Pope Francis will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan early 2023, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, the Apostolic Nuncio to the DRC, has said.
Monsignor Balestrero made the announcement after meeting President Felix Tshisekedi on Thursday in Kinshasa. He said that Pope Francis will make the already announced trip to DRC from January 31, 2023 to February 3. He will visit Kinshasa and South Sudan on an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.
Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde revealed that Pope Francis will arrive in Kinshasa at the invitation of President Félix Tshisekedi, adding that the pontiff’s arrival is “a comfort for the Congolese people”.
The prime minister asked all DRC citizens to “remain in an attitude of prayer” as they welcome the pope, especially at a time “when the DRC is going through all these security situations”. He also asked the Congolese to re-launch the preparations for the visit which had been prepared a few months ago.
Initial visit postponed
Pope Francis had earlier been expected visit to the DRC and South Sudan in July but the visit was called off after he developed a knee problem.
“Accepting the request of the doctors and in order not to cancel the results of the knee therapies still in progress, the Holy Father is forced, with regret, to postpone the apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, planned for 2-7 July, to a new date to be determined,” the director of the Pope’s press office Matteo Bruni announced then.
In the postponed papal trip, the pontiff had been scheduled to visit the DRC capital Kinshasa and Goma in North Kivu province, where M23 rebels have been fighting with government forces. But in the January 2023 trip, the pope will stay in Kinshasa before flying to Juba, in South Sudan, skipping Goma
The announcement of the pope’s planned arrival in the DRC has already started generating enthusiasm among the Catholic faithful.
In July, several towns in the DRC had put up billboards with the image of the pope under the theme “All reconciled in Jesus Christ”.