By RFIPosted on 18-01-2020Modified on 18-01-2020 at 03:53
President Félix Tshisekedi went to Rome on Friday, January 17, where he met Pope Francis for thirty minutes one-on-one before attending the ratification of a long-awaited framework agreement.
This agreement normalizes relations between the two states, defines their perimeter and grants legal personality to the various organizations of the Catholic Church in the Congo. Almost a state within a state, the Church is present in all sectors in the Congo, education and health, awareness-raising and electoral observation. In some remote parts of the country, it is the one that transports the salaries of civil servants. But to describe all these relationships, there was until then no legal framework.
It was in 2007, after the first general elections in the DRC, that the episcopal conference prepared this text. Negotiations will take nearly a decade and the agreement was finally signed in May 2016. But relations soon contracted again in the wake of the political crisis.
" The pope did not want to consider ratification under these conditions, " says Cardinal Ambongo . Today it is done with Félix Tshisekedi. Despite the tensions aroused by the contestation of the election results by the episcopal conference, notes the deputy communication director of the presidency. Giscard Kusema sees more than just normalization, but a " strengthening " of relations between the two states.
This agreement recognizes religious freedom, like the secularity of the State decreed by the Congolese Constitution, the secret of the confession, canonical marriage and gives a legal personality to all the entities of the Catholic Church in Congo, like the Episcopal Conference . Regularly victim of spoliations, the Cenco should see these cases revisited by a joint commission.
Cardinal Ambongo was not in Rome, but he worked on this ratification again this week with President Tshisekedi. For the Archbishop of Kinshasa, this is a new era in relations, but it is not the end of the negotiations, he explains. According to him, we will still have to work on implementing measures in all areas of cooperation, until negotiating a statute for the clergy whose role has so far not been recognized by the Congolese state.
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