A bishop from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has condemned last month’s murder of one of his priests in the strongest possible terms. Bishop Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma, in a letter to the country’s apostolic nuncio, a copy of which was obtained by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, condemned the Feb. 25 murder of Father Jean-Paul Kakule in the east of the country as an "abominable, abhorrent and infernal act.” Fr. Kakule was treasurer of the parish of Mweso, a village 60 miles north of Goma. He was gunned down by an unidentified assassin as he was closing up the church for the evening. “The priest was closing the doors of the Church when he discovered one or more gunmen who were hiding somewhere,” Bishop Kaboy said. “The criminals fired without hesitation, hitting him in the abdomen and head. Fr. Kakule died immediately.” Fr. Kakule, 33, was the oldest child of a large Christian family from North Kivu, a northeastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ordained in 2003, he is the tenth priest to be murdered in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1992, reported Bishop Kaboy. His funeral Mass was held Feb. 28. It is not yet clear whether the murder of Father Kakule is a criminal act or an expression of religious hatred, though Bishop Kaboy has reported that three suspects have been arrested. The Bishop of Goma, noting that the mere presence of priests and religious in the area of Mweso is a source of irritation for criminals, suspects the killing was an act of revenge. The Mweso parish has gained a reputation as an institution that has been unafraid to condemn local criminality. Bishop Kaboy said that marauders have often massacred defenseless villagers, and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, adding that the population in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo feels extremely insecure. "Criminal gangs can go about their evil business unhindered because there is no police presence,” Bishop Kaboy said, appealing to authorities on both the national and international level to intervene and restore peace to the lawless region. He has said that in the Diocese of Goma, “there are many gangs that terrorise the population and there are too many weapons in circulation. Nuns are among the victims of violence and extortion.” According to Aid to the Church’s 2014 "Religious Freedom in the World” report, there are 20 different armed groups terrorizing the eastern part of the country. That year, Aid to the Church in Need spent $3.3 million in support of the Church's pastoral activities in the Democratic Replublic of the Congo. The report details the October 2012 abduction of three Assumptionist priests from their parish in Beni, also in North Kivu. In addition, five sisters of the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul disappeared in 1996. There has been no trace of them to this day.

Antonia van Alten writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA);www.acnuk.org (UK);www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL);www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)