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Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Congolese rite: ‘Peace begins with us’

July 3, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis celebrated Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Amid singing, clapping, and dancing to traditional Congolese music, Pope Francis celebrated the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

The pope began his homily on July 3 with the word, “esengo,” which means “joy” in Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and by millions of speakers across Central Africa.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass for Rome’s Congolese community on the day that he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa before his trip to Africa was canceled at the request of the pope’s doctors.

The pope, whose mobility has been limited due to a knee injury, remained seated throughout the Mass. Francis presided over the Liturgy of the Word and gave the homily. Archbishop Richard Gallagher offered the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace and reconciliation in your homeland, in the wounded and exploited Democratic Republic of Congo,” Pope Francis said.

“We join the Masses celebrated in the country according to this intention and pray that Christians may be witnesses of peace, capable of overcoming any feeling of resentment, any feeling of vengeance, overcoming the temptation that reconciliation is not possible, any unhealthy attachment to their own group that leads to despising others.”

The pope underlined that the Lord calls all Christians to be “ambassadors of peace.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a wave of violence in recent years. Dozens of armed groups are believed to operate in the eastern region of DR Congo despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers. Local Catholic bishops have repeatedly appealed for an end to the bloodshed.

“Brother, sister, peace begins with us,” Pope Francis said.

“If you live in his peace, Jesus arrives and your family, your society changes. They change if your heart is not at war in the first place, it is not armed with resentment and anger, it is not divided, it is not double, it is not false. Putting peace and order in one’s heart, defusing greed, extinguishing hatred and resentment, fleeing corruption, fleeing cheating and cunning: this is where peace begins.”

Peace was expected to be a key theme of the pope’s canceled Africa trip. Pope Francis was planning to spend July 2-5 in the Congolese cities of Kinshasa and Goma, and July 5-7 in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

After the Vatican announced that the trip was postponed due to the ongoing medical treatment for the pope’s knee pain, Pope Franics said on June 13: “We will bring Kinshasa to St. Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Congolese in Rome, of which there are many.”

About 2,000 people were present in the inculturated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the first Sunday of July.

Women in brightly colored traditional dresses sang and danced as they prayed the Gloria. People clapped and shouted as Archbishop Richard Gallagher incensed the main altar.

The gifts were brought up to the altar in a dancing procession. Religious sisters in the pews stepped from side to side together to the music.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis greeted some members of the local Congolese community from his wheelchair.

“May the Lord help us to be missionaries today, going in the company of brother and sister; having on his lips the peace and closeness of God; carrying in the heart the meekness and goodness of Jesus, Lamb who takes away the sins of the world,” the pope said.

The Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is an inculturated Mass formally approved in 1988 for the dioceses of what was then known as the Republic of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The only inculturated Eucharistic celebration approved after the Second Vatican Council, it was developed following a call for adaptation of the liturgy in “Sacrosanctum concilium,” Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

In a video message in 2020, Pope Francis said: “The experience of the Congolese rite of the celebration of Mass can serve as an example and model for other cultures.”


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Apostolic nuncio accused of money laundering to enter plea bargain

February 9, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Feb 9, 2021 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, the apostolic nuncio to the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced last week that he will enter a plea bargain with an Italian court after he and his brother Guido were accused of money laundering, but will not admit guilt.

The prosecutor was investigating the alleged smuggling of Argentine meat into Italy managed by the archbishop’s father, Gerolamo.

The legal issue, which does not involve the Holy See, was a family business in which Archbishop Balestrero “acted in full good faith,” according to investigators.

The prosecutor focused on money transferred by the archbishop to his brother Guido as a donation. According to the investigators, the process in which the money was transferred (some $4.8 million) constituted at the end a scheme to launder the money.

According to Archbishop Balestrero, who was Nuncio in Colombia when Pope Frances visited the country in 2017, he accepted an anticipated bequest by his father and transferred his brother’s share to his brother’s bank account.

In a note sent to CNA, Archbishop Balestrero said that this is “exclusively a family issue” dealing with his father’s entrepreneurial activity in the early 1990s. At that time, Balestrero was a young priest serving in the nunciature in Korea. He was not involved in his father’s activity. His family deemed that those issues had been completely settled.

Some years later, in consideration of his father’s poor health condition, Archbishop Balestrero accepted the anticipation of the inheritance and gave the half of the inheritance to his brother with “a public and transparent act, in the conviction not to have done anything illicit. Otherwise I would not have done it.”

Archbishop Balestrero stressed that he and his brother always collaborated with the prosecutor, “considering that we had nothing to hide and always acted in good faith.”

The decision to negotiate a plea bargain, according to Balestrero, came “painfully” since “we deem we have no criminal responsibility.” However, he added, “it is difficult to recover, after about 25 years, part of the documentation” necessary for a successful acquittal.

Banks and other institutions involved have already destroyed the documents after so many years.

According to the Italian judicial system, a plea bargain does not constitute an admission of guilt.

“The decision to negotiate a plea bargain,” Archbishop Balestrero said, “seemed to be the best choice to preserve the serenity of my brother’s family and my old parents.  Furthermore, it will save me time and energy for my spiritual mission and as a priest I feel obliged to devote my mind and interests to my mission and not money.”

As a consequence of the plea, the prosecutor will keep nearly $8 million confiscated from the Balestrero family. The prosecutor will also file a case of tax evasion.