The DRC and the Catholic Church sign agreements during the visit of Cardinal Parolin
As Cardinal Pietro Parolin visits the Democratic Republic of Congo, the local Church signs agreements with the government to define the legal status of the Church in the areas of health, finance, pastoral care and social services.
By Salvatore Cernuzio – Kinshasa, DRC
The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will remember July 2 as “a historic day.”
As part of Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin’s visit to Kinshasa on behalf of Pope Francis, the Conference of Congolese Catholic Bishops (CENCO) signed five agreements with the DRC government recognizing the official status of the Church, which was previously registered as a non-profit organization.
The ceremony took place on Saturday in the presence of Cardinal Parolin, immediately after a private interview lasting more than half an hour with Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde.
2016 Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the DRC
The agreements were signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health, Justice, Finance, Higher Education and Universities and Local Affairs, and by the President of CENCO, Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, putting into practice the Framework Agreement signed by the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of Congo Party on May 20, 2016 on matters of common interest.
The framework was signed in the Vatican by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for relations with states, and the Congolese foreign minister at the time, Raymond Tshibanda N’Tungamulongo.
By establishing the respective independence and autonomy of Church and State, the Framework Agreement established the legal framework for mutual relations and, in particular, established the legal position of the Catholic Church in the civil sphere and his freedom in matters of apostolic activity and the settlement of affairs within his jurisdiction.
Prime Minister’s Order
Ratified in 2019 and entered into force in 2020, the framework agreement has never been fully implemented. A decree last June by Prime Minister Sama Lukonde called for its implementation and therefore for the recognition of the Church as a legal entity.
After months of negotiations and considerable commitment from CENCO, the Apostolic Nunciature and relevant ministries, a Joint Commission then developed five specific agreements governing the areas of religious instruction in schools, Catholic educational institutions, the charitable assistance activity of the Church, pastoral care in prisons and hospitals, and the patrimonial and fiscal system of the Church.
Cardinal Parolin: “Beginning of a more intense collaboration”
The signing of the five agreements took place in a well-attended ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office, which was punctuated by applause and the exchange of gifts.
“This step is the manifestation of the President’s desire to express the honor of your visit”, declared the Prime Minister to Cardinal Parolin.
The Vatican Secretary of State underlined that “the Agreement consolidates the partnership which has united the Catholic Church and the political authorities of this country for centuries, at the service of the entire population”.
“The interest of the Church, in these relations with the civil authorities, is centered on working together for the integral human development of all peoples, without ethnic or religious distinctions, and in particular the poorest and most needy. “, declared the cardinal.
He also expressed his hopes that the framework agreement represents not only “the end of a long process, but rather the cornerstone of a new, more intense and orderly collaboration” which will lead to “the peaceful and fruitful collaboration of the Church with the civil authorities and the just recognition of her contribution to the common good”.
Cardinal Ambongo: “Everything will become easier for us”
The Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, echoed Cardinal Parolin’s remarks to Vatican News on the sidelines of the event.
He indicated that this “historic day for the Congolese Church” had been awaited “for more than six years”.
“From today, everything will become easier for us in the field of education, health and social work, as well as in all that we do for the poor and all the work that we have been doing since then. years.”
Cardinal Ambongo recalled that the Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is making great efforts for the people of the country, managing about 50% of schools and about 40% of health establishments, despite being registered with the State. as an NGO.
“The agreements will therefore give us a new impetus,” said the Cardinal. “Before, we were working and no one – including the diocesan bishops – knew what were the rights and duties of the Church vis-à-vis the government; now things will be clearer. We will know that all the work we do is done within the framework of state-recognized legislation.