Pope Francis landed this Tuesday (31) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country of about 100 million inhabitants in the heart of Africa, for a small tour of the continent, where he will also pass through South Sudan.
The visit was initially scheduled for the last month of July, but had to be postponed due to pain in the knee of the leader of the Catholic Church, who has been using a wheelchair to get around, and also to the intensification of violence in Goma, a city in the northeast Congolese.
This is the 40th international trip by Francis, the first Latin American pope in history, and also the first visit by a pontiff to the country since the arrival of John Paul II in 1985, when the country, now known as the DRC, it was still called Zaire.
It is estimated that half of the local population is Catholic, but Francis is visiting the country at a time when the evangelical segment is proliferating. To the AFP agency, sociologist Gauthier Muzenge Mwanza, from the University of Kishida, in the capital, said that the sector is expanding, in part, due to the chronic social and political crisis that devastates the DRC.
The decline of Catholicism began with the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, who led the country from the 1960s until 1997. The dictator supported the entry of evangelical pastors as part of a plan to weaken the Catholic Church, which at the time denounced violations of its regime.
Francisco’s departure is also part of a time of increasing episodes of violence in the country, which is witnessing continuous wars over disputes over minerals such as coltan, used in electronic products such as cell phones.
More recently, the resurgence of the armed group M23, which has conquered large swathes of territory on the border with Rwanda, has escalated violence. There is also the presence of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS), which two weeks ago claimed responsibility for the attack on a Congolese Pentecostal church.
Francisco will stay in Kishida until the morning of next Friday (3), when he travels to South Sudan. Upon disembarking this Tuesday, he was welcomed by Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde. The Catholic leader said he was looking forward to the trip and regretted not being able to visit Goma due to the war.
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