Pope Francis in Africa: calling a spade a spade?

Pope Francis who arrived in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa on Tuesday for a four-day visit has some unusually strong…

Pope Francis who arrived in the DR Congo capital Kinshasa on Tuesday for a four-day visit has some unusually strong words about its ‘forgotten genocide’ and decades of exploitation in the world’s most troubled continent.The papal visit (January 31st to February 5th) which was originally scheduled for July last year but deferred will also take him to neighbouring South Sudan which is still emerging from decades of conflict.

85-year-old Pope Francis described himself as a “pilgrim of reconciliation and peace”, seeking to bring comfort and hope to a bruised population that has known only conflict, poverty and exploitation.

But his language which ‘called a spade a spade’ according to many observers belies his characteristics as a religious figure who preached and avoided casting blame even if to some anonymous offenders.

Echoing President Felix Tshisekedi’s words, Pope Francis declared that the DRC was under “continual repetition of violent attacks” which the international community has “almost resigned itself” to. 

Condemning the “forgotten genocide” which is taking place in the east of the country, Pope Francis said “We need to know what is going on here, that the peace processes which I fully encourage, are supported by actions, and commitments are kept.”.

The DRC is an “immense country full of life” yet continues to be “tormented by war” suffering conflict and forced migration within its borders” and from “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of man and creation”. 

He warned against those who seek to “keep the country in violence in order to exploit it and do shameful business”, which only leads to “death and misery”. 

DRC battles, said the Pope, to retain its territorial integrity against attempts to break up the country.

Pope Francis said it was “tragic” that the African continent still suffers from various forms of exploitation. 

“Economic colonialism has followed political colonialism…DRC has been amply plundered and has not been able to profit enough from its immense resources” he said. 

“Get your hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo, get your hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be devalued. Let Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny”, he continued, adding that DRC and Africa deserves to be “respected and listened to”, become more valued internationally, and “have more weight and representation amongst nations”.

Some 45 million people, or fifty-two percent of DR Congo’s population is Catholic. 

Pope Francis continues his visit to the country on Wednesday with the celebration of the Holy Mass at Ndola airport, where up to one million Congolese are expected to attend.

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