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Million attend Pope’s Mass in DR Congo

Pope Francis has urged forgiveness as he presided over a Mass before an estimated one million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

February 2, 2023
2 February 2023

Pope Francis has offered a prayer for an end to violence on the African continent during a Mass in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa attended by more than one million people.

“Brothers and sisters, peace be with you,” the pontiff said in the local language before urging a crowd that gathered since dawn at the N’Dolo military airport to “co-operate with everyone, to break the cycle of violence, to dismantle the machinations of hatred”.

Pope Francis arrived the previous day on a six-day trip to DR Congo and South Sudan, during which he plans to promote peace and charity after decades of bloodshed in both countries.

“May it be a good time for all of you in this country who call yourselves Christians but engage in violence (to accept forgiveness). The Lord is telling you: ‘Lay down your arms, embrace mercy’,” the 86-year-old Church leader said.

Earlier, DR Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi also emphasised this message of peace by saying how the world had failed to stop the “enemies of peace,” amidst terrorist groups from abroad threatening and attacking his fellow citizens for three decades.

“Because the international community does not intervene and is silent, tens of millions have already died,” he said.

But the scenes on Wednesday were joyful as hundreds of thousands of believers flocked – singing and dancing – to the airport for the ceremony, many wearing clothing made of fabrics depicting the Pope.

Authorities put the number of people at more than one million, making this one of the largest crowds ever to attend a papal Mass. 

The record is still held by the Philippine capital of Manila, where six million people attended a fair to see the Pope at the beginning of 2015.

The huge amount of visitors at the DR Congolese papal Mass echoed the excitement of past papal events, such as during the late John Paul II’s term.

In DR Congo, which has a population of more than 100 million – almost half of them Catholic, according to the Vatican – the Pope’s word carries considerable weight.

This became all the more important amid fresh violence in the east on the country’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. 

Francis’ visit is “a sign of encouragement and consolation,” said Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, the archbishop of Kinshasa.

“Francis is a good man,” said an attendee, who had travelled 300 kilometres from his home to attend the event. 

“I’ve heard a lot about him but I wanted to come here to see him for myself.”

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