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Congo archbishop ministers to massive diocese by canoe, motorcycle

Catholic World News - November 08, 2010

Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani spoke with the Fides News Agency about the challenges of ministering in Congo’s largest diocese. The archdiocese’s one million Catholics are scattered over 150,000 square kilometers (approximately 58,000 square miles), an area larger than New York State.

“I have a deep desire to meet all the faithful, which is why during the year I organize visits to the parishes of the archdiocese,” he said. “For some, it is truly a great joy for them to meet me, because it is the first time in 19 to 20 years that they have the opportunity to meet their archbishop.”

“These pastoral visits cost a lot of effort and considerable expense, but it is with joy that we engage in this mission. The cross is an integral part of the mission of the Church. Every time I arrive in one of these communities far from the center of the archdiocese, in motorcycle, canoe, or on foot, I forget my fatigue with the warm welcome of the local faithful.”

“A great challenge,” he added, is “the shortage of priests. Their number is still insufficient. Currently we have, thank God, 50 diocesan priests and about 30 missionaries. Our country has been heavily marked by the war that lasted several years. Several infrastructures were destroyed and the economy was severely damaged … But our people are very generous. They can make available to the Church all they have and all the food they can produce.”

“We are hopeful, despite the difficulties we encounter in our pastoral work. My hope is founded on the vocational ministry, which is bearing fruit. We have 39 students in the seminary studying philosophy and theology, 97 students in the minor seminary, and 12 youth in the preparatory seminary.”

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