Thousands of Congo Christians Mourn Murdered Italian Missionary

native Italy and the African Republic of the Congo, where thousands attended the funeral of Italian Franciscan missionary Angelo Redaelli, 40, who was lynched earlier in the week, missionary and church sources said.

The 40-year old priest was stabbed to death with machetes on Monday, September 12, by angry villagers after he accidentally killed a 3-year-old child with his car in the Owanda diocese, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Congolese capital Brazzaville, the Missionary Service News Agency (MISNA) reported.

Angelo Redaelli reportedly immediately stepped out of his car, as did his passengers -- five Congolese religious and three Poor Clare sisters -- but they were apparently unable to safe the child's life. Furious relatives of the child and others than attacked, and killed, the Franciscan because he was the driver, forcing his companions to flee to the forest, MISNA and other news reports said .

Father Giulio Albanese, a Comboni priest and journalist, reportedly told Vatican Radio that "it must be remembered that aggressions in such circumstances are very frequent in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa."

DON'T STOP

He said that after an accident it is best to not stop, and to go directly to a police station, due to the general "lack of trust" that people have in local justice. His colleague, priest Enesto Dezza, told MISNA he did not believe the violence against "Brother Angelo" was related to Redaelli's Christian background. Christians comprise roughly 50 percent of the over three million people in Congo, according to US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates.

"The violent reaction would have been the same even if there had been another person or a local driver at the wheel," he was quoted as saying.

Born in Tradate, Italy, "Father Angelo" ,as Catholics called him, arrived in Congo two years ago, his first experience in Africa. He has been in several missionary activities, including at shelters for street children in the capital Brazzaville and in Congo's northern area of Makua, MISNA said.

OUT OF LOVE

In his homily at the funeral mass in Brazzaville Cathedral,  Archbishop Andres Carrascosa reportedly said that "it was out of love that he decided to stop and help the little girl,[who suddenly appeared in front of his car] and out of love that he gave his life."

"Justice must follow its course and the law its teaching action, but, in the end, there is need of education and formation in human and spiritual values that spring directly from the Gospel," said the apostolic nuncio on behalf of the Vatican.

His body arrived Friday, September 16, in Turate, Italy where a funeral mass and burial was to take place, MISNA reported. (With reports from Africa, BosNewsLife Research and Stefan J. Bos). 

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