Cardinal of Congo: risk is part of Church’s mission in our country

Msgr. Fridolin Ambongo was arrested by the regime of Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
“A sign of hope for suffering communities.” This is how Card. Fridolin Ambongo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was defined during his nomination as cardinal.

The archbishop of Kinshasa is one of the pastors “with the smell of sheep” that Pope Francis spoke about. The now-cardinal says he discovered his vocation thanks to the testimony of another priest, a missionary.

CARD. FRIDOLIN AMBONGO
Archbishop of Kinshasa (DRC)
“I would say my vocation didn’t start from the spiritual side, but the human side. It was thanks to a Belgian missionary who worked in my parish and did a lot for the people. For me, this was the start. This was when I said, ‘I want to be like him.’ Afterward, I discovered he was a Capuchin, son of St. Francis of Assisi. Then, little by little, my vocation became clear.”

It was an example that led him to be with his people and support the protests in the country from the Episcopal Conference of the DRC. These protests are led by committed Catholics who demand free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The government and armed groups have threatened and intimidated the Church for their work toward peace and social justice in the country.

CARD. FRIDOLIN AMBONGO
Archbishop of Kinshasa (DRC)
“This risk is part of the Church’s mission. I don’t think it’s possible to do anything but what we have done so far. We have a mission and can’t do anything else. Before my appointment as bishop, I was a member of the Justice and Peace Commission. I was arrested with another bishop on President Kabila’s orders. I only spent one night in prison, but it shows the work we do in the Congo is risky.”

Also as dangerous is the outbreak of Ebola in the country that has caused more than 2,000 deaths. This is the second outbreak in two years. In 2018, this photo circulated the world. In the picture, Msgr. Ambongo is blessing one of the priests in his diocese who contracted the virus.

CARD. FRIDOLIN AMBONGO
Archbishop of Kinshasa (DRC)
“During the outbreak, people were very afraid. No one wanted to go to this area, but I did. I arrived by helicopter. The priest who had been infected with the virus was separated from the rest of the community. I went to the center to show the closeness of the pastor to the people.”

Another problem affecting his country is the systematic destruction of the Congo River Basin. He participated in the recent Amazon Synod, because the Amazon’s environmental degradation and danger is very similar to that in the Congo. Msgr. Ambongo is very familiar with REPAM, the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network. He has copied the model and brought the idea to his country in the form of REBAC, Ecclesial Network of the Congo Basin Forest.