Pope Francis Visits Conflict-Torn DR Congo and South Sudan
International/U.S. News Editor
Pope Francis has recently travelled to the African nations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, during which he strongly emphasized the need to stop the exploitation of these countries and Africa as a whole, while calling the world’s attention to the poor in these areas.
The 86-year-old pontiff landed in Congo’s capital of Kinshasa on January 31, becoming the first pope to visit the country since 1985. His trip had originally been planned for last summer but was postponed due to knee problems. Thousands of people crowded the streets as his motorcade passed through the city with cheering and raising flags. He immediately made his points very clear in a speech at the national palace in Kinshasa, telling foreign powers to stop letting the “poison of their own greed” rob Africa of its own natural resources. “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa…It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered,” he said. His visit to the country is also a message of the recognition of Congo and Africa’s faith. The DRC is home to the largest number of Catholics in Africa, with roughly half of its 105 million population adhering to the faith, including thousands of priests, nuns, and seminarians.
The pope’s visit also draws attention to a series of clashes in the eastern parts of the country between government forces and a rebel group known as M23 that has displaced over 5 million people from the area. In a speech, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi echoed some of the pope’s main points about forgetting about the country while also accusing neighboring Rwanda of helping the rebels, which they have repeatedly denied. Pope Francis was supposed to make a stop in the eastern city of Goma, but this was scrapped due to the fighting. A delegation from the city instead travelled to Kinshasa to meet with him.
His visit to South Sudan was just as big of an occasion. South Sudan is currently the world’s newest country, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011. It experienced a civil war in 2013 and has a shaky peace today. Similar to the DRC, the South Sudanese people also feel a sense of being forgotten, as no Western leader has even made a trip to the country until Pope Francis made his visit to the capital of Juba. He also made it a point to shed light on the developing nation, by making sure people don’t forget about this country like the Congo and appealing to the country’s leaders to put an end to the continued violence. “No more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and recriminations about who is responsible for it,” he said. “Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn!”
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