The bishop of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is urging the faithful to pray for a priest who was kidnapped on Easter Sunday and is being held for ransom.
“We're doing everything in our power to obtain the release of Fr. Célestin,” said Bishop Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka.
He appealed “to all the faithful throughout the world to pray for us. The kidnapping of Fr. Père Célestin Ngango is just one of many incidents that take place here. Kidnappings happen daily. This is an ongoing tragedy caused by an inhuman business.”
Fr. Célestin was kidnapped by a group of unidentified men April 1 after celebrating Easter Sunday Mass, according to authorities.
The Center for the Study of the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights reported that Fr. Célestin was abducted near the village of Nyarukwangara in North Kivu Province.
The organization stated that “when he was returning to Karambi his vehicle was intercepted by criminals who forced him to get out and follow them into the bush.”
The kidnapping is not an isolated incident. Agence France Presse news stated that in January this year, another priest was kidnapped in North Kivu and freed 48 hours later.
Speaking to the Vatican news agency Fides, Bishop Ruboneka said that “The kidnappers immediately contacted Fr. Célestin Ngango's parish asking for the absurd sum of $500,000. Now they are asking for $50,000, but where can we find such a sum? It's impossible.”
“We are currently trying to negotiate with the kidnappers but it is not easy. In the last phone call to the parish they reiterated their demand for $50,000, saying they had no intention of discussing [the amount] and immediately put an end to the conversation. We have no other way of contacting them,” the bishop said.
“Our area is plagued by kidnappings, practically every day, but in general the ransoms demanded are a lot less that the one required for the release of Fr. Célestin Ngango. They range from $500 to $2,000. This is the first time that such a large sum is being asked,” he added.
The bishop said that both local and state authorities are working for the release of the priest, as well as UN forces and local search parties.
“We have contacted the Congolese national bishops' conference, the governor and have asked the faithful to pray during Mass for Fr. Célestin Ngango.”