LOME, Togo (CNS) — Catholic bishops in Togo have urged prayer during Lent to restore peace in their country.

“We hope this will be a time of intense prayerfulness for our country which, for months now, has faced a deep social and political crisis. Let us ask God to rid us of the bonds hampering our common life and compromising our unity, and implore his light and wisdom for the protagonists in this dialogue,” the bishops said.

They issued their statement in mid-February as government-opposition talks opened in a bid to end six months of violent political confrontation over President Faure Gnassingbe’s efforts to retain power.


“Once more, the Lord grants us grace to set out on a path of internal conversion through prayer and fasting,” the bishops said.

They said all Catholic parishes would stage a weeklong prayer cycle of “repentance and humility” and join Pope Francis in seeking the “conversion of hearts” among those responsible for Togo and other conflict-torn countries.

Demonstrators took to the streets in August to protest plans to extend the presidency of Gnassingbe, who took power in 2005 after 38 years of rule by his father.

Speaking at a Feb. 14 news conference, retired Archbishop Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro of Lome, who mediated during a 1990s political crisis, said Gnassingbe would achieve “great honor” if he ended his current term “completely, fittingly and worthily.”

“This constitution represents a true way of saving the peaceful democratic process in our country — it isn’t aimed against anyone,” the archbishop said.