Pope Francis started his maiden visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, this being the fifth visit to Africa.

This is also the first time since 1985 that a Pope has visited the DRC, one of Africa's richest countries in resources yet, the approximately 100 million people, of whom 40% are Catholics are desperately poor. Pope Francis’ visit comes after a postponement, originally having been planned for July 2-7, 2022, due to a knee injury.

Despite his health concerns, the Pope expressed that, his visit to DRC and South Sudan is one born from his desire to bring the people in the two countries “the closeness, the affection and the consolation of the entire Catholic Church”, and that he is coming “as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace”. Upon arrival to DRC on Jan 31st, he gave a speech, decrying the protracted conflicts that have and continue to ravage the country as a result of the unethical, inhumane extractive industry by foreign forces propelling the exploitation of Congo’s immense natural resources. On this first day, the Pope met with authorities from the government, civil society, and the diplomatic corps, after he had paid a courtesy visit to Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

On February 1st, the second day of his Apostolic visit to the DRC, Pope Francis celebrated Mass which over 1 million people attended according to Vatican News, at the Ndolo airport in Kinshasa. In his homily, his message was one of mercy and peace through his affirmation of Christ's words on Easter night, to the disciples, according to the Gospel reading of the day, that "peace be with you". The Pope called for disarmament and for the people of Congo to embrace peace, highlighting three words "forgiveness, community, and mission." Pope Francis has called on the people of Congo to shun violence and hatred.

For more on the Pope's visit to DRC and South Sudan visit the Vatican News website.

Below is also a video reflection by JCAM Major Superiors on the significance of the Pope's visit to the two countries.