Pilgrimage of peace, hope and closeness of the Pope with the DRC and South Sudan

The official program of the 37th apostolic visit of Pope Francis, which takes him to the Democratic Republic of Congo from July 2 to 7, has been made public.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Two nations, three cities, eight speeches, three homilies, meetings with civil and ecclesial authorities, young people, displaced persons and victims of violence. An intense program with a few moments of rest awaits the Pope as he travels, from July 2 to 7, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, where – fulfilling a wish expressed years ago – he is to undertake an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace” with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.

Leaving July 2

According to the official program published Saturday by the Press Office of the Holy See, the Pope’s 37th apostolic visit abroad is to begin on Saturday July 2 with his departure from Rome at 9:30 a.m. A six and a half hour flight will take him to Kinshasa’s “Ndjili” international airport where, after an official welcome, he will go to the “Palais de la Nation” for the welcoming ceremony, a courtesy visit to President Félix Tshisekedi and a meeting in the Palace garden with the authorities and the diplomatic corps, to whom he will deliver the first speech of the trip. The first day will end with what has become a customary private meeting with members of the local Society of Jesus at the Apostolic Nunciature.

Mass and meeting with the clergy in Kinshasa

The second day of the trip, Sunday, July 3, provides for Holy Mass at 8 a.m. at Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport, at the end of which the Pope will recite the Angelus. In the evening, he will meet bishops, priests, religious and seminarians at the Cathedral “Notre Dame du Congo”.

North Kivu

On July 4, the Pope will fly to the city of Goma in North Kivu, a province in the far east of the country, an area where clashes between armed forces and militant groups have left thousands dead and caused millions of people to be displaced. His arrival in Goma is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. At noon, the pope will celebrate mass at the Kibumba refugee camp. In the afternoon, he must meet victims of violence in Beni. It is the second largest city in North Kivu, plagued by the Ebola epidemic and natural disasters, and numerous episodes of violence against civilians and other atrocities, such as kidnappings and looting, as well as extrajudicial executions, committed by militias and by the army. Pope Francis will spend more than an hour with the victims at the Reception Center of the Diocese of Goma, then at 6:30 p.m. he will be transferred to the airport to return to Kinshasa.

The pope takes leave of Kinshasa the following day, Tuesday July 5, when he flies away for South Sudan, direction Juba, the capital. However, the Pope will first meet young people and catechists at the “Stade des Martyrs” in Kinshasa, followed by a farewell ceremony at the city’s “Ndjili” airport, from where he will depart, with Bishop Welby and Reverend Greenshields for Juba, where he will land around 3 p.m. His first stop in the South Sudanese capital is at the Presidential Palace for a courtesy visit to President Salva Kiir, who had been welcomed by the Pope in April 2019 in Santa Marta with the highest South Sudanese religious and political authorities for a retreat. spiritual ecumenism. , aimed at invoking the gift of peace in a country ravaged by a bloody civil war. After the courtesy visit, the pope is due to meet the vice-presidents of South Sudan and, in the garden of the presidential palace, with the authorities and the diplomatic corps. A speech by the pope is planned on this occasion.

Meeting with displaced people

The penultimate day of the trip, Wednesday July 6, will begin with a visit to the displaced persons at the “Internally Displaced Persons Camp” in Juba, at 8.45 am. Next, the Pope will meet privately with South Sudanese Jesuits at the Apostolic Nunciature. In the afternoon, he will address the bishops, priests and religious of South Sudan in the Sainte-Thérèse Cathedral. At 6:30 p.m., he will take part in an ecumenical prayer service at the “John Garang” mausoleum, a memorial dedicated to the late leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and first vice-president of Sudan after the peace accords.

Mass and departure for Rome

This same mausoleum, a place of memory, commemoration and political meetings, was chosen to host, on the morning of July 7, the celebration of the last mass of the papal visit. Pope Francis will then travel to the airport for the farewell ceremony and is expected to depart for Rome at 11:15 a.m. with an arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport at 6:05 p.m. the same day.

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