Priest, 5 students arrested for chants against president after Pope Francis event in DRC

Pope Francis DRC youth Pope Francis interacted with an energetic crowd of 65,000 young adults and catechists at Martyrs' Stadium in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Feb. 2, 2023. | Vatican Media

A Catholic priest and five students were arrested after an event Thursday morning with Pope Francis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allegedly for criticizing the country’s president.

The students and Father Guy Julien Muluku, a Congolese member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, were detained nearly 34 hours before being released shortly before 10 p.m. on Feb. 3.

The arrest and subsequent release was confirmed to CNA by the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The six were arrested around 12 p.m. by the president’s intelligence service after Pope Francis’ gathering with Congolese youth at Martyrs’ Stadium in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 2.

When Pope Francis spoke against corruption during the Feb. 2 event, part of the crowd broke into a chant in the Lingala language directed at the country’s president and saying his mandate was over, according to the Associated Press.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January 2019, will be up for reelection in December.

Father Jean Baptiste Malenge, a delegate for the Congolese bishops’ conference and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, told EWTN News that a group of students from the University De Mazenod in Kinshasa broke out in a song they learned from the late Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo: “corruption, we refuse corruption,” adding, “thief, beware.”

Father Muluku, who is academic secretary general at the graduate school, was arrested with five of these students when he tried to protect them during the arrest.

Note: The name of the students' school was corrected at 11:21 a.m. MST on Feb. 5, 2023.

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