DR Congo bishop decries killing of third Catholic priest amid escalating tribal violence

(Reuters/Kenny Katombe)A security person checks a car in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo December 31, 2017.

A bishop in the Democratic Republic of Congo has decried the murder of a parish priest on Sunday shortly after he officiated mass in his parish.

Mgr. Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka, bishop of Goma, has lamented that the people of DR Congo have now been "abandoned by everyone," after he learned about the killing of Fr. Étienne Sengiyumva, the parish priest of Kitchanga.

"Around 3 p.m., after celebrating mass in Kyahemba, a circumscription of his parish, Fr. Étienne had gathered his collaborators, when an armed man, accompanied by other people, entered the meeting room and killed the priest," Ruboneka narrated, as reported by Agenzia Fides.

Ruboneka said that it is difficult to pinpoint the militant group responsible for the priest's murder because there are at least 15 different armed groups in the region.

He noted that three priests have already been killed in the area, and he expressed fears that the investigations might not yield any results. He pointed out that witnesses rarely provide any useful information for fear of being the next victims.

The bishop reiterated that there are many armed groups fighting each other in the region, so it is difficult to identify the group behind the killings.

"Here in North Kivu we live in total chaos. The situation in my diocese of Goma, like that of Butembo-Beni, is incredible. We are completely abandoned by everyone; we live only thanks to Providence. I ask the faithful of the universal Church to pray for our region so that they can rediscover peace," he said, according to Agenzia Fides.

Earlier this month, a priest was kidnapped as he was leaving his parish after Easter Sunday Mass. The abductors of Rev. Celestin Ngango had reportedly demanded $500,000 ransom, but the amount was reduced to $50,000. The priest was eventually released, although it is not clear whether a ransom was paid.

Two other priests, the Rev. Charles Kapasa and the Rev. Jean Pierre Akilimali, were abducted from the Parish of Notre Dame in July 2016, and they have not been seen since.

Meanwhile, church officials have blamed the militant group called Mai Mai Nyatura for the killing of Sengiyumva.

According to church sources, militia groups are targeting priests and pastors in retaliation for criticisms against the abuses they have committed in the region.

Priests are now urging the government to provide better protection for clergy following the murder of Sengiyumva.

Rev. Donatien Nshole, the general secretary of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, condemned the murder of the priest and stated that the Church has paid a heavy price while serving the nation.

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