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(LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest has voiced concern that there is a “terrifying silence,” including within the Catholic Church, on abortion in Africa, and is calling for the promotion of the encyclical Humanae Vitae on procreation to help counter the “culture of death.”

In a recent interview with EWTN Vaticano, Father Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo, rector of the University of Mbujimayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), pointed to troubling estimates from the U.N. regarding the prevalence of abortion in the region.

In the capital of DRC alone, Kinshasa, abortion is common despite the country’s legal restrictions on the lethal procedure. According to the most recent statistics, in 2016, an estimated 146,713 abortions were performed, meaning about 56 out of 1000 women aged 15-49 had abortions.

“There is a social debate about these issues, but there is a prevailing culture that takes advantage of the general silence,” said Cikongo.

“There is a silence even within the Church,” he continued, noting that he has not “heard the Church say anything” about the numbers of babies aborted in the area.

“There is sometimes a terrifying silence,” he added.

He framed the killing of innocent life through abortion as being performed in the area “in good faith,” as the abortionists “say that these children are not wanted, they are the result of rape, so terminating their lives is not a problem.”

He pointed out that even Catholic religious and lay staff are complicit in the promotion of abortion.

“I have witnessed situations where in a hospital pharmacy, there is a religious sister there with posters promoting contraception and abortion programmes,” Cikongo shared.

He did not go so far as to suggest they are coerced, but noted, “If they want their hospital to receive subsidies, they have to accept assistance that includes contraception and abortion.”

“Even in the most remote villages, you can find health centers without microscopes but with condoms and contraceptive pills, focusing on fighting against life instead of identifying diseases that people have,” Cikongo continued.

The priest believes that spreading the message of Humanae Vitae, which affirms Catholic Church teaching that contraception contradicts the natural order and is unlawful, is important in encouraging families to welcome children. 

Cikongo “called for the translation of the 1968 encyclical letter into local languages and its distribution to promote the sanctity of life in DRC, which he said has suffered from decades of violent conflicts,” Catholic News Agency reported.

“It is a small booklet that will allow us to spread the message because Humane Vitae corresponds with our culture,” he said, adding, “When I talk to an elderly woman in a village about Humanae Vitae, she can relate because that’s how she was raised.”

“With the new generations and the influence of the media, if we don’t wake up, we will have a society corrupted by the culture of death and the destruction of sexuality and the relationship between a man and a woman,” Cikongo warned.

“We assert our viewpoints in the face of pressure. The value of sexuality and the value of embracing life are crucial. These are things we need to learn from Humanae Vitae,” he continued.

CNA shared that Cikongo “spoke at a recent conference on Humanae Vitae in Rome” and “is expected to hold a conference on the culture of life versus the culture of death in Black Africa later this year in a 15-lecture series.”