Dominican friars’ and Congolese diocese’s fight goes to court


A long-running fight over who gets to run a parish has landed a group of clerics in a Congolese civil court.

On one side of the battle are the Dominicans friars. On the other side is their archbishop, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo (pictured).

Both want to run Saint Dominic’s Parish in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital.

Last October Ambongo ruled the Dominican friars should stop running St Dominic’s Parish.

He is the Dominican pastor with a diocesan administrator.

The Dominicans should not have built a supermarket in front of the church and next to the Marian grotto, he said.

“The spiritual good must take precedence over any other consideration in the parish territory.”

Father Gérard Timoner, the Rome-based Master of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), wrote to Ambongo in November.

He explained the land on which the parish and buildings are situated belongs to the vice-province of the Dominicans. It doesn’t belong to the archdiocese.

The Dominicans were ready “to present a hierarchical appeal to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples,” he said.

Since then, a year-long battle has been taking place before the Congolese civil courts.

The archdiocese seemed to have won the first round in April. However, a final judgment ruled at the beginning of August in favour of the Dominicans. Their action was “admissible and partially founded,” the court ruled.

The archdiocese filed an appeal late last month.

“The administrator of the parish has been appointed pastor,” a Dominican priest says.

“He wanted to resume the construction of the new parish church, but the parishioners were opposed to this.”

Archdiocesan officials are confident the situation is now “under control” and has evolved considerably.

“The situation at St Dominic’s is under control and the spiritual well-being of the faithful remains the priority,” an archdiocesan source says.

“The recent appointment of the pastor is proof of this. When there is a final decision, it will be made official.”

Lay members of the parish council see the situation differently.

For them, nothing much has changed and the situation remains tense.

“Although the church and the sacristy are permanently open and the activities of the groups and movements are going on normally, the administrative offices remain closed and documents inaccessible,”a  parishioner says.

“Many of the important projects of the parish remain on hold.”

The Dominicans think the latest court ruling should help both parties find a way to keep the parish running smoothly.

“The archdiocese should give us back the management of the parish,” one friar says.

“If it considers that we can no longer manage it, it should rent our premises as well as the church since it is on our land.”

Officials in the archdiocese are waiting, however, for the court’s decision on their appeal.

For them, “the situation is far from over,” they say.



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