Armed men burst into a church meeting room in the North Kivu region April 8 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and killed 38-year-old Fr. Étienne Sengiyumva, the parish pastor.

Bishop Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma, in North Kivu Province announced the news to the Vatican’s Fides News Agency

"After celebrating the Mass at Kyahemba, a district in his parish, around 3pm, Fr. Étienne was meeting with his parish staff, when an armed man, accompanied by others, entered the meeting room and shot the priest point blank in the head, killing him instantly," the bishop recounted.

“The murder happened so quickly that those present couldn't take note of how many people had entered the room to kill Fr. Étienne,” he lamented.

The bishop also told Fides that ”it's hard to know who is responsible. Our region is infested with armed groups, at least 15, that fail to be dismantled despite the constant presence of the army and the blue-helmeted UN soldiers.”

Bishop Ruboneka explained that “Fr. Étienne  is the third priest killed in the region” and that “the investigations to find those responsible for these deaths go nowhere. On our part, we are doing everything we can to identify Fr.  Étienne's killers, even though we have no illusions.”

“In these cases the witnesses fear for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones and it would be hard for them to offer any information useful for the investigation,” he pointed out.

The bishop also stated that Fr. Célestin Ngango was kidnapped from the diocese after celebrating Easter Mass. He was later released, blindfolded, at around 3 am following heavy pressure from the local inhabitants. The Congolese bishops' conference told Fides "the freed priest was not mistreated and he appears to be in good health. However, he will undergo a medical examination."

Bishop Ruboneka does not think there is any connection between the two incidents.

“I repeat, in our region there are so many armed groups that it is hard to know who committed this act or another. Here in North Kivu we are living in total chaos,” Bishop Ruboneka said.

In conclusion the prelate stressed that “the situation of the Diocese of Goma, as well as Butembo-Beni, is unbelievable. We are completely abandoned by everyone and we live thanks to the grace of Providence. I ask the faithful of the Universal Church to pray for our region so we can again find peace.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.