Kinshasa, February 1st, 2023 (CPA).- President Félix Tshisekedi, in his speech welcoming Pope Francis, Tuesday in Kinshasa, blamed the negative consequences faced by the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of its hospitality, including threats and atrocities recorded from neighbouring countries, including Rwanda.
« Unfortunately, over the past three decades, the hospitality that characterises the DRC has been undermined by enemies of peace and terrorist groups, mainly from neighbouring countries (…).)Thanks to the immersion and silence of the international community, more than 10 million people have already been atrociously snatched from life », declared the Head of State before the Sovereign Pontiff, welcomed at the Nation Palace by political dignitaries, civil society and the diplomatic corps accredited to the DRC.
« Innocent women, even pregnant ones, are raped and disembowelled, young people and children’s throats are slit, families and children are condemned to brave fatigue and exhaustion (…) because of the abuses committed by these terrorists in the service of foreign interests, » he said.
« This misfortune, which has been going on for nearly 30 years, is today part of a portion of our territory that is plagued by violence and makes this area a zone in breach of the peace. In addition to armed groups, foreign powers greedy for the minerals in our subsoil are committing several atrocities with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbour, Rwanda, making security the first and greatest challenge for the government, » Félix Tshisekedi hammered.
Speaking in particular about climate change, « the hobbyhorse of the Democratic Republic of Congo », President Tshisekedi said that « his government is very sensitive to the urgency and responsibility that falls to humanity in building the future of the planet and protecting our common home ».
The Head of State added that he and the Congolese government share the values defended in the Holy Father’s encyclical, which raises the main challenges facing humanity in its fight against global warming.
Pope Francis, pilgrim of reconciliation and peace
Addressing the Congolese people in Italian, Pope Francis said he had come to the country « as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace », before inviting them to « play their part, to put an end to the cycle of violence and plundering of wealth », and calling on the international community.
« You who are the authors of the suffering experienced by Africans, particularly the Congolese, stop your actions and leave African lands, because these African people have suffered enough and shed blood. It is time for them to rise up and enjoy their riches, » the Holy Father said.
« Take your hands off the DRC, take your hands off Africa, and stop smothering Africa. It is not a mine to be exploited, nor a land to be robbed, » insisted the Bishop of Rome.
Using the image of a diamond, he addressed the situation of the DRC in its various dimensions of security, economics, politics, diplomacy and justice.
For Pope Francis, the DRC remains the diamond of creation, and the Congolese people remain the most precious of all, with an inestimable value.
Thousands of faithful storm the main streets of the main arteries
Thousands of Catholic faithful stormed the approaches to Lumumba Boulevard, from N’Djili International Airport to the People’s Palace, passing through Masina, Matete, Lemba, Place of Interchanger in Limete and Avenue of November 24th, to welcome Pope Francis, the CPA noted.
« The arrival of Pope Francis, 38 years after that of the late John Paul II, is a message of hope and comfort for the population of the Democratic Republic of Congo, plagued by several recurring conflicts, » said a resident of the town of N’Djili.
Equipped with branches, whistles, banners, handkerchiefs and flags, the population, of all religious denominations, showed their joy as the papal procession passed.
« I am happy to welcome Pope Francis, because in 1985 I could not go to Kisangani to see Pope John Paul II because of lack of funds. It is a grace and a blessing to see his holiness face to face, » said one woman.
« We really have immense joy for the arrival of the Pope in the DRC. It is a blessing for us Congolese, because we were not sure about this trip, given his state of health. We are happy to know that he is still in good shape, » said a servant of the Nativity parish in Mbanza Lemba.
The Pope arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Tuesday at 2:35 p.m. local time, at the invitation of President Felix Tshisekedi, for a three-day pastoral visit, aboard an ITA Airways flight that left Fiumicino airport at 8:29 a.m. Rome time.
The Pontiff, who is on his 40th apostolic journey abroad since his accession to the throne of Peter on 13 March 2013, was welcomed on the tarmac of the International Airport of N’djili, in the Congolese capital, by the Prime Minister, Sama Lukonde.
Continuation of the programme
Wednesday, February 2nd : the Pope will celebrate Holy Mass from 9.30am at the military airport of Ndolo, which has been fitted out to receive 1,500,000 Catholic faithful.
In the afternoon, he will meet with young people and catechists at the Martyrs’ Stadium in Kinshasa, before taking part in a prayer meeting with priests, deacons, consecrated persons and seminarians in the Cathedral of Notre Dame du Congo.
The day will end with a private meeting with the Jesuit priests of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thursday February 3rd: The Pontiff will meet the Congolese bishops at the headquarters of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), before flying to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Bishop of Rome will be in the Congolese capital until Friday 3 February, before taking off for Juba, the South Sudanese capital, where he will continue his pilgrimage of peace.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from his family name, was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Formerly Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the current Bishop of Rome and Head of State of the Vatican is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, under the name Francis, since his election on March 13th, 2013.
Francis is the first pope from the Society of Jesus and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Pope Gregory III in the 8th century, as well as the first pope from the American continent. He is also the first pope to take the name Francis, chosen in memory of Francis of Assisi.