Pope Francis On Trailblazing Trip To Africa
By Joseph Besong
Pope Francis landed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, ahead of six day-visit to Africa.
Thousands of people in the capital city of Kinshasa to see Pope Francis, where he met with national officials and charity workers.
Additionally, the pope met with victims of violence from the troubled east of Congo.
Francis had intended to visit the eastern city of Goma, but that trip was cancelled due to a renewal of conflict between the army and the M23 rebel group.
Pope Francis’ visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the first since John Paul II visited the country in 1985 when it was known as Zaire.
Today, Pope Francis will travel to N’Dolo Airport, Kinshasa’s secondary airport, to preside over an open-air Roman rite Mass attended by 1.5 million people.
On February 2, Francis will drive to the Martyrs’ Stadium to see a joyous event of dancing and song. He will address thousands of young people and catechists from across the country.
On the same day, Pope Francis will travel to the Our Lady of the Congo Cathedral in the afternoon. He will pray with and address priests, deacons, consecrated women and men, and seminarians during a liturgical ceremony. That evening, he will also meet with the country’s Jesuit community in the nunciature.
On February 3, Pope Francis will meet with the bishops who manage the country’s 48 dioceses. He will meet them at the national bishops’ conference headquarters before heading to the airport, where he will board the plane bound for South Sudan.
When he steps off the plane, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, will grant him a state welcome. Following that, they will all drive to Juba, the capital city on the banks of the White Nile, with a population of slightly more than 500,000 people.
Francis will have a private meeting with the president before greeting the vice presidents of the nation and addressing a crowd of 250 persons from the country’s political and religious leaders, civil society, and the diplomatic corps in the palace gardens.
He will visit the South Sudanese and Sudanese bishops and the 300 priests, seven deacons, 250 consecrated women and men, and 189 seminarians at the neighbouring Cathedral of St. Teresa on February 5. He will then greet and converse with Jesuits at the nunciature afterwards.
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland will meet with 2,000 of the country’s internally displaced people at Freedom Hall in the afternoon. They will hear three of them testify. The archbishop and moderator will say prayers, and the pope will speak.
On February 6, Pope Francis will hold an open-air Mass beside the mausoleum, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. Following Mass, he will travel to the airport, where President Kiir will bid him farewell before boarding the plane for Rome.
The trip was supposed to take place in July but was cancelled due to Francis’s flare-up of a severe knee illness.