Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Archbishop of Kinshasa, Congo Photo: Verdad en Libertad

Cardinal Ambongo: statements on the new colonialisms and Fiducia Supplicans

Recently, Cardinal Ambongo held a Conference on «Mission and Interreligious dialogue in Africa» at the Pontifical Antonianum University in Rome.

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Luca Attanasio

(ZENIT News – FIDES / Kinshasa, 04.04.2024).-  Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, Archbishop of Kinshasa, in addition to leading the diocese of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), also holds important positions for the universal Church, for Africa, for his Country: He is at the head of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and is a Member (with a role renewed a year ago by the Pontiff) of the Council of Cardinals (C9).

Furthermore, he has repeatedly carried out leading roles in the political affairs in Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Catholic Church provides thousands of observers in political elections and works to facilitate and promote dialogue between the country’s political and social forces.

The Cardinal himself co-chaired the national dialogue that led the DRC to new elections at the end of 2018, thanks to the signing of the New Year’s Eve Agreements. Recently, Cardinal Ambongo held a Conference on «Mission and Interreligious dialogue in Africa» at the Pontifical Antonianum University in Rome.

Roots and economic effects of Neo-Colonialism

In his speeches, the Cardinal Archbishop of Kinshasa often refers to the modus operandi of influential Western sectors and apparatuses towards the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations. And a clear example of operations carried out in continuity with a colonialist mentality is represented by the recent agreement signed by the European Union with Rwanda for the exploitation of natural resources. «As is well known,» explains Cardinal Ambongo to Fides, «a few weeks ago an agreement was signed between the EU and Rwanda for the exploitation of mineral and other resources that, in reality, are not in Rwanda but in Congo. This is intolerable and creates much confusion in a region, that of the Great Lakes, which is already experiencing great tensions. Throughout the area, in fact, there is a war, even if undeclared, a cold war between Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. A war where the only battlefield is Congo, and the first victim of this situation is our people. In the end, various reasons can be invoked, but it all comes down to one: the exploitation of natural resources».

Congo is among the most resource-rich countries on the planet. These are goods that have proven to be absolutely essential to the world every stage of history: rubber at the beginning of the last century, then gold, diamonds, oil and now coltan and cobalt. Precious goods, concentrated in one of the world’s poorest countries.

«We are suffering from severe poverty,» Cardinal Ambongo points out, «and this despite the fact that Congo is a country with enormous potential. According to the Cardinal, the country is paying the price for a series of very negative factors, starting with the «unwillingness of those in power to exploit these riches for the good of all, not just for the benefit of small circles». The Cardinal also calls into question «the hunger for expansion and the unscrupulous greed of those who manage these men, namely Europe, North America, India, China. Congo is the plate where everyone comes to eat, except our people». In addition to poverty, the Archbishop of Kinshasa also refers to the conditions of insecurity that affect above all the eastern areas of the country, where «a very important slice of Congo (the regions of North and South Kivu and Ituri, ed.) is no longer controlled by Kinshasa, but is substantially under the power of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda (an increasingly large area of Kivu is now under the control of the pro-Rwandan group M23, ed.) All this is also unacceptable because it is happening with the blessing of the international community».

‘Hands off Africa’

Just over a year has passed since Pope Francis’ visit to Congo and South Sudan. «Hands off Africa!» The Pope said in his famous speech in Kinshasa. Words that contributed to triggering a new reflection both within the Church and in the world of international politics. «After the Pope’s visit to Congo and after his speech», Cardinal Ambongo points out, «no one can say, ‘I didn’t know’ or pretend otherwise. The Pope started from Congo, a symbol of exploitation, to broaden the discussion to an entire continent and has awakened consciences. Only a year has passed and the practical changes called for by the Pope in terms of exploitation are still not visible. Although at the level of consciences, in my opinion, much has changed».

‘More questions than answers’ on the tragic story of Ambassador Attanasio

On 22 February, on the occasion of the third anniversary of the assassination of Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio, his escort carabiniere Vittorio Iacovacci and driver Mustapha Milambo, Cardinal Ambongo celebrated a suffrage mass in Kinshasa Cathedral. Archbishopovo Ambongo knew Attanasio well and had a very good relationship with him. His death, and the history of the trials that have left more doubts than certainties, remain as an open wound.

«The story of Luca Attanasio is a personal suffering for me. Luca was not only the Italian Ambassador to Kinshasa but he was a friend who often came to visit me. He went everywhere and was very friendly with the population and did so much for the poor in terms of charity. A person like Luca did not deserve what happened to him, it is still a terrible shock to me. Unfortunately, so far we don’t know what happened, but I’m sure the Italian government knows.» In April 2023, the trial held by the military court in Kinshasa against the alleged organizers and perpetrators of the ambush ended with the death sentence later commuted, through the intervention of Attanasio’s family and the Italian state, to life imprisonment. «It is an incredible story, there are many more questions than answers,» comments Cardinal Ambongo, «but one thing I can say with certainty: the five arrested and convicted are just scapegoats, we all know that we needed someone to blame in order to close the case quickly, but they had nothing to do with it».

Reactions to ‘Fiducia supplicans’

The publication of the Fiducia Supplicans document has created much debate in Africa, and quite a few reactions. Cardinal Ambongo, as President of SECAM, wanted to open a consultation within the Churches of Africa, listened to the Bishops’ Conferences and then met directly with the Pope.

«The problem,» reported Cardinal Ambongo, «was that the reactions to Fiducia Supplicans were chaotic. There were bishops and priests who wrote to the Pope, others who strongly criticized. I, in my role as President of SECAM, could not let things continue like this, that there were reactions without a criterion. That is why I asked the Bishops’ Conferences, not individuals, to send me their reactions. So we made a summary of all these reactions and I went to see the Pope and talked at length. For me there were two things to ensure: we needed to reassure the African faithful who felt really hurt by this document, and also to safeguard communion with the Holy Father. Thus, from our conversation came a statement that was made public, with a text entitled ‘No blessing for same-sex couples in African Churches’. Then things calmed down. Pope Francis found a solution. And I am very grateful to the Pope who showed great openness, pastoral sense and listened to the voice of the Church in Africa».

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