Pope Francis arrived in DRC

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On Tuesday afternoon, Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during a six-day trip to the African continent.

It is a trip in which Pope Francis will meet with those affected by the long-running conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, meeting with that country’s leaders before heading to South Sudan, another country that has been in turmoil since it gained independence in 2011.

At the Ndjili Airport, Pope Francis was received by the Prime Minister of the RDC, Sam Lukonde, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in that country.

It is planned that Pope Francis will continue to the office of President FĂ©lix-Antoine Tshisekedi, where they will hold talks.

It is a visit that the 86-year-old Pope Francis first postponed last July, after experiencing severe pain in his knee, which caused him to postpone all his trips in order to get relief.

Pope Francis alights from his plane at the N'djili International Airport
Pope Francis alights from his plane at the N’djili International Airport

His visit to the DRC and South Sudan is the 40th he has made outside the Vatican since he received the pastoral staff of the Catholic Church in 2013.

Pope Francis became the second Pope to visit the DRC after Pope John Paul II who visited the country in 1980 and 1985 called Zaire.

He comes to DRC at a time when the country is facing insecurity in the East, where more than 130 groups have been attacking the area for some time, killing people.

Security concerns were also said to play a role in delaying the trip, and a stop in Goma in DR Congo’s east, where dozens of armed groups operate, is no longer on the itinerary.

“I would have liked to go to Goma too, but with the war, you can’t go there,” the pope told reporters on the plane.

On Sunday, he had offered his greetings “with affection to those beloved peoples who await me”.

Pope Francis arrives in Kinshasa
Pope Francis arrives in Kinshasa

“These lands, situated in the center of the great African continent, have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts,” he said after his Angelus prayer at the Vatican.

He lamented “armed clashes and exploitation” in DR Congo, and said South Sudan, “wracked by years of war, longs for an end to the constant violence”.

As the papal plane flew over the Sahara, the pope held a prayer for “all the people who, searching for a little well-being, a bit of freedom, crossed (the desert) and didn’t make it”.

He recalled how many people arrive in north Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, only to find themselves “taken to camps, and suffering there. Let us pray for all those people”.

At the moment, the army of that country is facing the M23 group in a year-long war, where the rebels are asking the government to honor the agreement they made and stop the crimes committed against the Kinyarwanda speakers in the East.

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