiocese to await the outcome of the investigations.»

The Congolese Cardinal also denounced the Bishop´s endurance of 12 days of prison «in unworthy conditions,» above all, with no proofs or verified accusations against him.

Today´s edition of the Italian newspaper Avvenire, states that these arrests of men of the Church are a real «persecution,» which they are suffering for being «the only free and non-aligned voice in the recent vicissitudes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo,» in the throes of a civil war.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), with 48 million inhabitants, is one of the wealthiest countries of the world in terms of raw materials. It controls more than 65% of the world´s cobalt reserves, as well as a large quantity of diamonds, petroleum, uranium, silver, and iron. However, Africa´s Great Lakes war, which also involves Rwanda and Uganda, is relentlessly bleeding the country.

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