Why Pope Francis’ tour in DRC, Juba is {one of the} hardest visits ever

On January 31, Pope Francis traveled from Rome to central Africa, to visit The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its neighbor South Sudan. The go to was formerly deliberate for 2022, however didn’t happen as a result of the Pope’s fitness issues.

Pope Francis’ go to to Africa comes at decisive moment for his papacy and for the Catholic Church worldwide. He has led a interval since December 2019 of worldwide reflection referred to as “the synodal way” the place Catholics have been in a position to talk up concerning the agenda that the Church have to pursue. A comparable exercising, the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, was very profitable in involving the whole Catholic Church.

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Pope Francis is perceived as a progressive pope. He has led the church in opening as much as the world, inclusive of the LGBTI neighborhood, though he has did not persuade ladies that they may be certainly on the equal path as guys throughout the Catholic Church due to the fact they may be not a part of the priesthood and only a few ladies are concerned in pinnacle administration roles. His go to to Africa will spotlight the extraordinary participation of ladies in African social communities.

The Catholic Church in Africa is flourishing and developing – 20% of the world’s Catholics lives in Africa. But the African church is greater conservative in doctrine and perception than in Europe, consequently Pope Francis could have a barely more durable time advancing his progressive agenda.

Poverty, violence, injustice, corruption, celibacy, the function of ladies and dialogue with Islam are a number of the overall themes that the Pope will tackle in his public speeches and conferences. He clearly helps the conclusion of poverty and injustice, however he’s greater conservative on the ordination of ladies and celibacy.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan symbolize Africa’s periphery, the place violence and conflict have been the norm. It is a tough and difficult go to, a lot greater so than his preceding visits to Kenya and Uganda.


The invitation to the DRC was made by the state’s authorities and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the DRC. Pope Francis will spend 4 days within the state and the go to will contain a assembly with victims of violence from the jap Democratic Republic of Congo as nicely as with non-governmental organizations working within the state. He may also meet teens, consecrated non secular leaders and clergymen as nicely Jesuits working within the DRC.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, with its Belgian colonial previous, represents {one of the} African international locations with greater Catholics – 50% of the state’s complete populace. In the Sixties, Pope Paul VI led African liturgical reform by way of the Zairian ceremony, the Catholic rites with an African taste, which had been later discontinued by Pope John Paul II.

It is likewise {one of the} international locations the place varied insurgent armies have engaged terrible crimesinclusive of aggregate rape. But the Democratic Republic of Congo has been domestic to fantastic theologians and intellectuals as nicely as a Nobel laureate. Dr Denis Mukwege had been collectively awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for his or her medical work with ladies within the Democratic Republic of Congo who had been raped. Pope Francis wishes support peace initiative and the seek for the frequent good.

South Sudan

In his go to to South Sudan, the place 40% of the populace is Catholic, Pope Francis shall be joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. The three will meet with South Sudanese authorities, internally displaced individuals and Jesuits. They may also take part in one ecumenical service attended by Christian leaders from varied Christian traditions.

The go to to South Sudan supplies continuity and a shut relationship between political leaders who’ve been Christians because the founding of South Sudan in 2009. Pope Francis has frequently acquired them within the Vatican and has preached at retreats for them. But this younger state has additionally skilled ethnic violence. Pope Francis desires to give public help to the leaders who attempt for peace.

A tough activity

The Pope will obtain a cheerful welcome in each international locations however a tough activity. That activity is to affirm his perception in peace and understanding and to problem unfavourable values ​​reminiscent of corruption, ethnic violence and violence in opposition to ladies.

It could be essential for him to open new avenues for initiatives that may make the Catholic Church greater African and to advertise dialogue with African indigenous religions so as to not make the go to a triumphalist one however a gap for a Church nearer to African customs and supporting African values ​​- in opposition to violence, genocide and ethnic conflicts.

This shall be {one of the} most difficult visits overseas by Pope Francis, and a tough go to to Africa due to the violence within the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. He was in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic in 2015 with a 39-hour keep in Bangui the place he held a dialogue with Muslim clerics and opened a door to reconciliation with Islam that marked his very own papacy. Such initiative led to later initiatives in Egypt and Iraq. This go to affords new challenges for the Catholic Church in Africa and the opportunity of a greater secure peace within the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

By Mario I Aguilar, Professor of Religion and Politics, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Politics, University of St Andrews

Aguilar is the writer of Book Pope Francis: Travels of a Peacemaker

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