‘Hands off Africa!’ Pope Francis says in Democratic Republic of Congo


In his first speech in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, January 31 Pope Francis urged the international community to give the central African country its autonomy while not turning a blind eye to exploitation and violence. “This country and this continent deserve to be respected and listened to; they deserve to find space and receive attention,” the Pope said Jan. 31 in the garden of the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa.

“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo!” he continued, as spectators cheered and applauded. “Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: Africa is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.” Pope Francis landed in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC, in the afternoon on Jan. 31; the visit is the first leg of a six-day trip that would also include South Sudan.

The streets of the Pope’s five-mile drive from the N’Dolo Airport to the presidential residence were lined with thousands of locals who cheered and waved flags. Francis met privately with President Felix Tshisekedi before an audience with the country’s authorities, diplomats, and representatives of civil society. “May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny!” the Pope said. “May the world acknowledge the catastrophic things that were done over the centuries to the detriment of the local peoples, and not forget this country and this continent.”

The Pope continued, “We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths that remain mostly unknown elsewhere.” Pope Francis’ speech noted the DRC’s endurance of political exploitation, what he called “economic colonialism,” child labor, and violence. “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.

“As you, the Congolese people, fight to preserve your dignity and your territorial integrity against deplorable attempts to fragment the country, I come to you, in the name of Jesus, as a pilgrim of reconciliation and of peace,” the Pope said. “I have greatly desired to be here and now at last I have come to bring you the closeness, the affection, and the consolation of the entire Catholic Church.”

Violence in eastern DRC has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.

Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with victims of violence from the eastern part of the country on Feb. 1 in Kinshasa following a Mass that was expected to draw 2 million people. Roughly half of the 90 million people in the DRC are Catholic.


Posted by on Feb 11 2023. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply