By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Friday received in audience Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to a Holy See Press Office statement, during the cordial discussions, the two leaders expressed satisfaction for the good bilateral relations between the DRC and the Vatican, and for the recent ratification of the Framework Agreement between the two nations.
Matters of mutual interest were reportedly discussed, including the Catholic Church’s contribution to the democratic process and its promotion of the common good and integral development of the nation, especially in the fields of education and healthcare.
The Pope and the President also focused on the situation in the eastern provinces of the African nation where the population is suffering because of a continuing armed conflict and the spread of the Ebola virus.
Finally, talks centered on the urgent need for collaboration and cooperation at national and international level in order to protect human dignity and to promote civil coexistence, starting with the tens of thousands of refugees and displaced persons who are facing a grave humanitarian crisis.
Framework Agreement between the Holy See and DR Congo
Following his meeting with the Pope, President Tshisekedi met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
At the heart of their discussions was the ratification of the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of Congo, signed in the Vatican on 20 May 2016.
The Document sets out the legal framework for mutual relations. In particular, it sanctions the Church’s freedom in apostolic activity and in matters of its specific competence. It also regulates various areas, including Catholic educational institutions, the teaching of religion in schools, the Church's charitable-assistance activity, pastoral care in the Armed Forces and in penitentiaries and hospitals, the Church’s patrimonial and fiscal regime, and regulations regarding entry visas and residence permits for religious personnel. Finally, the Agreement also provides for application agreements between the Episcopal Conference and the State on certain matters of common interest.