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DRC’s President Tshisekedi on a visit to the Vatican this year DRC’s President Tshisekedi on a visit to the Vatican this year  (ANSA)

DRC Bishops: The country can recover and improve

Bishops in the DRC have reviewed preparations for a National Eucharistic Congress and expressed cautious praise for President Tshisekedi’s government over widening political and democratic space in the country.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops -in essence, members of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) standing committee have concluded their meeting, in Kinshasa, with a fairly upbeat appraisal of the Félix Tshisekedi’s government, in power since January 2019.

Free primary education for all children

“We welcome the initiatives of the government in the direction of (improved) services for the people. In particular, the effective implementation of free primary education; efforts to regularise salaries of teachers and prospects for the fight against poverty, “said the Bishops at the end of their meeting.

The Bishops continued: “We (further) note significant progress in terms of an eased political atmosphere and the liberalisation of the media space.”

Tshisekedi promised to spend more on education

On his inauguration, President Tshisekedi pledged to make the fight against poverty a “great national cause.” Perhaps more importantly, Tshisekedi is forging ahead, despite hitches, with a pivotal promise to provide free primary education for all the country’s children. If Tshisekedi maintains his pledge to spend approximately 40 per cent of the country’s annual budget on education, children, who would otherwise be excluded from schooling, stand to benefit from the initiative.

DRC regaining its place on the international community

The Bishops also express satisfaction with the Tshisekedi government’s ratification of a Framework Agreement signed between the DRC and the Holy See. They praised the ratification as one that would benefit the Congolese people.

On 17 January 2020, Pope Francis welcomed the President of the DRC in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. The Pope expressed satisfaction over the ratification of the Framework Agreement between the two States.

In their assessment, over the weekend, the DRC Bishops observed that “on the diplomatic front, DR Congo is gradually regaining its place on the international stage.”

Insecurity in the eastern part of the country

This week also brought news of the DRC and Rwanda working towards more collaboration. Restoring peace in the east of the DRC is also one of Tshisekedi’s main objectives. The overtures between the DRC and Rwanda might help resolve the problem of insecurity in the region.

It is a matter that also concerns the DRC  Bishops.

“We remain concerned by the persistence of widespread insecurity in the east of the country, sown by local and foreign armed groups, particularly in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. There have never been more deaths in less than a year, as is the case today. Insecurity is also spreading in other forms to the big cities of the country, which gives the impression that the people are abandoned to themselves,” the Bishops said.

Other concerns of the Bishops include internal feuding among government officials. The feuding is destabilising, and distracting officials who, the Bishops say are, “more concerned with political posturing than rendering service to the people.”

DRC’s Bishops say they are yet to see improvements in the fight against corruption and the embezzlement of funds by public officials.

The DRC not condemned to perennial poverty

 In general, the Bishops reaffirm their belief that the DRC can recover and improve. The Bishops say the DRC is not a country doomed to perpetual poverty, poor governance, corruption, violence or any other vice.

“We believe in the ability of our country to recover. What is needed is goodwill and commitment. We need a patriotic start. Many people have interest in the DRC, but it is not possible to reconstruct this country without the participation of our Congolese, the people must be in the forefront (of any reconstruction efforts),” said the Bishops.

The Bishops exhort the whole country to a change of heart, mindset and commitment to being upright citizens. They admonish their compatriots to bear in mind Psalm 127:1: “If the Lord does not build the house in vain do its builders toil.”

National Eucharistic Congress

In the meantime, DR Congo's prelates approved preparations for the Third National Eucharistic Congress which will be celebrated from 7 June to 14 June 2020, in Lubumbashi, a southeastern copper-mining town.

The theme of the Eucharistic Congress is, "Eucharist and Family.” It will be the DRC’s Third National Eucharistic Congress. The first was held in Kisantu in 1933 and the second congress, in 1980, was held in the country's capital, Kinshasa.

02 March 2020, 19:00