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Passionist priest named bishop of Congo diocese

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - Pope Francis has appointed Passionist Father Emery Kibal Mansong'loo, who currently resides in the Brooklyn Diocese, as the new bishop of the Diocese of Kole in Congo in central Africa.

Bishop-designate Kibal, named the fourth bishop of Kole, is a former provincial superior of the Passionist Fathers in Congo. He has been on sabbatical at the Immaculate Conception Passionist Monastery in the New York borough of Queens and serving as chaplain at Mercy Medical Center, in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, since the spring of 2014.

He will succeed Bishop Stanislas Lukumwena Lumbala, who resigned in 2008.

Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, is expected to ordain him Aug. 9.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre has already presented Bishop-designate Kibal with a zucchetto, and a friend gave him a simple pectoral cross.

Becoming a bishop "was something I never expected," the bishop-designate said on a recent afternoon inside the Jamaica monastery where he's been staying.

"When we are in training to become a priest, we know that we are going to become a priest. But becoming a bishop? No one is prepared for that."

He told The Tablet, newspaper of the Brooklyn Diocese, that he had received word of his appointment in late April after saying morning prayers in the chapel of Mercy Medical Center. His cellphone rang and the apostolic delegate to Congo announced the pope's intentions for him.

Bishop-designate Kibal, who turns 46 June 28, said he was shocked and asked the delegate if he could have some time to reflect on the news.

"He said, 'No, my brother, you cannot. You have to behave like the Blessed Mary when she received the message of the angel.' I didn't have any other alternative than to say 'yes,'" he said, laughing as he recalled the conversation.

Not only was it a joyful moment for the young priest, but also a troubling one, he said, because it meant realizing that the plans he had for the future were not God's plans.

"I had to figure out how things were going to change," he said.

Established as an apostolic prefecture in 1951 and elevated to a diocese in 1967, the Diocese of Kole covers 25,492 square miles and has a population of over 477,000. More than 150,000 residents - about 30 percent - are Catholic, and they worship in 15 parishes.

A remote area in the jungle, Kole has "no roads, no transportation, no electricity, no running water. ... You have to go 40 miles away to reach a telephone," the bishop-designate said. "Enormous challenges are waiting for me there."

Families survive by subsistence farming and basic education available is mainly for young men, as young women are prepared to become only wives and mothers.

His episcopacy will be dedicated to overcoming material, cultural and spiritual obstacles. He expects to face opposition from traditional peoples, including Pygmies, who he said resist modern methods of education and medicine.

Bishop-designate Kibal said he hopes to build proper schools and "promote the education of young people, especially the girls," address the lack of health care structures and medical care and find a way to improve the economic situation to raise people out of poverty.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015