Africa - Religion - Visit

Pope Francis due in DRC, South Sudan in July

APA - Kinshasa (DRC)

The Pontiff will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan from July 2 to 7, the Vatican announced Thursday in a statement.

Pope Francis picks up his pilgrim’s rod. After an absence of more than two years in Africa, he will visit Kinshasa, Goma and Juba in response to the invitation of heads of state and bishops of these two countries plagued by recurrent violence.

 

“In response to the invitation of the heads of state and the respective Episcopal Conferences, Pope Francis will soon make an apostolic journey to DRC from July 2 to 5, during which he will visit the cities of Kinshasa and Goma. Then he will travel to South Sudan, from July 5 to 7, visiting Juba,” the Holy See informed, noting that “the detailed programme of the trip will be published subsequently.”

 

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has visited Africa four times, including trips to Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Egypt and Morocco. His last trip to the continent was in September 2019, when he visited Mozambique, Madagascar and then Mauritius.

 

The DRC, a country of some 90 million people plagued by persistent armed conflict, is estimated to be 40 percent Catholic, 35 percent Protestant or affiliated with revivalist churches, 9 percent Muslim and 10 percent Kimbanguist (a Christian church born in Congo). It is a secular state, but religion is omnipresent in the daily lives of the Congolese.

 

Goma, the main city in the eastern province of North Kivu, has been the scene of violence by armed groups for over 25 years. The last time a pope visited Kinshasa was in August 1985, when John Paul II spent two days in the country, which was then called Zaire.

 

This visit to South Sudan will be the first by a pope since the country’s creation in 2011. Plagued by chronic instability, this poor country of 11 million people has been plunged into a bloody civil war between 2013 and 2018 between sworn enemies Riek Machar and Salva Kiir. It has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people and forced millions more to flee their homes.

 


ODL/cgd/lb/abj/APA

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