Cablegate: Vatican Names Controversial Prelate to Head Archdiocese Of
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1351 3441121
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101121Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7219
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0015
UNCLAS KINSHASA 001351
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PGOV CG
SUBJECT: VATICAN NAMES CONTROVERSIAL PRELATE TO HEAD ARCHDIOCESE OF
REF: (A) 06 Kinshasa 785; (B) 06 Kinshasa 834; (C) 06 Kinshasa
1746; (D) 06 Kinshasa 1766
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PROTECT ACCORDINGLY
1. (SBU) Summary: The Holy See has named Laurent Monsengwo,
Archbishop of Kisangani and president of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops (CENCO), to become the new Archbishop of Kinshasa.
He succeeds the late Frederic Cardinal Etsou. Monsengwo is known
for keen intelligence, strong political skills and great ambition.
His talents will be tested as he leads the Congolese Catholic Church
in a challenging period of reconstruction and competition. End
2. (SBU) The acting papal nuncio in Kinshasa, the Vatican's
diplomatic representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
announced December 5 that Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo, currently
serving as Archbishop of Kisangani, has been named by Pope Benedict
XVI as Archbishop of Kinshasa. Monsengwo succeeds Frederic Cardinal
Etsou, who died in January following a long illness. He will be
formally installed in February.
3. (U) Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya was born in October, 1939 in
Inongo, province of Bandundu. A Sakata tribesman of the Nsontin
royal family, he is a nephew of former Prime Minister Joseph Nsinga.
His brother is Senator Francois Kaniki, a former CEO of the
shipping firm AGETRAF. Monsengwo holds a doctorate in biblical
exegesis and speaks several languages, including Hebrew. He was
ordained in 1963. He was named auxiliary bishop of Inongo in 1980,
then of Kisangani from 1981 to 1988. He became archbishop of
Kisangani in 1988.
4. (U) From 1976 to 1980 Monsengwo served as secretary general of
the National Catholic Conference of Bishops (CENCO), and later as
its president, from 1984 to 1992. He also headed the Consortium of
Bishops' Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM) for six years.
Monsengwo is again president of CENCO and, since May 2007, heads
Pax Christi International, a Brussels-based international Roman
Catholic NGO that supports projects throughout the world that
promote peace and understanding.
5. (SBU) Monsengwo gained popularity in the early 1990's for a
letter he wrote denouncing Mobutu's rule. He was elected president
of the 1991-1992 National Sovereign Conference which, many Congolese
hoped, would lead the country from the Mobutu dictatorship to
democratic rule. Frequent visits with Mobutu at his home in
Gbadolite, however, raised questions about Monsengwo's real
political loyalties. Later, during the pre-electoral period in
2006, his calls for all candidates to affirm their support for
pre-election power-sharing "negotiations" were widely seen as moves
to support Jean-Pierre Bemba's political ambitions (refs A, B).
Some reports allege that he acted behind the scenes on behalf of
Bemba's candidacy. There are also reports that Monsengwo was behind
Cardinal Etsou's controversial statements in 2006 questioning the
legitimacy of Kabila's election (refs C, D).
6. (SBU) Comment: Many believe Monsengwo has had the Kinshasa see
in his sites for many years. Like his two predecessors, he should
eventually be named cardinal, although precedent indicates that
getting the scarlet beret requires at least tacit approval from
President Kabila. The fact that an older prelate was chosen
(Monsengwo is in his late sixties) as de facto leader of the Congo's
estimated 30 million-plus Catholics (although technically the
archbishop of Kinshasa only, his proximity to the national power
center gives him the potential to the most influential churchman
throughout the country) suggests that Rome has opted for a
well-known quantity at a time of both great opportunity and great
peril for the Congolese Church. Monsengwo's intellect, energy,
determination and ambition will be put to the test as he works to
rebuild the Church after the country's long winter of civil and
regional wars, and to confront the growing challenge posed by
foreign Protestant and home-grown Congolese Christian movements.
His political skills will also be tested, as he maneuvers to rebuild
bridges to a president he reportedly opposed prior to the 2006
elections. Alternatively, he could leverage his reputation as an
anti-Kabila activist to win support from those discontented with
Kabila and his governing coalition. End comment.