(Vatican Radio) The Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo have acknowledged Pope Francis's gesture of taking time off his busy schedule to pray for peace in their country.
Last week on Thursday, Pope Francis led a prayer vigil for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Holy Father prayed for an end to the armed conflicts in the two countries. He also prayed for victims of the violence currently prevailing.
In a Pastoral Statement delivered at the end of an Extraordinary Plenary Assembly, the DRC Bishops thanked Pope Francis for demonstrating his closeness to the people of the two countries and for his pastoral care towards them.
“The Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), meeting in an Extraordinary Plenary Assembly in Kinshasa, from 22 to 24 November 2017, moved by the need for the pastoral care for the Congolese people, sharing in their sufferings, have (used this plenary) to focus mainly on the socio-political situation of our country,” The Bishops said.
They added, “In these difficult times, Pope Francis took the initiative to pray on 23 November 2017 for peace in our country and in South Sudan. We take this opportunity to send our heartfelt and sincere thanks (to the Holy Father). (The coinciding prayer) celebrations we organised on this occasion, in our own dioceses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bear witness to our unwavering attachment to the Successor of Peter,” The statement reads in part.
In the same message, the Bishops call upon President Joseph Kabila to explicitly declare that he will not present himself as a candidate in presidential elections now scheduled for 23 December 2018. The Bishops said they are "deeply disturbed" by the violence; the general mistrust and scepticism pervasive in the whole country right from the grassroots to the top.
Elections in the DRC were initially meant to have taken place in December 2016, shortly before the expiry of President Kabila's second and last term in office. The government decided instead to postpone the elections citing insecurity in the country and the need for more time to conduct a voter registration exercise.
Following intense negotiations mediated by the Catholic Bishops, towards the end of 2016, the government accepted an Agreement that said elections would take place before the end of 2017. Unfortunately, the implementation of this Agreement suffered serious setbacks and has not been implemented.
Now the Bishops have said it is essential that President Kabila’s government summons the necessary “political will, to reassure the Congolese people and all international partners by giving guarantees for the effective holding of elections (in December 2018).”
(Fr. Paul Samasumo)