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The body of Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo arrived Sunday at the airport in Kinshasa. The remains of the former Congolese archbishop, who died at the age of 81 on July 11 in Versailles, France, was greeted by a crowd of mourners.

The faithful, members of the local archdiocese and political personalities, all responded to the call of mourning. Among them on the tarmac of the airport of Ndjili, the Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, some of his ministers and representatives of the Senate and the National Assembly.

At the cathedral, the remains was escorted by the Congolese police, and the casket was then opened for religious ceremonies and rites.

Dressed in fabrics bearing the effigy of the deceased prelate, men and women of all ages wept as the coffin passed by and as they came to paid their last respects.

As the farewell mass drew to a close, the governor of Kinshasa, Gentiny Ngobila, spoke of it as “a painful moment”

“Death has taken away a monument that Kinshasa and the DRC still needed (…), a fatherly figure, a vigilant and fearless guardian of the truth,” he added, filled with emotion.

Carried by eight priests, the coffin of the cardinal was reintroduced into the hearse by a band, to the rhythm of a Marian hymn sung in chorus by the crowd. The procession then headed to the morgue of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Limete in central Kinshasa.

A man of God and a man of the people

In addition to his high rank in the clergy, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya was a man of the people, very involved in the socio-political affairs of his country. Even if his positions were criticized by politicians during his lifetime, the cardinal never silenced his critical spirit towards the different regimes that succeeded one another in the DRC. He is also the author of the Laurent Monsengwo Scholarship which helps needy Congolese students every year.

Elevated to the rank of priest in 1963 and bishop in 1980 by Pope John Paul II in Kinshasa, then cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2010, Monsengwo was able to put his religious reputation at the service of others.

Pope Francis paid a heartfelt tribute to the deceased, who was for a time one of his close advisors, noting the “courage” and “significant contribution” of a “man who loved justice, peace and unity”.

For the Pontiff, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo was an “exegete”, a “man of science” and a “great spiritual man (…) attentive to the needs of the faithful, filled with courage and determination”.

Before his burial, scheduled for July 21, a final Mass will be said at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Eucharist is scheduled for the same day at the esplanade of the People’s Palace.

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