Better Security Urged in Wake of Congolese Priest's Murder

Matadi Bishop Takes Government and Military to Task

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KINSHASA, Congo, AUG. 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- As the faithful mourned the death of a priest ambushed and killed in a robbery attempt, calls arose for the government and military to safeguard peace and protect the population.



A large crowd of faithful and religious filled the Cathedral of Mbanza-Ngungu on Thursday for the funeral of Father Alphonse Kavendiambuku, who died Tuesday in the attack about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital.

Bishop Gabriel Mamputu of Matadi, diocese of the deceased, presided over the funeral. Also present were Bishop Fidele Nsiele of Kisantu and Bishop Dominique Bulamatari of Kinshasa, as well as 100 priests and as many nuns.

In his homily, Bishop Mamputu asked the faithful "to pray incessantly for peace to return in the nation" and for the "long-awaited cessation of the ferociousness and violence that continues afflicting the Congo and its people."

Addressing the political and military authorities present, he reminded them that the main duty of the leadership is to safeguard peace and guarantee the protection of the population.

"We are profoundly indignant and grieved by the tragic death of Don Kavenadiambuku," Father Germain Nzinga, chancellor of the Diocese of Matadi, told the Misna agency. "The violence exercised against members of the Church and the civil population of the Democratic Republic of Congo is absolutely unacceptable."

"In the past four months our diocese has lost two good and worthy local priests," the chancellor added. In March, a coordinator of the Catholic schools of the diocese, Father Dieudonné Mvuezolo-Tovo, was also slain by bandits.

Meanwhile, more details emerged about the last hours of Father Kavendiambuku. According to two survivors of the ambush, the vehicle the priest was traveling in, together with his driver and a third person, was attacked by five armed men in uniform. The attack took place on the road to Kavuaya, in the province of Bas Congo.

The assailants were five deserters from the Congolese armed forces, who, like many others, have taken to banditry, according to the witnesses.

The five gunmen opened machine-gun fire against the vehicle, wounding the priest in the stomach. The driver was hit in one eye, but the third passenger was unharmed, the witnesses said.

Father Kavendiambuku was rushed to a hospital, but died on the operating table.