Cristina Cabrejas |
Vatican City (EFE).- Pope Francis begins this Tuesday and until February 6, one of his most difficult trips, not only because of his mobility problems, but also because the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan South are two countries hit by wars, famine and natural disasters linked to climate change.
The 40th international trip for Francisco, 86, should have taken place in July last year, but knee pain caused it to be postponed and since then the situation has become complicated, especially in the DRC.
In these months there has been an upsurge in violence in the eastern DRC, on the border with Rwanda and where the coltan mines are, essential for making mobile phones, modern weapons and communication elements, and where there are more than 100 armed groups, such as the rebel Movement March 23 (M23), for this reason the Goma stage, foreseen in the initial program, has been suspended.
John Paul II was in 1980 and 1985, at very different times, when the country was called Zaire, while no pontiff has traveled to South Sudan, split from South
Meeting with victims of conflicts
The trip will begin with the arrival in Kinshasa and the transfer by popemobile through the streets of the capital to the Palace of the Nation for the welcome ceremony and the meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi, before his first speech.
His speech will focus on the request for dialogue to achieve peace, after more than 200 civilians have been killed in the last six weeks in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu and nearly 52,000 people have fled the area, while more than a million and a half people remain in the region as internally displaced persons.
In this country where half the population, close to 45 million people, is Catholic and the Church has enormous influence, Francis will celebrate a mass in the area of the Ndolo airport in Kinshasa, where close to a million are expected. of people.
Faced with the impossibility of going to Goma, the pope will meet at the nunciature with a group of victims from the east of the country who will give him testimony of what they have experienced and there will also be a meeting with representatives of Catholic charities, such as the project « Dream» of the Community of Sant’Egidio, some deaf-mute people from the town of Mondeko or the volunteers of the Focolare Movement.
Ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan
On February 3, the Pope will travel to South Sudan, whose Gross Domestic Product per capita of 322 dollars places it among the poorest in the world and where the majority of its population lives thanks to international aid, since almost 8.3 million of people, 75% of the population have to struggle to find enough food each day.
This is an unprecedented visit for a pope, who is traveling with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, as the country has a significant presence of Anglicans.
In April 2019, the three religious leaders called a spiritual retreat in the Vatican to help the peace process in South Sudan and during that initiative, in a gesture of humility that moved the world, Francis knelt down and kissed the president’s feet. South Sudanese, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and from the opposition Riek Macharel, and urged the two clashing leaders to proceed with the peace agreement signed the previous year.
The call to maintain this peace agreement, which is advancing slowly, despite some outbreaks of violence, will focus his speech to the authorities at the presidential palace in Juba.
On February 4, the meeting with the religious will take place in the Cathedral of Santa Teresa, while in the afternoon he will meet with the internally displaced, who are close to two million, and will listen to their stories.
He will also celebrate mass at the John Karang mausoleum and an ecumenical celebration with the participation of the three religious leaders.