Bossangoa Cathedral targeted by rebels

FIDES, the Vatican News Agency, reports that two unexploded grenades were discovered in the cathedral at Bossangoa, the Central African town 300 km north-west from Bangui, the centre of fighting between members of the Seleka coalition and a number of armed groups, including some loyal to former President François Bozizé, who is originally from the area.

The diocese of Bossangoa is led by Bishop Nestor Nongo-Aziagbia SMA, who, along with another SMA, Fr Dennis Agbenyadzi, were appointed bishops by Pope Benedict in 2012. Bishop Agbenyadzi is bishop of Berbérati which is in the south-west of CAR.

The clashes caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of civilians were forced to flee. According to the diocesan Vicar General, Father Frédéric Tonfio, about 35,000 people have arrived in the city in recent weeks. 

Many of these IDP’s (Internally-displaced people) have been accommodated in different buildings “including the seminary and the Catholic school”. On 19 September “the Secretary-General, the Imam of the city, the local representative of Seleka and the commander of FOMAC (African Force in Central Africa) met to discuss ways to make the displaced people return back home”.

Fr Tonfio said the grenades found in the cathedral have been entrusted to FOMAC. Tension remains high because the clashes, attributed by Seleka to the men who remained loyal to Bozizé, according to independent sources can be attributed in large part to self-defense groups organized by the local population tired of the abuses committed by the rebels.

When Bishop Nestor took over much of the diocesan infrastructure was in ruins and he, along with the people and clergy, had begun to reestablish dicoesan offices (to aid the handicapped, workshops, literacy groups etc etc) but much of this has been once again destroyed. SMA supporters in Ireland have been very involved in funding some of the projects and it is hoped they will continue to do so.