How Vatican Funding Cuts Weigh On The Faithful In Africa

Since the gradual reduction of subsidies from Rome to diocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo, vicars have turned to the faithful to ensure survival of parish churches.

Easter celebrations in a church in Goma, North Kivu, DRC
Easter celebrations in a church in Goma, North Kivu, DRC
Thaddée Hyawe-Hinyi

IDIOFA â€" “We’re in a slump," is the polite expression from the local priest in this parish in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The cleric notes that with virtually no revenue from church activities, the faithful had long relied on funding from Catholic Church headquarters to keep their parish afloat. "Many thought the help from Rome would last forever, but they think we’ve grown big enough,” the Idiofa priest explains. “Rome still sends subsidies to the dioceses. But they are lower every year."

Throughout the region, reports are that Vatican funding per diocese is currently down to $30,000. “Already in the early 1990s, Rome announced the gradual reduction of subsidies for dioceses and seminaries, big or small,” the priest recalls.

The Vatican’s contribution to encourage priests to celebrate at least one Mass every day is over. It feels the DRC’s Church is now sufficiently developed to stand on its own two feet.

Passing the basket

Since then, more and more priests in the DRC have been asking their followers to contribute some of their own money to support the maintenance of their churches. And it’s working, as many new parish churches have been built thanks to the donations of Christians and the contributions of neighboring dioceses.

As an example, in October 2014, the priest of Bukavu’s Catholic Bienheureuse Anuarite parish told his faithful he wanted to collect money for Mission Sunday, which is celebrated every autumn. Called “Peter's Pence,” that day’s collection traditionally goes towards the bishop, who then divides in two the total, from all the parishes of a diocese, and sends half to Rome.

When Europe evangelized the Kivu Region more than a century ago, the aim was for “the priest to ensure your spiritual life, and followers to ensure their pastor’s material life by offering the equivalent of one day’s work per year to the parish costs,” the chaplain of the University of Goma explains.

A vicar from Kalehe, Bukavu, tells about a woman he once received in his office: “Father, I noticed you only declare the contributions above $20, but I only have $1 to give to participate in the construction of the new church,” she said. The vicar said he encouraged her to give the little she had, because he believes even small donations can make a difference.

But not all agree. In Goma, a Catholic church vicar said tiny contributions are not worth the sacrifice for poor people. “Putting a small 100 Congolese franc note ($0.11) in the common basket, it's better to keep it,” he said, during a recent christening.

Meanwhile, in evangelical churches, followers are encouraged to contribute directly to both the church and the choir. And those who have a paid job must offer the monthly tithe (a tenth of their salary) to the parish. Awakening Churches do well with this system, though some see a situation ripe for abuse. Chrysostome Lengo, in charge of receiving visitors of the parish at the Ministry for peace for Congo churches, in Bukavu, says that: “even on celebration days, our pastor demands special contributions to allow him to provide his wife with nice clothes and celebrate at home with his children.”

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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