April 13, 2024

Pope Francis has celebrated one of his biggest masses, in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.

It is more than 37 years since a pope visited the mineral-rich but conflict-ridden country.

Estimates say around a million gathered for the open-air mass at N’dole airport, on the second of the pontiff’s six-day visit to Africa.

Around half of DR Congo’s population is Catholic – the largest Catholic community in Africa.

Crowds to see massIMAGE SOURCE,AFP
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Africa is considered the future of Catholicism, but some say it should have more representation

Speaking at the mass, the Catholic leader called for peace in DR Congo, saying warring sides should forgive one another and grant their opponents a “great amnesty of the heart”.

He went on to espouse the benefits of cleansing one’s heart of “anger and remorse, of every trace of resentment and hostility”.

Wednesday’s mass was tipped to be one of the pope’s largest-ever masses, second only to one held in the Philippines in 2014, according to Christopher Lamb, the Rome correspondent of the Catholic magazine The Tablet.

Woman dancing at Pope's massIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
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There were jubilant scenes in Kinshasa as the Pope delivered a message on forgiveness

In an interview with the BBC’s Newsday radio programme, he said Catholicism was growing in Africa: “This is the future of the church and the growth of the Catholic Church in Africa really is so important to the future of Catholicism.”

On Tuesday, the Pope met President Félix Tshisekedi and delivered a speech condemning historical exploitation of Africa’s resources, which he described as “economic colonialism”.

He also addressed DR Congo’s plight, as minerals have played a key role in more than three decades of armed conflict there: “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa, it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”

However, a planned visit to the eastern city of Goma has been cancelled for security reasons. The eastern part of DR Congo is facing escalating violence as security services fight against armed militia groups.

According to the United Nations, some six million people have been forced to flee their homes in DR Congo.

That is one of the largest populations of displaced people in the world, alongside places like Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Ukraine.

Most of the displaced are in the eastern provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu and Ituri.

Crowd to see Pope's massIMAGE SOURCE,AFP
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The pope’s welcome to DR Congo has been described as vibrant
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Around half of DR Congo’s population is Catholic
Source: BBC News

By Cecilia Macaulay

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