Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Death in the College

Word from Belgium is that the archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nzabi -Bamungwabi CICM, died last night at a hospital in Louvain, aged 76. The wire reports that Etsou, the senior prelate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was being treated in recent weeks for a bout of pneumonia.

Named to Kinshasa in 1990, Etsou was elevated to the college of cardinals the following year. The obit plays up the late prelate's political involvement:
The church is a powerful institution in the vast central African country, which has been afflicted by decades of dictatorship, civil wars and invasions since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

About half of Congo's 63 million people are Catholic, and Catholic schools and clinics have often stepped in where the state has faltered....

"Etsou was a major spiritual father who always had something to say to try to bring back the control of policy in this country is the Congolese state was lacking," said 27-year-old college student Ken Aligowane, a Catholic.

Etsou took charge of Congo's Catholic Church in the final years of the rule of longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and many said then that he was chosen with Mobutu's support.

After Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, Etsou spoke out against what he described as the strong-arm tactics of the new leader, Laurent Kabila, the father of the current president. Joseph Kabila took power in 2001, following his father's assassination.

The cardinal accused several officials within Joseph Kabila's transitional government of stealing from the state treasury and demanded their resignations.

Etsou's death brings the complement of cardinal-electors to 111. That figure -- nine short of the Pauline maximum of 120 -- falls to 110 on Tuesday, as Mexican Cardinal Adolfo Antonio Suarez Rivera marks his 80th birthday.

: AP File/Gianfranco Stara