Born in 1932 in the territory of Lubero (eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Monsignor Emmanuel Kataliko, archbishop of the Bukavu diocese (Sud-Kivu), was the oldest [clergyman] to be ordained in the region. He was known and esteemed for his faithful proclamation of the Gospel.
Kataliko was born on a plantation that grew a particular type of banana- kasiksi, in Kiswahili- which was primarily used for the manufacture of a local alcoholic beverage. While his parents were preparing holes in the fields to put in the rows of banana plants, his mother felt the onset of labor pains, and she was immediately rushed to the hospital. Just as his father finished his work in the field, he received a message from the hospital announcing the birth of a son, a child who would bear the name Kataliko. This name means “to be put into the ground” in the Kinanda language (the Kinanda being a tribe in the northeastern part of the DRC).
Born into a pious family, the boy was given the name “Emmanuel Kataliko” to signify the fact that God was with the family at the time of the banana planting. This event was actually quite prophetic for Kataliko’s life because he later became a devoted servant of God. First chosen as bishop of the Beni-Butembo diocese, he then became the archbishop of Bukavu. Many knew him to be a man of profound prayer, and he cultivated a deep devotion to the Mother of God as well.
In relation to the material affairs of his diocese, Kataliko was known to be a champion of development. He brought to fruition many social works, including the construction of the Catholic University of Graben at Butembo, the improvement of the social climate for his people, and the building of a transportation network to link the city with its surrounding agricultural villages.
During the later years of his life, Kataliko’s prayers for an end to war in his own country as well as in central Africa in general were coupled with his whole-hearted pursuit of peace by means of exhortations, declarations, and contacts with political authorities who were involved in the conflicts.
In his struggle for justice, he denounced those who ignored human rights in the region and spoke vehemently against the crimes committed by the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebels and their Rwandan allies. This resulted in a seven month exile from his diocese. Nevertheless, fear never prevented Archbishop Kataliko from proclaiming the Good News of Christ both in season and out of season, or from constantly bringing the Gospel message to the poor.
The predecessor of Archbishop Kataliko, Msgr. Christophe Munzihirwa, was assassinated by rebels in the streets of Bukavu on October 29, 1996. Msgr. Kataliko himself died in Rome where he had been sent for treatment after a heart attack, a medical crisis most likely caused by the moral anguish he suffered in his struggle against the Rwandan occupation of the eastern part of his country. He passed away on October 4, 2000. His last words to his brother bishops were, “Think of the people who are waiting for their bishops to speak.”
Birizene Mutchindi Innocent
Madame Biwaga (librarian for the Nyakasanza catechetical school), interview by author, March 18, 2003, Bunia.
Paluku Mumbere (resident of Butembo, birthplace of Kataliko), interview by author, March 24, 2003, Bunia.
Migo Tabende Leopold (resident of Bukavu), interview by author, March 30, 2003, Bunia.
Nicaire Kibel’Bel Oka, Les Coulisses (magazine), no. 118 (January 2003): 1.
Received in 2003, this article is the work of Birizene Mutchindi Innocent, theology student under the direction of Reverend Yossa Way, Professor of Theology and DACB liaison to the Institut Supérieur Théologique Anglican in Bunia (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Reverend Way was the recipient of the DACB Project Luke Fellowship in 2001. Translation from the original French in 2012 by Mrs. Elizabeth Mullen.