Pope Francis in D.R. Congo: ‘You, All of You, Are Infinitely More Precious Than Any Treasure in This Fruitful Soil!’
Feb. 1, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on Jan. 31, kicking off the fifth trip to Africa of his pontificate. Tens of thousands of Congolese, many dancing and singing, lined the streets to greet him.
After his three days in Kinshasa (Jan. 31-Feb. 3), Francis will fly across the continent to Juba, the capital of South Sudan in the Horn of Africa, for two days (Feb. 3-5). On Jan. 31 Francis addressed 1,000 officials, diplomats, and non-governmental leaders at the Palais de la Nation presidential residence sounded his overriding message:
“You, all of you, are infinitely more precious than any treasure found in this fruitful soil! ... Arise, take once more into your hands, like a pure diamond, all that you are, your dignity and your calling to preserve in harmony and peace this home in which you dwell. Revive the spirit of your national hymn, dreaming and putting into practice its message: ‘Through hard work, we will build a country more beautiful than before, in peace.’ ... May every Congolese feel called to do his or her part!”
Francis also attacked the depredations of foreign interests in D.R.C.: “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,” to strong applause. The Pope’s attack will be understood to support D.R.C. President Félix Tshisekedi and his allies in the East African Community, against Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who protects foreign-run mining operations in eastern Congo.
Francis went on:
“Torn by war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to witness within its confines conflicts and forced migrations, and to suffer from terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity and of creation. This country, so immense and full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, struck by violence like a blow to the stomach, has seemed for some time to be gasping for breath. Mr. President, you spoke of this forgotten genocide that the Republic of the Congo is suffering. [Applause]
“As you, the Congolese people, fight to preserve your dignity and your territorial integrity against deplorable attempts to fragment the country, I come to you, in the name of Jesus, as a pilgrim of reconciliation and of peace.”
He called upon other countries to come to the aid of the D.R.C., which is suffering from what international agencies report is the worst levels of hunger in the world.
In the morning of Feb. 1, Francis celebrated an open-air Mass at N’Dolo Airport in Kinshasa, attended by more than a million people, some coming from miles away on foot, some arriving before daybreak. Afterwards, he received victims of violence from eastern Congo—some of them victims of rape, others who had had their hands chopped off, and heard their stories.
Indian commentator Palki Sharma and other news sources note that the D.R.C. has more Roman Catholics than any other African country, and the number is growing. “Half of its 105 million people are Catholic, the country counts more than 6,000 priests, 10,000 nuns, and more than 4,000 seminarians—3.6% of the global total of young men studying for the priesthood.”