Defending Church’s role in ‘actions affecting politics’

The Congolese Bishops’ Conference defended its “engagement in actions affecting politics” in a Feb 1 website statement.

Feb 09, 2018

The Congolese Bishops’ Conference defended its “engagement in actions affecting politics” in a Feb 1 website statement.

“The Church here is often asked to act as arbitrator or reconciler, to enable politicians to meet and discuss questions about our national life,” the bishops said. They also said they were obliged to defend the common good.

“The Church has been given a mission to testify to Christ and the Gospel. If it stays silent, abstains and distances itself from politics ... it will no longer be God’s witness and instrument,” the bishops said.

Their statement was seen as a response to a rare Jan 26 press conference by Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who criticised Catholic involvement in recent demonstrations and denied his security forces used violence against peaceful protests.

The Bishops said the “religious and ethical dimension” of the Church’s mission belonged “in the public sphere,” while its pastoral work also “leads it into political territory.”

“The Church has to challenge citizens, put them on guard against dangers and uncertainties and call them to make choices which respect the human person,” the bishops added.

“Christianity cannot fail to take an interest in humanity, and Christian engagement in history and politics is absolutely necessary. The Church has a duty to help its faithful analyse the great social and moral questions.”

In his Jan 31 meeting with the Botswana-based Southern African Development Community (SADC), the conference secretary-general, Msgr Donatien Nshole Babula, said Church leaders believed a solution of the Congo crisis rested with a December 2016 church-brokered accord that contained provisions for an election to replace Kabila. The Congolese leader’s second and final term expired more than a year ago.

SADC officials urged the Church to “continue its work for peace.” However, the organisation was deeply concerned at the “bloody repression” of Catholic protests across the country Dec. 31 and Jan 21.

The Rome-based Fides news agency reported Feb 1 a group of assailants had broken into the Kinshasa residence of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, who described Kabila’s Jan 26 press conference speech as “long-winded and useless.”

It said bodyguards had detained one man, who had police and army identity papers. --CNS

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