Today, October 27, 2023, is a day dedicated by Pope Francis to prayer, penance, and fasting for peace in the world, especially in countries at war. We'd like to take this opportunity to share with you what we've experienced over the past week, always in favour of peace, particularly in the Great Lakes region.
The three countries of the region (Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) form a common geographic space made up of populations interconnected by language, culture, trade, and family ties.
Here in Rome, in addition to the Synod of Bishops being held on synodality, the ad limina apostolorum visit of the bishops of the DRCongo took place from October 8 to 14, 2023. They made a pilgrimage to the tombs of two pillars of the Church: Saint Peter and Saint Paul; they visited other basilicas and met the Pope and the heads of the dicasteries and congregations.
On the same occasion, the bishops of ACEAC (Association of des Conférences Episcopales de l'Afrique Centrale) of Burundi, Rwanda, and the DR Congo met. ACEAC was set up in 1984 as a forum for these three local churches to reflect together on the violent conflicts that persist in the Great Lakes region and to find opportunities for a comprehensive pastoral approach with a view to lasting peace. Through prayer and various initiatives, the Church can contribute to the advent of peace and security in this region of Africa. This land is very rich but troubled by violence of all kinds.
At the end of this session on peace in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 18, 2023, a mass for peace was organised in the Minor Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Christ the King in Rome. The Mass was presided over by Bishop José Moko, President of ACEAC and Vice-President of CENCO (Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo), National Episcopal Conference of Congo. He was flanked by a number of bishops from Burundi and Rwanda, as well as the General Secretary of CENCO, Mgr. Donatien Nshole. The mass was very prayerful, simple, and moving, especially at the end, with the procession of lit candles that all the participants (bishops, priests, religious men and women, lay people from the three countries, and a few Italians and people from other countries) placed on the cross of Jesus, the source of true peace.
Our bishops shared with us their resolutions and actions to be taken in the short and long term. They urged us to also take some responsibility for the peace around us and to pray for them.
We support them in their struggle and especially in their efforts to meet the presidents of these three countries.
Let us continue to pray for peace in the world and in this region of Africa.
May the Good Father, Pierre Bienvenu Noailles, whose birthday we celebrate today, intercede for peace in the world.
Georgine MUFOGOTO, Claudine GAYONGO and Marie-Pierre OTIBA