Exploitation, deforestation, global warming, violence, bloodshed: On his multi-day trip to Africa, the pope addresses the issues shaking the continent. Francis is not caught up here by the home-grown problems of the Catholic Church.
During his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francis condemned “economic colonialism” in Africa. “Political exploitation gave way to economic colonialism, which was equally enslaving,” the 86-year-old head of the Catholic Church said during a speech at the presidential palace in the capital, Kinshasa. “As a result, this country, which has been massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its vast resources,” he told Congolese politicians and other dignitaries in Italian. “Stop suffocating Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited or a territory to be plundered,” he added to applause.
This message should go down well in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country gained its independence from Belgium in 1960. Despite enormous deposits of minerals, timber and fresh water, the government is among the poorest in the world. Two-thirds of the population live on less than $2.15 a day. In addition, Africa’s largest Catholic country, with a population of 100 million, has been rocked for years by violent clashes between armed groups and the army.
Francis also addressed regional peace efforts, saying there should be no habituation to a “bloodshed” that “has marked this country for decades.” He also stressed the importance of “free, transparent and credible elections.” “May no one be manipulated, let alone bought, by those who want to foment violence in the country and exploit it to make nefarious deals,” the pope said. Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, who was present, had come to power in 2018 after a highly disputed election. Renewed presidential elections are scheduled for December this year, in which Tshisekedi will also run again.
The pope had landed in Kinshasa that afternoon. “We’ve been waiting for this for a year; it’s a wonderful trip,” the 86-year-old told journalists aboard the plane. The trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan was originally scheduled for July 2022 but was postponed because of Francis’ knee problems.
Earlier in the day, a crowd had gathered outside Kinshasa’s airport to greet the pope, who was to be taken in his “papamobile” to the city center about 25 kilometres away. “He preaches peace wherever he goes, and peace is something we can use,” said 30-year-old Maggie Kayembe. Tens of thousands were expected to attend an evening prayer service at N’dolo Airport. The pope will hold an open-air Mass in Kinshasa on Wednesday, with about a million people expected to attend.
Francis will stay in the country for four days and continue his Africa trip in South Sudan on Friday. A planned visit to Goma in eastern Congo was cancelled for security reasons. Dozens of armed militias are active there. As the plane arriving from Rome was over the Sahara Desert, the pope said a prayer for refugees who had perished. “Let us in silence make a thought; let us pray a prayer for all those people who crossed the desert in search of prosperity and freedom and did not survive this,” he said. Every year, thousands of people from Africa try to cross the Sahara and then come to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. Many of them perish in the process.
For the pope, who is in a wheelchair, it is the fifth trip to the African continent. At about a dozen meetings, speeches and masses, the Argentine Jesuit want to pray for peace in the two crisis-ridden countries and address issues such as deforestation and global warming.
- Source: ntv.de, mau/AFP/picture: pixabay.com
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