Pope Francis to visit two fragile African nations

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis visited two vulnerable African countries on Sunday, often forgotten by the world. The prolonged conflict has left millions of refugees and displaced people suffering from hunger.

A visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan from 31 January to 5 February showed 86 people where Catholics make up about half the population and where the church plays an important role in health and wellness. Take the old pope. Not only in our educational system, but also in our efforts to build democracy.

The trip was scheduled to take place last July, but was postponed because Frances was suffering from a flare-up of a chronic knee ailment. Improved.

Both countries are rich in natural resources, the DRC for minerals and South Sudan for oil, but they are plagued by poverty and conflict.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa’s second-largest country with a population of about 90 million, has received its first papal visit since Pope John Paul II became known as Zaire in 1985.

Francis had planned to visit the eastern city of Goma, but due to resurgence of fighting between the military and the M23 rebel group in the area in 2021, where the Italian ambassador, his bodyguard and driver were killed in an ambush, that decision was made. The visit has been canceled.

Francis will remain in Kinshasa, the capital, but will meet with victims of violence from the east.

“The Congo is a moral emergency that cannot be ignored,” the Vatican’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, told Reuters.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 26 million people in the DRC face severe hunger.

The country’s 45-million-strong Catholic Church has a long history of promoting democracy and is gearing up as the Pope arrives. monitor the election Scheduled for December.

“Our hope for Congo is that this visit will strengthen the Church’s involvement in supporting the electoral process,” said Christo Trott, the British ambassador to the Vatican, who spent many years as a diplomat in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has received its first papal visit since Pope John Paul II in 1985, when it was still known as Zaire.

An unprecedented joint pilgrimage

The trip takes on an unprecedented character on Friday when the Pope leaves Kinshasa for Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

The proceedings are being conducted with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Iin Greenshields, Speaker of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

“Together as brothers, we will embark on a journey of ecumenical peace,” Francis told tens of thousands in a speech on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.

The three churches represent the world’s youngest Christian make-up, with a population of around 11 million, which gained independence from predominantly Muslim Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict.

“This will be a historic visit,” Welby said. “After centuries of division, the leaders of three different parts of (Christianity) are uniting in an unprecedented way.”

Two years after independence, a conflict erupted when forces loyal to President Salvakir clashed with those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar, who hails from a different ethnic group. Bloodshed escalated into civil war, killing 400,000 people.

Although the 2018 deal has put an end to the worst of the fighting, parts of the deal, including the deployment of a reunited national army, have yet to be implemented.

there are 2.2 million internally displaced persons According to the United Nations, 2.3 million people have fled the country as refugees in South Sudan, and the Catholic Church has been hailed as “a powerful and positive force for building peace and reconciliation in a conflict-torn region.”

In one of the most notable gestures since becoming pope in 2013, Francis knelt at the feet of South Sudan’s formerly warring leaders at a retreat in the Vatican in April 2019. kissed and urged them not to return to the civil war.

Trott, a former ambassador to South Sudan, said he hoped the three church members would be able to persuade political leaders to “fulfill the promise of the independence movement.”

Reported by Philip Pullella

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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