By Devin Watkins
The Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, took legal effect on Tuesday.
Several Vatican and Congolese officials were on hand to celebrate the occasion in the Apostolic Palace. Both sides exchanged the instruments used to ratify the agreement.
Representing the Vatican were Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
What does the accord do?
Signed in Brazzaville on February 3, 2017, the Framework Agreement stipulates that Congo-Brazzaville formally recognizes the civil-law status of the Catholic Church and its institutions.
It also guarantees the Church’s right to operate freely in the Central African nation.
The agreement adds: “The two Parties, safeguarding their own independence and autonomy, agree to work together for the spiritual and material well-being of individuals and for the common good, while respecting the dignity and rights of the human person.”
How has the Church helped the country?
Around half of Congo-Brazzaville’s population identify as Catholic. The Church operates many hospitals and schools in the country.
The Foreign Minister of Congo-Brazzaville, Jean-Claude Gakosso, who was present at the ceremony, spoke to Vatican Radio about the Framework Agreement.
“The Catholic Church brought the initial flame to Congo-Brazzaville. She built the first schools, colleges, and is currently building a university,” he said.
Mr. Gakosso noted that the agreement would allow the Church’s schools and humanitarian institutions to operate with better legal protections, rather than informally as before. He called the Agreement “a good example of cooperation between Congo-Brazzaville and the Church”.
Who benefits from the agreement?
Bishop Daniel Mizonzo, of Nyaki, was also present at the ceremony. He told Vatican Radio that the Framework Agreement will allow the Church to advance her mission of evangelization and her humanitarian and educational efforts.
He said the people of Congo-Brazzaville will receive the most benefit from the accord.
The two States established diplomatic relations in February 1963, and Pope St. John Paul II visited Brazzaville in May 1980.