As he announced February 4, 2018, following the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has proclaimed February 23, 2018, as Day of prayer and fasting for peace, in particular for the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The Holy Father also invited the members of other religions to join in the initiative, in the forms they consider most suitable. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, aware that religions can contribute greatly to obtaining and consolidating peace, will be grateful to the brothers and sisters of other religions who wish to heed this appeal and to live moments of prayer, fasting, and reflection in accordance with their own tradition and in their own places of worship.
Also on February 6, 2018, the Holy Father named Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M., Cap., Archbishop of Mbandka-Bikoro and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Bukungu-Ikela, as coadjutor archbishop of Kinshasa, DRC.
H.E. Msgr. Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M., Cap.
H.E. Msgr. Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M., Cap., is 58 years old and was born on January 24, 1960, in Boto, diocese of Molegbe. After attending courses in philosophy at the seminary of Bwamanda and theology at the Saint Eugène de Mazenod Institute, he gave his first vows in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in 1981, and his perpetual vows in 1987. He was ordained a priest on August 14, 1988. He holds a degree in moral theology from the Alphonsianum Academy.
Since priestly ordination he has served as parish priest in Bobito (1988-1989), professor in the Catholic University of Kinshasa, major superior, vice-provincial of the Capuchin Fathers of the Vice-Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, National President of the Assembly of Major Superiors (ASUMA) and of the Circumscription of Friars Minor Capuchin in Africa (CONCAU).
Elected as bishop of Bokungu-Ikela, he received episcopal ordination on March 6, 2005. He was, in addition, apostolic administrator of Kole, president of the Episcopal Commission “Justice and Peace”, and apostolic administrator of Mbandaka-Bikoro, before being appointed as archbishop of the same archdiocese on November 12, 2016.
Since June 2016 he has served as vice-president of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO).
Holy Father’s Ongoing Appeals for DRC
The Pope has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the volatile situation in the DRC, including an appeal during his General Audience of January 24, 2018:
“I renew my call for all people to commit themselves to avoiding all forms of violence.”
For its part, the Pope said, the Church “wants nothing more than to contribute to peace and to the common good of society,” and, for this reason, he appealed that all work to avoid violence.
According to the United Nations on Jan. 23, Congolese security forces used excessive force against anti-government protesters and shot at United Nations human rights monitors, claiming at least six lives and injuring some 68 others. Despite calls for peaceful demonstrations for President Joseph Kabila to step down, protests turned violent as police tried to disperse the demonstrators, using tear gas and gunfire.
The Holy See and the DRC signed a framework agreement in February 2017, on the relations between the Catholic Church and the state. In Brazzaville, at the Palace of the People of the DRC. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Congo’s Prime Minister, Clément Mouamba, on the Holy See and Congo’s behalf, respectively, signed the agreement on Friday, Feb. 3. The African nation’s President, Denis Sassou-N’guesso, was present. Consisting of a preamble and eighteen articles, the agreement guarantees to the Church the possibility of carrying out her mission in the DRC. In particular, the legal personality of the Church and her institutions is recognized. The two parties, while safeguarding the independence and autonomy proper to them, undertake to work together for the moral, spiritual and material well-being of the human person and for the promotion of the common good.
Pope Francis on November 23, 2017, offered prayers for South Sudan and the DRC during services at the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica. During that special prayer service, the Holy Father announced that he would send a concrete contribution via the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to assist the populations in this emergency phase, which over the past several months has resulted in more than 3,400 deaths and extensive material damage.