An anti-government protester is helped after being shot in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Oct. 30. Burkina Faso's Catholic bishops sent a "message of peace and hope" to the West African country after its 27-year president, Blaise Compaore, fled prompting a m ilitary takeover. CNS photo/Joe Penney, Reuters

Burkina Faso Church rules out prelate as head of transitional council

By  Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service
  • November 14, 2014

OXFORD, England - The Catholic Church in Burkina Faso has welcomed an agreement on restoring civilian rule after a late-October military takeover, but rejected suggestions the handover of power could be supervised by a Catholic bishop.

Msgr. Joseph Kinda, spokesman for the bishops' conference in the West African nation, said all religious communities were represented at the talks that reached the agreement on transition to civilian rule Nov. 13. The talks in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, agreed on a constitutional charter leading to elections in November 2015.

"While we're ready to propose a qualified lay Catholic," leading the transition "isn't a task for clergy," Kinda told Catholic News Service Nov. 14. "Canon Law rules out the exercise of temporal power, and it's never right for a priest or bishop to hold it."

He said Church leaders had backed the charter and would also urge the inclusion of supporters of the ousted 27-year president, Blaise Compaore, in a new 90-member legislative National Transitional Council.

In an interview with Radio France International, Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou welcomed the readiness of Burkina Faso's new military rulers to restore "normal constitutional life," but also rejected media claims that he could head the Transitional Council.

"A cleric doesn't engage in such a form of power," the cardinal said.

"There will certainly be difficulties in finding this rare bird — a man or woman of consensus who can direct the transition, but I'm confident, since our country has plenty of technocrats who've worked well for it," he added.

Public buildings were burned and at least 30 people were killed during late October anti-government riots that led to the flight of Compaore and the assumption of head of state duties by the deputy head of the presidential guard, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida.

In a Nov. 4 statement, the 16-member bishops' conference said "deep discontent" in Burkina Faso had culminated in the insurrection, but added that the Catholic Church now counted on respect for "the authority of the forces of order and security."

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