Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Over 1 million people participate pope francisMasses were held Wednesday in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Vatican news agency said, citing estimates from local authorities.
The Pope’s visit to the DRC, his first since 1985, came at a time when the African country was plagued by armed conflict and a worsening refugee crisis.
This is part of a 6 day trip in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. In these two countries, where Catholics make up about half the population, the church is a key stakeholder in health and education systems, as well as efforts to build democracy. Both countries have abundant natural resources but are grappling with poverty and conflict.
A CNN team on the ground witnessed the crowd singing and dancing at N’Dolo airport early in the morning.
Francis spoke to those present in a sermon about peace and directly challenged those wielding weapons.
“May this be the right time for those of you who call yourself a Christian in this country and still use violence,” Francis said. “The Lord says to you, ‘Put down his arm and receive his mercy.'”
“We Christians are called upon to work with all to break the cycle of violence and dismantle the machinations of hatred.
Francis said that the inhabitants were “constantly infested with hatred and violence, suffering from painful wounds, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seemed to reach them.” According to Reuters.
decades militia violence The DRC is in control as government forces struggle to suppress rebel groups. Conflicts between government forces and his M23 rebel group, which seeks control of the country from his eastern DRC stronghold, have killed many and displaced thousands from their homes.
According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 26 million people in the DRC face severe hunger.
Francis said he was “speechless” after meeting victims of violence from the East during his visit and hearing their harrowing stories.
“We have no choice but to shut up and cry,” the Pope said, thanking the victims for their courageous testimony.
He will leave Kinshasa on Friday for Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where he will be joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and General Assembly President of the Church of Scotland Ian Greenshields.