Church in Congo Begins Non-Violence Program

Angelus Bell Taken as Symbol of Peaceful Protest

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By Nieves San Martin

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, JAN. 17, 2012 ( Last Saturday all the bells of the parishes of the Democratic Republic of Congo rang to invite people to the Marian prayer of the Angelus. The bells also were intended to symbolize a cry of non-violent protest by the Congolese people. 

This bell-ringing will be repeated every Saturday of this month, as part of a program of formation in peace-building announced by the bishops at the end of their recently concluded plenary assembly.

The closing Mass of the assembly of the National Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (NECCO) took place in the cathedral of Kinshasa last Thursday. During it, NECCO’s general secretary, Father Leonard Santedi, read a statement of the Congolese bishops , titled «Courage of the Truth,» in which they addressed the situation of their country.

Following the general elections, disputed by international observers and the Church, there has been tension between the Church and the government of President Joseph Kabila. Some of the media have published defamatory remarks about the cardinal archbishop of Kinshasa, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

«A state of law is not built on a culture of cheating, lies and terror,» state the bishops in their declaration. «What has happened on computing the results of the legislative elections is unacceptable. It is a disgrace for our country.»

They lament the «disquieting irregularities and weaknesses,» as well as the «climate of terror maintained and exploited,» to alter the ballot boxes that make questionable «the credibility of the published results.»

The bishops also condemn the campaign of disparagement orchestrated publicly against Cardinal Monsengwo, who in a press conference expressed his opinion that the result of the presidential election was not «in keeping with the truth or justice.»

The bishops request that the international community favor «the interest of the Congolese people, that it support the Congolese people in their quest for justice and peace, and that it respect their self-determination.»

They ask the people not to give in to pessimism, despair, violence, tribalism or xenophobia; they request politicians to give proof of maturity and responsibility, and Parliament to revise the composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission, which does not enjoy the trust of the people.

New impulse

Those present in the cathedral applauded the statement. One of those present told ZENIT that it was «as if it were a new impulse that drew the people out of their disappointment and humiliation.»

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Monsengwo announced a series of actions inspired by non-violence. To implement the program a meeting was held with all the country’s pastoral agents in the parish of St. Joseph of Matonge, Kinshasa.

Jacinthe, a Congolese Catholic teacher who attended the meeting, told ZENIT that the pastoral agents are very much in tune with the Catholic Church at this time, because it «is playing a good role in this critical situation. The people are most grateful.»

Jacinthe expressed her emotion when participating in the Mass in the cathedral on Thursday, during which the faithful felt that the Church is on their side. «You can’t imagine how complete and important it is. We received it with cries, tears of joy. A real resurrection,» added Jacinthe.

At the end of the Mass, the cardinal invited and encouraged those present to take part in formation and peaceful manifestations and, above all, to try to live non-violence every day.

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On the Net:

The text of the declaration in French is available on NECCO’s Web page:

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