By the Grace of the Most Holy God, the Holy Diocese of Goma was established in November 2018, and I was appointed as the new Patriarchal Commissioner of the Diocese.
The Holy Diocese of Goma is located in Eastern Congo and consists of two provinces, those of North and South Kivu. With a total area of 24,553 km2 and 12,427,000 inhabitants, Goma is the worst afflicted Congolese region with 25 years of war, illnesses such as the fatal epidemic of Ebola and a very high death toll, a region full of desperate, helpless, hopeless souls. It is in this region that the light of Orthodoxy rose with the foundation of the Diocese in order to bring hope, peace, strength and life to these humble souls. Glory be to God for all things.
With the blessings of His Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II, we arrived at our missionary seat, i.e. the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, the Center of our Diocese. What did we find? Neither a home, nor a church, only the good souls of about thirty-five catechumens, a Greek citizen and many tears of joy and hope from the afflicted souls who had been waiting for us to hear the word of God, to attend a Divine Liturgy so as to keep the flame of their hope lit. On Palm Sunday, we conducted the first Divine Liturgy in a school classroom which was kindly given to us for that day, and we were able to preach the word of God.
We moved around our diocese so as to get a general idea of the whole situation from our partners there and plan our future course. We set off on our journey from the capital of the South Kivu province Bukavu, where we were impatiently awaited by a group of catechumens, to whom we conveyed the blessings of our Patriarch and distributed various books on Orthodoxy.
Next we visited the town of Kamanyola, where we met with Fr. Demetrius Rizikis, priest of the St. Vasilios parish community in Uvira and the faithful of the Annunciation parish in Kamaniola region, where the Divine Liturgy is occasionally conducted by Fr. Demetrius. The parish there consists of nearly 200 faithful and catechumens.
Our next stop was at the city of Uvira, at Fr. Demetrius’ parish. We went to St. Basil’s Church, a big temple with a school building, where we were welcomed by many people thirsty for the word of God. Here we should point out that the buildings were constructed by Fr. Damascenos of Gregoriou during his missionary ministry in the region.
Finally, we went to the Holy Metropolis of Burundi and Rwanda to meet His Eminence Innocentios and be enlightened by his experience, as this region had been under his spiritual jurisdiction for quite some time.
During our inspection tour, with the help of God and the blessings of His Beatitude, apart from the Divine Liturgies that we performed, we preached Orthodoxy and conversed with the faithful and the catechumens wherever we found them, crossing rivers, lakes, forests for the name of our God. We managed to baptize the first Christians, 19 neophytes in Goma, and we performed the sacrament of marriage.
How great our Almighty God is! On the same day when God enlightened us to baptize our first Christians in Goma, we had an episode. Along with our catechumens, we went down to Khufu Lake, where we would perform the baptisms, set up our table, and while we were about to get started, the local people, who had not seen a priest in black before, thought we were sorcerers and called the police. When the police came, they neither did nor asked anything; they were just watching us along with the inhabitants, and they said: they are not sorcerers, they have crosses on; they must be Christians, but not like the others. Despite the big waves of the lake, we did manage to perform the Holy Mystery of Baptism. When we had finished, the inhabitants who had called the police, humbly asked us to baptize them. We told them that catechesis precedes baptism, and God willing, their wish would be eventually realized.
Our diocese has 12 parish communities, two priests, three church buildings, and one school. There is a lot of work to be done, particularly in this heavily afflicted area, but we believe that with the help of God, the blessings of His Beatitude and the support of warm-hearted people we will make it. May God bless you all.
Fr. Chariton Musungayi Patriarchal Commissioner of Goma