Pope begins Africa visit as ‘pilgrim of reconciliation and peace’

By Laureen Fagan - 31 January 2023 at 6:33 pm
Pope begins Africa visit as ‘pilgrim of reconciliation and peace’

Pope Francis began a week-long visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on Tuesday, arriving in Kinshasa and speaking alongside Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi during a ceremony in the garden of the Palais de la Nation.

The pontiff recalled the natural beauty of DR Congo in his remarks, describing the equatorial forests in the country’s north, its plateaus and savannahs, and its mountains to the east.

But for the Congolese people, he said, “history has not been comparably blessed.” The nation, torn by conflict and forced migration, continues “to suffer from the terrible forms of exploitation unworthy of humanity and creation.”

The pope, who was forced to cancel his trip to DR Congo and South Sudan last June, said he was grateful at last to be making his visit as a “pilgrim of reconciliation and of peace.” Pope Francis was invited to the DR Congo in 2020, according to Congolese officials.

He expressed his intent to learn from the courage and struggle of the country, home to some 45 million Roman Catholics. He made clear that he wants his visit to comfort all Congolese, regardless of their faith or ethnic origin.

Pope Francis described the Congolese people as having the luminous beauty of diamonds, a resource so often extracted and exploited in the nation, but of far more precious worth.

The pontiff’s remarks followed a speech by Tshisekedi in which he presented the challenges confronting DR Congo and some of the actions the government is taking to meet those needs. The leaders planned to meet with civil society and political party leaders after the ceremony.

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the airport in Ndolo on Wednesday, with one million people expected to attend.

Image: Presidency DR Congo

Laureen Fagan

Laureen Fagan

Laureen is the editor of Africa Times

Laureen is a freelance journalist creating high-quality, informed content on international affairs, politics and technology. She has worked both in and out of newsrooms since 2000. She is a former paramedic with significant experience in community resilience and nonprofit community development initiatives, and maintains "a passion for action" on sustainability and climate change. She also is trained in conflict resolution and diversity, and has special interests in science and medical reporting, and culture and religion issues. Laureen received her MSJ from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in the United States, and completed additional graduate study in theology at University of Notre Dame. Follow Laureen on Mastodon at @laureen@m.ai6yr.org

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