Conflict-affected DR Congo prepares for Pope Francis’ go to


In DR Congo’s bustling capital Kinshasa, the devoted flock to makeshift market stalls in cemeteries to shop for t-shirts and wax napkins emblazoned with the picture of Pope Francis, forward of the pope’s go to.

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Papal souvenirs have grow to be hot-selling objects inside the town forward of the Argentinian pope’s four-day journey to the deeply spiritual central African state, which begins on January 31.

Many inside the Democratic Republic of Congo see the papal go to as a possibility to ease tensions inside the east, the place M23 rebels have seized swathes of territory since final yr and provoked a humanitarian disaster.

Berthe Baleweya, a girl who had come to Kinshasa’s Notre-Dame du Congo Cathedral to shop for a Francis-themed wax material, informed AFP it’d be a “great blessing to carry the Pope’s image”.

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Emmanuelle Wemu, who runs a Catholic help group, has already purchased and customised her wax print embellished with the Pope’s face.

“I expect a message of peace from him, at this moment when the Democratic Republic of Congo is in chaos,” she stated.

Over 1,000,000 worshipers are anticipated to show out for an open-air mass at Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport on February 1, a big a part of the megacity of over 15 million.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a historically Catholic nation of over 90 million individuals, deeply poor in spite of huge mineral wealth.

Pope Francis was scheduled to reach inside the Democratic Republic of Congo final July, however the journey was postponed because of fitness worries.

Many additionally speculated that the escalating clash in japanese Congo – the place the Pope had been about to go to – prompted a rethink.

The M23 insurgent group, allegedly backed by Rwanda, has been waging an offensive in opposition to the Congolese army and just lately got here inside miles of Goma, a industrial hub of over 1,000,000 individuals and capital of North Kivu province.

Pope Francis will not go to japanese Congo, in accordance to his new program, however he’ll meet with victims of the clash whilst in Kinshasa.

Some are upset. Gelo Mandela, a youth coordinator inside the Diocese of Goma, stated teens had been distraught that the town was not on the itinerary. “We were prepared,” he stated.

Aid employee Emmanuelle Wemu stated she hoped the pope’s go to would result in reconciliation with Rwanda.

Diplomatic relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and its smaller neighbor have hit all-time low for the reason that outbreak of the M23 disaster in late 2021. Rwanda denies supporting the rebels.

Threats of militia

Pope Francis’ safety in Kinshasa additionally stays a priority, especially because of the specter of militias from the east.

The Allied Democratic Forces, which the Islamic State claims as its affiliate, bombed a Pentecostal church in japanese Congo on January 15, killing 14 individuals.

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The ADF has up to now solely operated in japanese DRC, over 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from the capital.

A 3-day interval of prayers – referred to as a triduum – is deliberate on the Notre-Dame du Congo cathedral forward of Francis’ arrival.

A vigil may also happen on the Ndolo army airport on the night time of January 31, earlier than the papal mass there the subsequent morning, in accordance to Father Camille Esika, a cathedral priest.

Between one and 1.5 million individuals are anticipated to have a good time Mass on the eight-hectare web site. Preparatory work is underway.

“On that day, rain or no rain, there will be an event,” stated Jesus-Noel Sheke, the task’s technical coordinator.

Across Kinshasa, banners and indicators welcoming the Pope are already hanging from buildings. His go to marks the primary papal journey to the state since Pope John Paul II’s in 1985.

Justin-Marie Bayala, a instructor who just lately attended a Mass at Notre-Dame du Congo, equally raised many excessive hopes.

“We dare to believe that he will bring us lasting peace,” Bayala stated.

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