The newly installed head of one of Africa’s largest archdioceses will vigorously defend democracy and human rights, while also seeking to reconcile political opponents, said Church officials in Congo.
Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu (pictured) is “above all a pastor, who displays Christian frankness in what he says and shrewdly understands given situations,” said Father Andre Masinganda, deputy secretary-general of the Congolese bishops’ conference. “He’s also particularly sensitive to justice, peace and human rights and can be counted on to promote these values with a firm stand.”
Father Masinganda told reporters that Archbishop Ambongo, who was installed last month, would be ready to work with all sides in Congo’s bitter political disputes.
“He shows an open spirit and is always ready to calm and unify by considering the views and convictions of others,” Father Masinganda said, adding he hoped political leaders would show a new willingness to co-operate.
Father Masinganda said he expected Archbishop Ambongo to gain a similar profile to Cardinal Monsengwo in international Church affairs, as well as in contacts with foreign governments.
“He has a great capacity for synthesis, and his doors are open to all, whether to those in government or to those in opposition.”
In 2016, Archbishop Ambongo testified to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on local warlord activities, and he was an architect of a Church-brokered accord on elections to replace Kabila in December 2016. He endorsed Catholic protests and condemned police violence when the accord was violated.
The Jeune Afrique weekly said on 2nd November the appointment of “a man of the Church who doesn’t mince his words” to the “strategic post” of Kinshasa could be seen as “a message of firmness by the pope” towards the Congo’s rulers.
La Prosperite daily said Archbishop Ambongo appeared “aware of God’s favour in his life,” adding that he would “cling tenaciously” to the aim of ending the country’s crisis in line with the “very rigorous” style of Cardinal Monsengwo.
Preaching in the capital’s Martyrs Stadium at his inaugural Mass, concelebrated by bishops from Congo and neighbouring countries, Archbishop Ambongo said God’s kingdom was present wherever people – “regardless of languages, tribes, nations, religions” – were ready to “extend hands to draw back the frontiers of injustice, egotism and exploitation of the poor.”
He added that he hoped clergy and faithful in Kinshasa would develop “a deep sense of belonging to a great diocesan family,” without “discrimination as to origin, ethnicity, political opinion, and social and economic condition.”
“Power is a service – the humble service of others for accomplishing and realizing a complete society,” the archbishop told the 70,000-strong congregation, who included Congolese Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala and senior government and parliamentary officials.
If everyone receives and practices the message of humility, “we can really transform our society and make Congo a finer place,” the archbishop added.
The World Almanac lists 50 per cent of Congo’s more than 83.3 million people as Catholics. It has more Catholics than any other African nation.
With presidential elections scheduled on 23rd December, tensions are high. Kabila, who took office in January 2001, is expected to be defeated.
The United Nations says violence by armed groups left 4.5 million people displaced and a fifth of the nation’s inhabitants needing basic assistance.
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