Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of Congo after previously postponing a trip meant for July 2022. The Pope arrived in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, to much celebration and fanfare on Tuesday, January 31st. The DRC is reportedly the country with the highest number of Catholics in Africa. The Pope was welcomed by thousands as he swept through the streets in his popemobile. People ran after him, cheering, and waving flags.
Pope Francis was not only in the mood to be cheered as during his visit, he boldly criticized those who unjustifiably benefit from the DRC’s and Africa’s natural resources. “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hands off Africa. Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered,” Francis said.
“It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation,” the pope said. “The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood.”
“One has the impression that the international community has practically resigned itself to the violence devouring it (Congo). We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis made his speech in the presence of DRC’s President Felix Tshisekedi and other dignitaries. Tshisekedi had spoken before Pope Francis, calling out foreign nations eager to enrich themselves from his country’s natural resources. Rwanda was directly mentioned by the president, which is expected as the DRC is currently entwined in conflict with M23 rebels that are allegedly backed by Rwanda. “As well as armed militias, foreign powers hungry for the minerals in our soil commit, with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbor Rwanda, cruel atrocities,” President Tshisekedi said.
A Mass for Peace
On Wednesday, February 1st, Pope Francis held an open-air mass in Kinshasa that, according to the Vatican Press office and local authorities, was attended by more than one million people. The day had been declared a public holiday and people started singing and dancing in the early hours of the morning.
Pope Francis largely preached peace during the mass, calling on the armed forces pitted in conflict to forgive one another and grant each other “great amnesty of the heart.”
He further spoke of the great benefits of letting go of anger, resentment, and hostility. Pope Francis was supposed to visit Goma, in the eastern regions of the DRC, however the fighting between M23 rebels and DRC troops. A worshiper at the mass hoped Pope Francis’ visit to the country would bring an end to the violence.
“I hope that the visit here of the Pope to the Congo will bring peace to our country because over there, near Rwanda, the people are suffering,” he said. The Pope met people from eastern DRC and listened to their accounts of the events taking place there. He will be in Kinshasa until Friday, February 3rd, then he leaves for South Sudan.