A priest sat down for dinner with a group of other clergymen, and then was shot in the abdomen, later dying of his wounds.
June 29th was just another day in the life of the Church in the Central African Republic. Monsignor Firmin Gbagoua, Vicar General of Bambari Diocese, was the third priest to be murdered in the country this year.
The bishops’ conference immediately issued a letter expressing their “bitterness” over the continued attacks on the clergy.
“This odious assassination reminds us of Father Joseph Désiré Angbabata who was killed last March at his Seko Parish, along with some of his parishioners,” the letter said.
The bishops also challenged the government and the United Nations to do more to keep the country safe.
“We call on the government and the MINUSCA [the UN peacekeeping mission] to coordinate their actions so that the authors of the assassinations can be arrested and brought to justice,” their letter read.
They also called on the Christian community to “stay calm and pray against falling into the trap of those who want to demonstrate that Christians and Muslims can’t live together anymore in their effort to partition the country.”
They then asked the rhetorical question: “Who benefits from these attacks against the Catholic Church?”
“These criminals who continue to kill, we know who they are,” said Father Mathieu Bondobo, the rector of Our Lady of Immaculate Cathedral in Bangui, in an interview with Vatican Radio.
He said anyone fighting for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic becomes a target for assassination but emphasized that the Church will not be cowed into submission.
“The Vicar General of Bambari was a man of peace, a man who spent his life working only for cohesion, who spread the Good News about reconciliation – he has been cold-bloodedly murdered by the enemies of peace,” Bondobo said.
“We are sad, but that won’t keep us from denouncing the wrong-doing in this country; from denouncing those fomenting trouble and those who don’t want to arrest the authors of these crimes,” the priest continued.