Central African Republic bishop says Church has “great moral authority”

.- “In a country that is still being plagued by civil unrest and where the government is weak, the Catholic Church has a great moral authority due to its social commitment, especially in the sectors of healthcare and education,” said Mgr. Agostino Delfino, OFMCap, Bishop of Berberati, in the West of the Central African Republic.  The Bishop’s comments came upon his visit to Aid to the Church in Need, Sept. 6th.

The bishop pointed to the Church’s efforts to protect the pygmies, an ethnic minority often discriminated against, as one are of social commitment which has gained it a great deal of moral authority among the county’s citizens.

According to the prelate, his Berberati Diocese, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last February, has about 450,000 inhabitants, some 80,000 of them Catholics. “There are 17 parishes, 29 native priests, 14 seminarians and some 300 lay catechists.

“In Berberati, there is a Catholic Cultural Centre which is open to all of the town’s youth,” he said adding that “there is a good ecumenical dialogue” with major Protestant denominations as well as “a peaceful co-existence” with local Muslims.
As a priority for his diocese, Bishop Delfino named the formation of seminarians and laity. The prelate, an Italian missionary who has been living in the country for 46 years, is one of six foreign bishops there, while the remaining three are natives.

The land-locked country of Central African Republic has a long border with the war-torn country of Sudan, on its east side.  The former French colony has experienced political turmoil, with a few pockets of civility, since gaining its independence in 1960.  The current government, under General Francois Bozize, still has not tamed the crime-wracked countryside and the country remains one of the poorest in Africa, according to the CIA.

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