Africa

Pope Francis in DR Congo: Million celebrate Kinshasa Mass

Pope Francis has celebrated one of his biggest Masses, with around a million attendees in Dem­ocratic Republic of Congo’s capital, estimates say.

Huge crowds started to gather in Kinshasa well before dawn, including scores of schoolgirls dressed in white who danced along the Pope’s route.

A public holiday was declared so as many people could attend.

Around half of DR Congo’s population is Catholic – the largest Catholic community in Africa.

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It has been more than 37 years since a pope visited the miner­al-rich but conflict-ridden country.

Pope Francis was greeted by jubilant scenes at N’dole airport: “My joy is too huge that I think I am going to cry,” Christella Bola told the Reuters news agency.

A 700-person choir, that has been practising together long before the pontiff was originally due to visit last July, had been as­sembled specifically for the event. The Pope’s original visit had to be postponed because of poor health.

There had been some murmur­ings that the Pope has not been as critical of DR Congo’s political leadership as some had hoped, but the Mass was a joyful event, and the pontiff did have a strong mes­sage of peace for those engaging in conflict in the country.

Warring sides should forgive one another and grant their op­ponents a “great amnesty of the heart”, he said.

He went on to espouse the ben­efits of cleansing one’s heart of “anger and remorse, of every trace of resentment and hostility”.

Mattieu Nzuzi, one of those in the crowd, said he hoped the pontiff’s visit would usher an end to the violence in the east of the country, near the border with Rwanda.

“I hope that the visit here of the Pope to the Congo will bring peace to our country because over there, near Rwanda, the people are suffering,” he said.

However, the second day of his visit coincides with a continuation of fighting between the Congolese army and rebels. —BBC

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