The World

Apollinaire Cibaka: "Humanae vitae speaks loudly to black Africa."

Two months after the French May '68, on July 25, Pope Paul VI, now canonized, promulgated the famous encyclical Humanae Vitae. These days, the The Jérôme Lejeune International Chair of Bioethics has organized a congress in Rome on the papal text. Congolese Fr. Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo, rector of the Official University of Mbujimayi, Kasaï Oriental, and member of its scientific committee, spoke to Omnes.

Francisco Otamendi-May 18, 2023-Reading time: 6 minutes

Professor Apollinaire Cibaka

There are numerous magisterial texts, written by Popes, that are worth analyzing. Among them is undoubtedly the encyclical Humanae Vitaesigned by St. Paul VI on July 25, 1968, while the student and union revolts of the famous French May '68 were still smoldering. 

The International Chair The Jérôme Lejeune Bioethics Center, directed by Dr. Mónica López Barahona, has taken up the gauntlet thrown down by Pope Francis, and by St. John Paul II, to rediscover and deepen his message, and has organized a congress on the 19th and 20th of this month on "Humanae Vitae: the audacity of an encyclical on sexuality and procreation".

This congressAccording to its organizers, "it is aimed at young people, couples, formators, priests, doctors, teachers, theologians, etc., who want to rediscover this prophetic call in favor of the dignity of love and human life. 

Dr. Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo, Professor of Bioethics and Rector of the Université Officielle de Mbujimayi, Kasayi Oriental (Democratic Republic of Congo). His lecture was on "Humanae Vitaea bulwark against the Malthusian policies"and Omnes spoke with him. Logically, Professor Cibaka refers on several occasions to black Africa, considered to be one of the most impoverished regions of the planet.

Could you give a brief synthesis of the message of the encyclical Humanae Vitae of St. Paul VI, and a general assessment?

-In a nutshell, I can dare to present the Humanae Vitae as the voice of the wisdom and experience of the Church that invites us to live the otherness and mystery of man and woman, their marriage, sexuality, procreation and family in their divine and founding truth, without the contamination of instincts driven mad and unbridled by perverse ideologies and techniques that place them at the service of the reductive, hedonistic and destructive use of the human being and of life.

It was the time of May '68, and the world seemed to be living in a "psychosis" of overpopulation. Give us a brief summary of your presentation in Rome.

I was 7 months old in May '68, so I was born and raised in a world culturally marked by the so-called "sexual revolution", with the psychosis of overpopulation as one of its main arguments and constants. 

The truth is that, instead of asking the real questions about the meaning of their presence in the world and seeking just ways to live it in the most appropriate way, human beings have taken advantage of the new powers they have acquired thanks to science and technology to free themselves from reason, from natural law and its spiritual and moral implications, organizing an arbitrary and systematic slaughter of millions of their helpless fellow human beings, without any consideration for their dignity or for God. 

Within the framework of my presentation at this Congress Humanae vitae I will reflect on seven of the internal and external factors that, in my opinion, contribute to the entrenchment of this culture of death in black Africa.

How would you rate the Humane Vitae? Some have called it prophetic, and in relation to black Africa?

-The Humanae vitae is a brief, simple, clear, accessible and, above all, truthful text in each and every one of its statements. I read it again on the occasion of this congress, and I believe that it shows us all, believers of different religions and non-believers of different cultures, the way to follow to better understand and heal human sexuality, so disfigured and spoiled by the so-called "sexual revolution". 

His teaching should be considered as the patrimony of all humanity, since it connects with the sound wisdom of all peoples. For an African and Muluba from the Congo like me, everything he says about the relationship between man and woman in marriage, about the moral demands of a mature and responsible sexuality, about welcoming and respecting every life, is not strange at all, but finds a deep echo in my culture. 

Moreover, with the forced changes that we are experiencing even in the most remote villages, the Humanae vitae is a voice that speaks loudly to black Africa and invites it to reconcile with itself, with its ancestors, with its spirituality of life, with its ethical legacy... Sexuality is not a game invented by men, a nonsense in the hands of unconscious and irresponsible children, but a gift from God, one of the constitutive, structuring and marvelous dimensions of the human being. To denaturalize and destroy it is simply to denaturalize and destroy the human being, to poison his family and social spaces of life.

Population control seems to be a weapon in the hands of richer countries, while demographics in those countries are falling dramatically, partly cushioned by immigration. What do you think? 

-In addition to being a priest and a university and major seminary teacher, I am the founder of Ditunga, an association that supports ecclesial and social works, which will be 17 years old in October 2023 and works mainly in the rural community of Ngandanjika, which is made up of some 1,400,000 souls grouped into 96 ethnic groups. 

This work, which has led me to work in the field of health and others, has helped me to discover the ugly faces of much of the aid destined for the poorest. If you take away the aid from the Catholic Church and from some very kind-hearted people, many development projects are driven by agendas that condition everything to the acceptance of ideologies and programs contrary to the local culture of life, family, sexuality.... 

Instead of accompanying us and helping us to solve our real problems in their structural causes, most of these programs do not draw any lesson from the human and moral misfortunes they have caused in families and Western societies; they only aim to destroy our families, wanting to impose on us the culture of sexuality against nature, without love or responsibility or future. 

They are not concerned about dictatorships, social injustices, climate change, wars of various kinds, the plundering of our natural resources and so many misfortunes that kill millions of lives every year, because they want to solve everything thanks to an exorbitant and murderous sexuality.

Pope Francis invited a reflection to "rediscover the message of Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae" (AL, 82 and 222). St. John Paul II had done the same. What impact has it had in your country?

-Lest I generalize and limit myself to the ecclesiastical province of Kananga, where I am concluding 9 years of mandate as executive secretary, I know that the Humanae Vitae is an encyclical very present in the pastoral care of the family in our 9 dioceses and there are diocesan offices to accompany engaged couples, married couples and families in their Christian vocation. There are also many ecclesial movements of family spirituality, but it is not an easy pastoral, because there are also many harmful offers from public and private promoters of the "sexual revolution". This is why we must continue to struggle. 

In this connection, on the occasion of the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Humanae vitae (July 25, 1968-2023), Ditunga, the association of which I have just spoken, is devoting its third symposium to a re-reading of this encyclical of St. Paul VI in the context of black Africa. 

Under the theme The culture of life versus the culture of death in black Africa. Inventory and perspectivesThis symposium will take place from October 26 to 28, 2023 in Ngandanjika, in the center of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

There will be a total of 15 conferences of various approaches, but also communications from people interested in the subject. If the means allow it, 50 national or international personalities with responsibilities or with notable influence in the worlds of medicine, politics, religion, literature, music... will be invited, in the hope that their participation can contribute to promote the culture of life.

What are the objectives of this symposium in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Based on the Humanae vitaeThe symposium will have 4 main objectives:

1º) To understand the Christian culture of life from the African tradition and the influences it has received from the Christian faith, from the teaching of the Catholic Magisterium, from theological reflection and from other religious traditions.

2nd) Identify the faces, ideologies, strategies and means of the culture of death as it is being developed in black Africa today by internal and external factors.

3º) To break the silence on practices rooted in the traditional and modern culture of death in our communities, and to raise a true interdisciplinary and social debate on its challenges to the African and Christian cultures of life.

4º) Make realistic proposals and define intelligent strategies to promote and sustain the culture of life, especially the lives of vulnerable people.

I hope that this symposium will be one of the contributions of the call of Popes John Paul II and Francis to deepen and disseminate the teachings of Humanae Vitae. For our part, one of the fruits already expected is the translation of Humanae Vitae Ciluba, the main language of the Kasayi region and one of the 4 national languages of the DR Congo.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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