“Santi subito” – Saints at once, written on a banner in red and blue on a white background, with the images of Blessed Anuarite and Bakanja. This inscription, seen on Thursday, 2 February, at the Martyrs’ Stadium where Pope Francis met with young people and Catechists, is meant to be a profound wish and a prayer for the canonisation of these two Congolese martyrs, beatified in 1985 and 1995 respectively.
Stanislas Kambashi, SJ – Kinshasa, DRC.
Joining in a tradition sometimes seen in Saint Peter’s Square, the Congolese faithful sent a message to Pope Francis about two of Africa’s most beloved Blesseds still in the queue for canonisation as saints of the Church.
Catechists and the young people of DRC
The Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecôte (Martyrs of Pentecost Stadium), in the centre of Kinshasa, was filled to capacity on Thursday, 2 February, for Pope Francis’ meeting with young people and Catechists. These two categories of the Catholic faithful flocked from all corners and parishes of Congo to listen to the Holy Father on this occasion that was particularly dedicated to them.
Congolese Prime Minister Jean Michel Sama Lukonde and several other authorities were also present, as well as delegations from other countries. In the stadium, a banner with the Italian language inscription “Santi subito” – “Saints at once,” accompanied by images of Blessed Anuarite and Bakanja was displayed. On two sides of the podium from which Pope Francis spoke were images of the two Congolese martyrs. The animation of the crowd before the Pope’s arrival testified to the living faith and remarkable vitality of the Church of the DRC.
Anuarite and Bakanja, models of faith and forgiveness
Blessed Anuarite and Blessed Bakanja were beatified by John Paul II: The first in 1985 in Kinshasa, on the occasion of the Pope’s second visit to Congo (then known as Zaire) and the second in Rome in 1995. Since then, many Congolese and the Catholic faithful in Africa have nourished a great devotion to the two Blesseds of Congo, who died as martyrs for their faithfulness to Christ. In his address on Thursday, Pope Francis mentioned them as models of faith, courage, perseverance and forgiveness. Addressing himself to the young people, the Pope also referenced Saint Kizito, a young Ugandan saint.
Martyred in 1964 in the northeast of the DRC for having preserved her purity until death, Blessed Anuarite was a religious of the Sisters of the Holy Family, Bafwabaka. Anuarite is a model of fidelity in following Christ as a consecrated person. Her feast is celebrated on 1 December.
Blessed Bakanja is patron of the Congolese laity and the youth. He died on 15 August 1909 due to the wounds inflicted on him as “punishment” for his faith, which he bore patiently while forgiving his aggressor. Bakanja was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 24 April 1994. His feast is placed on 15 August, in the liturgical calendar.
Pope Francis cited Bakanja as a model of faith for young people in his apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit. Bakanja was known as a young Catechist who spent his free time teaching his neighbours and friends the rosary and other prayers. Bishop Timothée Bodika Mansiyai, President of the Congolese Episcopal Commission for the Laity, recalled the virtues of Bakanja in his introductory remarks before Pope Francis.
The faithful of the DRC continue to offer their prayers for the canonisation of these two blessed martyrs. On thursday, this week, they found a way to convey their yearning to Pope Francis.
The Church of the DRC is also awaiting the beatification of the Servant of God, Christophe Munzihirwa Mwene Ngabo, the Congolese Jesuit Archbishop of Bukavu Diocese who was killed in 1996.