Jan 31, 2023
Pope Francis in Congo to Highlight Conflict Displacing Millions
(Bloomberg) -- Pope Francis arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a four-day visit to the biggest Roman Catholic community in Africa, where he’ll use his presence to draw attention to conflict and poverty in the country that have displaced more than 5.6 million people.
Francis will meet political leaders Tuesday and is due to hold an open-air mass at N’Dolo Airport in the capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday that’s expected to draw more than 1 million people. He’ll also visit with civil society groups and host Catholic catechists and young people at the national stadium on Thursday.
About 52 million Congolese, or roughly half the population are Catholic, according to the Vatican, making the church one of the nation’s most powerful institutions. Conflict has plagued the country’s eastern region since the mid-1990s, when the aftermath of a civil war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda spread over the border. More than 100 armed groups remain active in eastern Congo, fighting over a plethora of demands and grievances.
Francis canceled a planned trip to the eastern city of Goma to ensure the safety of churchgoers, the Vatican said. Congolese displaced by conflict will instead fly to Kinshasa to meet with the Pope on Wednesday. The papal visit to Congo is the first since John Paul II traveled there in 1985.
Read more: Rwanda Says Congo Hiring Mercenaries Heightens Risk of War
According to the Vatican, the church provides education for more than 7.5 million Congolese students from preschool to university, and runs a vast network of hospitals, clinics, orphanages and elderly care homes throughout the country, Africa’s second-largest by landmass.
Francis will meet with Congo’s bishops before leaving on Friday for South Sudan. The nation’s bishops are key players in Congo’s electoral politics and powerful critics of the government’s management of its natural resources.
Congo is home to large mineral deposits including copper, cobalt and gold and its tropical forests are the world’s second-largest and key carbon sinks in the fight against climate change. Presidential elections are scheduled for December, and the church has already begun organizing voters.
After his trip to South Sudan, Francis will have traveled to 60 countries in 40 apostolic visits abroad since becoming pope in 2013, according to the Vatican.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
What happens if you mistakenly get a larger tax refund?
Is your retirement portfolio ready for what's to come?
Canadians are staring a recession in the face: David Rosenberg
Canadians' wages kept growing in February: StatsCan
Travel stocks: Three hot picks from Michael Bellisario
What mortgage owners need to know about the Bank of Canada's rate pause