Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan in July, a trip that he had to postpone several times due to the violence that plagues these African countries and whose objective is to defend peace.
The announcement was made this Thursday by the Vatican press office.
“In response to the invitation of the Heads of State and the respective Episcopal Conferences, Pope Francis will soon make an apostolic trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from July 2 to 5, during which he will visit the cities of Kinshasa and Goma. He will then travel to South Sudan, from July 5 to 7, to go to Juba,” Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See press office, said in a press release.
It is a delicate trip, to countries that have been involved in bloody civil wars that have caused numerous victims and displaced people.
“The pope’s visit is an invaluable gift … to our country, to our people, who are going through difficult times,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, archbishop of Kinshasa.
In November 2017, Francis celebrated a mass in St. Peter’s Basilica that began with songs in Swahili for peace in those two countries, which he should have visited in those days but had to postpone due to the civil war.
During the homily he denounced the “hypocrisy when the massacres of women and children are silenced.”
poverty and peace
The DRC, a country of about 90 million people, is 40% Catholic and 35% Protestant, in addition to other Christian churches.
“The pope comes (…) to revive the hope of the Congolese people, who need peace, security and well-being,” Marcel Utembi Tapa, president of the Episcopal Conference of Congo, explained to the press.
The last visit of a pontiff to Kinshasa was in August 1985, when John Paul II spent two days in that country, which was then called Zaire and was governed by Mobutu Sese Seko.
In South Sudan, the pope will visit Juba, the capital, site of the peace agreement in 2018, but political disputes have ended up weakening the progress made.
South Sudan, independent since 2011, is at risk of returning to war, the UN warned in February.
Between 2013 and 2018, five years of civil war have cost the lives of some 400,000 people, and forced millions from their homes.
According to World Bank data, 80% of the 11 million South Sudanese live in “absolute poverty” and two thirds suffer from famine.
Francis, who celebrates the ninth year of his pontificate this month, visited the African continent in 2019 for a tour of Madagascar, Mozambique and Mauritius.
The trip to Africa will be the second that the 85-year-old Argentine pope celebrates abroad in 2022, after his visit to Malta, scheduled for April 2 and 3.