By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis sets off on Tuesday as a “pilgrim of peace” to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan on 31 January – 5 February.
Ahead of his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad, the Pope read out a message to the people of the two African nations during his Sunday Angelus address.
He thanked the civil authorities and Bishops of both countries for their invitations and the preparations they have made for his visit.
The Pope also offered a heartfelt greeting to “those beloved peoples who await me.”
“These lands have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts.”
Pope Francis noted that the DRC “suffers from armed clashes and exploitation,” especially in the east of the country.
South Sudan, he said, has been “wracked by years of war” and “longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship.”
Ecumenical pilgrimage of peace
In his message, the Pope recalled that he will arrive in South Sudan accompanied by Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby and Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
“In South Sudan, I will arrive together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Together, as brothers, we will make an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace.”
Pope Francis wrapped up his message with an appeal for everyone to accompany his Apostolic Journey with their prayers.
Brief overview of visit
The first leg of this papal visit will take the Pope to the Democratic Republic of Congo from 31 January to 3 February.
He will remain in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, where he will meet with civil authorities, victims of conflict in the east, and the Church’s local ministers.
Then, on Friday, he travels to South Sudan until 5 February for a visit which seeks to bind up the wounds of the world’s youngest nation.
Pope Francis will stay in the capital, Juba, holding meetings with various Church and civil groups, including several internally displaced people (IDPs).
He will return to Rome on Sunday following a public Mass for the faithful of South Sudan.