Pope Francis has arrived in Kinshasa, and began his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 31. More than 70 journalists and others are travelling with him.
The Pope will first visit the nation till 3 February, following in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II, who visited there in 1980 and 1985.
It is his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad and his fifth Journey to Africa.
Pope said that he is coming “as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace,” to bring them “the closeness, the affection and the consolation of the entire Catholic Church.”
On the first day of his visit Pope paid a courtesy visit to Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and later, met with government authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps in the garden of the “Palais de la Nation” in Kinshasa.
IN his first speech Pope Francis decried the conflicts that continue to ravage the country, and the reckless exploitation of its immense natural resources by foreign forces and urged the Congolese people to take their destiny into their own hands by rejecting violence and hatred.
“May violence and hatred no longer find room in the heart or on the lips of anyone, since these are inhuman and un-Christian sentiments that arrest development and bring us back to a gloomy past.”
Pope reminded them that the Congolese people are more precious than the diamonds found abundantly in their soil and reminded them that peace and development comes from ‘spiritual wealth’ ad not from natural resources.
Condemning the ‘economic colonialism’ and the exploitation that DRC and the whole African continent continue to endure today, Pope called upon the world, “Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny!”
Pope did not forget to express his immense gratitude to the countries and the organizations that are providing substantial aid in this regard, helping to combat poverty and disease, supporting the rule of law, and promoting respect for human rights.
He also appreciated the ‘current peace processes’ and exhorted all to sustain it by concrete deeds and commitments to “providing opportunities for people to grow and develop.”
Pope Francis emphasized the crucial role that religions and civil society are called to play in building peace and of fraternity in DRC.
He also highlighted the need for transparency in civil and political life, credible elections, investing in education and pursuing common good and people’s security.
He did not forget to remind them of the shared responsibility to be “good stewards of creation”, to protect the natural environment.
Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the Congolese people to undertake a courageous and inclusive social renewal without giving in to discouragement and resignation. -with input from Vatican News
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