Open letter to Pope Francis

Dear Holy Father,

We are committed Gabonese citizens. Believers and practicing for some of us, atheists, for others, we are mostly men and women for justice and peace.

Therefore, with this open letter, we come to confer to you and to express our dismay at the attitude of the Catholic Church in Gabon vis-à-vis an oppressed people.

It seems that you have returned to the social doctrine of the Church, putting your pontificate under the sign of support for the poor and the promotion of justice for the common good.

Thus, when you met with all the world account of poor and excluded people, from 27 to 29 October 2014, you said that "solidarity with the poor is the very basis of the Gospel." You also added that: "The poor are not just waiting idly for solutions that never come. Now, the poor want to be actors of their destiny and find their own solutions to their problems. The poor are not resigned beings, they know to protest and revolt. (...) I hope that the wind of this protest will become a storm of hope."

On 22 December 2014, you expressed a "catalog" of fifteen diseases that threaten the clergy, including worldliness, hyperactivity, rivalries, gossip, and corruption. On that occasion, you invited the clergy to "a real examination of conscience", saying that as "every human body", the priests were suffering from "unfaithfulness" to the Gospel.

It seems that your call was not heard in Gabon, a predominantly Catholic country. Indeed, the Gabonese clergy, more than ever, is strongly suffering from the ills that you denounce. It actively participates in the repression of citizens and is complicit in the dispossession of the people.

For your information, Gabon has been headed for nearly 50 years by a single family: the Bongos. Omar Bongo, the father, remained in power from 1967 to 2009, the year of his death. Already at that time, Archbishop Basile Mvé Engone showed himself to be particularly close to the ruling regime. We discover later that he was the uncle-in-law of Omar Bongo. Is that why he never denounced poor governance or massive violation of human rights that characterized the reign of Omar Bongo? Who, we can affirm here, has always been very generous toward Bishop Mvé Engone.

In 2009, with the support of the army and highly partisan institutions, Ali Bongo succeeded his father, perpetuating a criminal regime whose connivance with the Archbishop of Libreville has grown significantly over the years. Faced with a rise in so-called ritual crimes, to accelerated moral depravity, of violent and systematic repression, to an unprecedented proliferation of sects, the Gabonese people are tired. Far away seem to be the hopes raised in November 2011 by your predecessor Benedict XVI, during his speech at the presidential palace in Benin: "Human beings aspire to liberty; they wants to live in dignity; they want good schools and food for children, dignified hospitals to treat patients; they wants to be respected; they want a clear governance that does not confuse private interest with the public interest; and most of all, they want peace and justice. "!

In Gabon, you guessed it, since a long time ago, the Archbishop of Libreville has resolutely chosen to support the ruling regime against the population.

Recently again, he proved it by organizing, on 22 April, a meeting between Ali Bongo and three members of the family of Mr. André Mba Obame, the elected President in 2009 - but who has never exercised power. This operation of manipulation and politicking communication was aimed actually at allowing Ali Bongo to take advantage of the funeral for Mr. Mba Obame who nevertheless, himself, accused the current leadership of poisoning him. After that meeting was publicized, the people simply decided to boycott the Mass by the archbishop that was to be attended by Ali Bongo.

In the minds of many Gabonese, Ali Bongo wanted, on the occasion of the Mass, to perform a ritual around the mortal remains of Mr. André Mba Obame, with the complicity of Archbishop Basile Mvé Engone.

Since this act, the mistrust of Christians toward Bishop Basil Mvé Engone and the Church has grown. There are defections from the churches by the faithful who have long tolerated the mishaps of the clergy.

Archbishop Basile Mvé knows very well what does not work in Gabon. He knows that Ali Bongo of Gabon has violated the constitution. He knows the evils that deeply undermine the Gabonese society. He knows that the majority of Gabonese live below the poverty line despite all the wealth of the country, but we have never heard him decide to come to the aid of the people like his colleagues of Congo, Cameroon and Burkina Faso have done. Probably because of the money he receives from those in power. Besides, he is nicknamed "Suitcase" Mvé Engone, with reference to the money filled suitcases he has received from the Gabonese presidency for years. Therefore, we understand that he chooses the preferential option of the rich!

Never have we heard of Gabon bishops decide openly and firmly to speak against the actions of those in power. NEVER.

We suggest to the Vatican to investigate the personal property of Gabonese bishops and especially on Bishop Basile Mvé’s wealth. For, in the words of Benedict XVI: "Right now, there are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too much contempt and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and death.” It is appropriate here to consider to give back the ill-gotten gains by Basil Mvé Engone to the Gabonese Church for the good of all.

For now, we all look forward to his retirement, and we hope that the choice of the future Archbishop of Libreville would be smarter. We need someone who would restore confidence and pride in the martyred people of Gabon, someone who will find themselves on the side of the poor and the oppressed to fight with them. Someone who would let the Holy Spirit inspire their actions. Someone who looks like you, who is inspired by you, Holy Father, and who will always have in mind these wise words of your predecessor: "It is not easy to live a servant life, to keep ones integrity among the currents of opinion and the interests of the powerful. Power of any kind, blinds with ease, especially when are at stakes, private, family, ethnic or religious interests. God alone purifies hearts and intentions. "

In the hope that our cries will be heard by the shepherd and Disciple of Christ you are, please accept, Your Holiness, our most respectful greetings.

Libreville, 18 may 2015

Georgina AYINGONE

Axelle KOMBILA MOUSSOUNDA

Félix Bongo

Marc ONA ESSANGUI

Jean-Pierre MPIGA

Annick ANTCHOUE

Alphonse LOUMA EYOUGHA

Sosthène NGUEMA NGUEMA

Alix ABAGHA OMVA

Marion NTSAME

Michel ONGOUNDOU LOUNDAH

Sentiment ONDO

Marcel DJABIO