The trip is therefore confirmed. The Vatican announced on Saturday, May 18, the details of Pope Francis’ journey from July 2 to 7 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. Six close days in which the pope, physically weakened by his knee pain, which Frans is keen on and which he wanted to maintain, contradicts the rumors of cancellation.
When he arrived in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Saturday, July 2nd, Pope Francis will, after a 7.30-hour flight to the “Palace of the Nation”, where President Félix Tshisekedi, elected in December 2018, and with whom he had already met in January 2020, will be waiting for him during a visit to Rome. Then he will give a first speech, as is customary already at the beginning of his visit, to the authorities and the diplomatic corps, before joining the apostolic nunciature, where he is to spend three nights. The first night he will meet privately with the region’s Jesuits, to whom he has become accustomed during his last trips.
The Congolese Church, critic of power
His first words spoken in public, at the very beginning of this journey, will undoubtedly be listened to very carefully, in this country where the Catholic Church has been one of the critical institutions of power, and has been in several decades. It is especially the current Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, also a member of Rome, of the Cardinals Council that surrounds François.
Sunday, July 3rd at At 8.00 the Pope will celebrate Mass from Ndolo Airport, and then in the late afternoon he will go to the Notre-Dame-du-Congo Cathedral in the Congolese capital, where he will speak to bishops, priests, men and women. and the country’s seminarians. A day with only two appointments, but which precedes one Monday, July 4th intense as he will that day go to Goma in the eastern part of the country, 2 hours 30 by plane from there.
Visits to the eastern part of the country
In Goma, the capital of the province of North Kivu, affected by strong insecurity and characterized by the ubiquity of armed groups, the pope will celebrate Mass in Kibumba and then go to a reception center in the Diocese of Goma to speak with “victims of violence in Beni and eastern Congo”we can read in the official program of the trip.
Back in Kinshasa, the pope will end the Congolese part of his journey Tuesday, July 5th by meeting the young people and the country’s catechists before heading to the airport. He will find there the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, as well as the one who has just been elected moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Pastor Iain Greenshields. The two religious leaders will accompany the pope throughout his journey to South Sudan.
This country, which has been independent since 2011, saw its population torn apart between 2013 and 2018 during a bloody war that left nearly 400,000 dead and millions displaced. The Holy See, long engaged in discussions in this country torn apart by civil war, had in April 2019 arranged a meeting between the local warlords in the Vatican.
At the end of this 24-hour “spiritual retreat” between men at war, the pope knelt down in front of his interlocutors. The gesture that this man in white kissed with the feet of enemies gathered in the same room, begging them to make peace, had left the warlords amazed. The picture had gone around the world. Together with Primate of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Justin Welby, and Martin Fair, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, had promised Pope Francis to visit their country.
The South Sudanese leg, described by the Vatican as “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the Countries and People of South Sudan”starts on Tuesday, July 5th during a visit to the Presidential Palace in Juba, where the Pope is welcomed by President Salva Kiir and then, thirty minutes later, by the country’s five vice presidents. Private meetings, after which he will talk to the authorities and the diplomatic corps.
Visits to the displaced
The day after, Wednesday, July 6, François will visit the country’s internally displaced people in a camp located near the capital, where he will give a speech. Then will meet late in the morning, privately, with Jesuits from the country. In the late afternoon, he will join bishops, priests, men and women religious and seminarians at St. Teresa’s Cathedral of Juba, before attending an ecumenical prayer at the end of the day at the John Garang Mausoleum, where he died in the South Sudan War of Independence. an accident in 2005.
It is the same place that Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass, Thursday, July 7, on the morning of his last day in Africa. It then leaves Juba at 11.15 and arrives in Rome at 18.05.