ROME – A scheduled Vatican mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently had to be postponed, a senior Vatican cardinal said Thursday, in part because of mounting tensions between the local Church in one of the world’s most pervasively Catholic countries and the government of incumbent President Joseph Kabila.
“Our discastery made one visit there, and we planned a follow-up, but it had to be postponed because of the fighting and because of tensions between the government and the Church,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Human Integral Development, at a Rome conference on Thursday.
The same conference heard the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, say the United States was “shocked” by a violent crackdown on church-organized anti-Kabila protests in December, saying, “I assure you, you have the full support of the United States.”
Although Turkson did not expand on what he meant by tensions, the most recent cycle of Church/State conflict began in late November, when the country’s Catholic bishops publicly appealed to Kabila, who’s been in power since 2001, not to seek another term as the country’s president.
Congo’s constitution bars the president from serving more than two terms in office, and Kabila’s second term was up in 2016. Since that time, elections to name a successor have been repeatedly delayed, amid rumors that Kabila and his allies were seeking ways to extend his grip on power almost indefinitely.
In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Stuart A. Reid suggested that in addition to the maintenance of power for its own sake, Kabila may also fear attacks to confiscate the personal fortune he and his extended family have amassed, estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, including stakes in the country’s largest cell phone company and its largest bank. Kabila may also fear arrest and imprisonment, either on corruption charges or human rights abuses.
Read more at Crux.