Congolese Delegation to Seek Canada’s Help with the Transition Towards Democracy in the Congo

Thursday, September 25 2003

TORONTO / September 25, 2003 — His Eminence Frédéric Cardinal Etsou, Archbishop of Kinshasa and Primate of the Congolese Catholic Church, will lead a delegation to Canada next week to ask individual Canadians and the Canadian government to assist with the transition process towards democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The group is coming to Canada at the invitation of Most Rev. Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Besides Cardinal Etsou, who is also President of the Congo National Episcopal Conference, the delegation includes Most Rev. Godefroy Mukeng’a Kalond, Archbishop of Kananga; Most Rev. Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka, Bishop of Kasongo and President of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission; Fr. Fulgence Muteba Mugalu, General Secretary of the Congo National Episcopal Conference; and Sr. Marie Bernard Alima, Director of the Maria Malkia Institute of Spirituality in Lubumbashi and member of the Women and Peace initiative.

Delegation members will visit Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal from September 29 to October 5, 2003. In addition to discussions with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, they will meet with government officials and the media, and attend several public meetings.

Between two and three million people have been killed in the huge, Central African nation since 1998 as a result of internecine fighting and clashes with troops from neighbouring countries. Many observers believe that the Catholic Church can play a pivotal role in uniting non-violent democratic forces to rebuild the country following the peace agreements signed in early 2003.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2 million people are still homeless in the DRC; 16 million desperately need food; and health and education services, as well as infrastructures generally, have either been destroyed or are in a pitiful state. Infant mortality rates have risen to the levels they were at 50 years ago; vast portions of the country are under the control of armed thugs or foreign troops; and the Congo’s natural resources, such as diamonds, gold and lumber, are being pillaged.

“Despite everything, there is hope for the future if civil society elements work together to bring about lasting peace and a legitimate government in the Congo,” Bishop Berthelet says. “My brother bishops are coming here to explain what we can do to support the transition to democracy in their country. I hope that all Canadians will listen attentively to what they say.”

The Congolese delegation’s visit is being organized by the Canadian Catholic Organization for DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE, the Canadian Church’s international development arm.

For additional information:
TORONTO: Jack Panozzo (416) 922-1592
MONTREAL: François Gloutnay (514) 257-8711
10 St. Mary Street, Suite 420 Toronto, Ontario CANADA M4Y 1P9
Telephone: (416) 922-1592 Fax: (416) 922-0957 E-Mail: