Pope Francis embarks on his fifth visit to Africa on Tuesday, flying to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then South Sudan to plead for peace in the two violence-plagued nations.
Thousands of well-wishers are expected at Kinshasa’s Ndjili international airport to greet the 86-year-old pontiff’s plane, which is due to land around 3:00 pm local time (1400 GMT).
It is the first time since 1985 that a pope has visited DRC, a desperately poor country of close to 100 million people, 40 percent of whom are Catholic.
The six-day trip to DRC and South Sudan was originally planned for July 2022, but postponed due to the pontiff’s knee pain that has forced him in recent months to use a wheelchair.
Security concerns were also said to play a role, and the Vatican scrapped an original plan to visit Goma in DR Congo’s east, where dozens of armed groups operate.
“I greet with affection those beloved peoples who await me,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer at St Peter’s Square on Sunday.
“These lands, situated in the centre of the great African continent, have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts.”
He lamented “armed clashes and exploitation” in DR Congo, and said South Sudan, “wracked by years of war, longs for an end to the constant violence”. Read more