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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Congo Church suspends mediation bid amid rising tension

The Catholic Church has pulled out of a national dialogue in Congo.

“Only an inclusive dialogue which respects the constitutional order will provide a framework for resolving our crisis,” said the Archbishop of Kisangani, Marcel Utembi Tapa, president of the Congolese bishops’ conference. “A large part of our fellow citizens will not feel themselves affected by a compromise which fails to obtain real solutions.”

The statement was published on 3rd October as Congo’s main opposition leaders boycotted talks in the capital.

The Church’s representative at the national dialogue, Mgr Donatien Nshole, told Voice of America the bishops’ conference believed President Joseph Kabila should not be seeking a third term and would not sign an accord that failed “to engage all political actors” and “respect the constitutional order.”

Archbishop Utembi said the Church had urged the government to meet opposition preconditions, including the release of political prisoners and return of seized media, and would continue pressing for “a wide consensus.”

In August, the Catholic bishops’ conference launched a mediation plan after opposition leaders accused Kabila of seeking to keep power by delaying autumn elections.

Picture: Pope Francis talks with Congolese President Joseph Kabila during a private audience at the Vatican on 26th September. The Catholic Church has pulled out of a national dialogue in Congo, after its president backed the postponement of elections a week after meeting the pope. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini, pool via Reuters).