Church leaders in the Congo have condemned security forces’ attacks on Catholic protestors that have left at least eight people dead and 120 detained.
The Vatican Embassy in Kinshasa backed local church officials, saying that “the promotion of social justice and the defence of political and civil rights of citizens are an integral part of the social doctrine of the church”.
During a protest against rule by President Joseph Kabila which was organised by the Kinshasa archdiocesan lay coordination committee, at least a dozen priests were detained.
“We condemn with utmost vigour this unjustified violence,” the Congolese bishops’ conference said in a statement this week.
“We similarly denounce this attack on freedom of worship, which is guaranteed in every democratic state, as well as the profanation of churches and physical aggression against the faithful and their priests.”
The statement said the bishops were “profoundly shocked by such ignoble acts” and would demand a “serious and objective inquiry” into who was responsible.
Police also used tear gas and batons against Massgoers in some of the capital’s 150 parishes and violently broke up attempted marches in which protesters demanded fresh elections in the country.
The incidents were described as “nothing short of barbaric” by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa.
“How can we trust leaders incapable of protecting the population, of guaranteeing peace, justice and love of people?” the cardinal asked a news conference. “How can we trust leaders who trample on religious freedom of the people, religious freedom which is the foundation of all freedom?”
A UN spokeswoman said seven deaths had been recorded in Kinshasa, and another at Kananga. Congolese authorities denied that the deaths were linked to the protests.