Image: Congolese carrying signs reading “Saints at Once”. Source: Vatican News - Photo: 2023

Pope Ends African Journey Calling for End to Gun Violence

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — Pope Francis departed from South Sudan along with over 70 journalists aboard the papal plane bound for Rome, marking the conclusion of his 6-day Apostolic Journey to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

His first public words in DR Congo set the tone for his visit.

“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,” he said.

Over a million people celebrated with him in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital and some 100,000 faithfuls gathered with him in Juba, around a fifth of the population of South Sudan’s capital.

While in the stadium, several Congolese faithfuls took the opportunity to call for swift action for two of Africa’s martyrs—Anuarite and Bakanja—waiting since 1985 and 1995 for canonization as saints of the Church. Believers carried large signs reading “Saints at Once” (Santi Subito in Italian) as the Pope spoke.

The Pope also referenced Saint Kizito, the youngest martyr, slain by the King Mwanga II of Buganda. Canonized on October 18, 1964 he is considered the patron saint of children and primary schools.

The Church of the DRC is also awaiting the beatification of Christophe Munzihirwa Mwene Ngabo, the Congolese Jesuit Archbishop of Bukavu Diocese, who was killed in 1996.

To South Sudan, the Pope made an impassioned plea to its fractious leaders to turn their backs on violence, ethnic hatred and corruption that have stopped the world’s youngest country from achieving peace and prosperity.

Francis said South Sudan was blessed with abundant natural resources, but these should be shared, not restricted to a few through corruption.

“The inequitable distribution of funds, secret schemes to get rich, patronage deals, lack of transparency: all these pollute the riverbed of human society,” he said.

South Sudan has some of the largest crude oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa but staggering amounts of money have been diverted from public coffers, the United Nations said in 2021.

Francis’s six-day visit to Africa—first to Congo, then to South Sudan—has had no shortage of challenges. The two countries stand out as trouble spots in the wide swath of majority-Christian Africa. Issues that Francis has regularly spoken out against, such as exploitation by external powers, the proliferation of weapons, and environmental plundering—all playing out in both countries in devastating fashion, with violence worsening and peace deals teetering.

The Pope closed with a call to action: “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa!” and “Stop choking Africa! It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 February 2023]

Image: Congolese carrying signs reading “Saints at Once”. Source: Vatican News

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