DRC declares off day in Kinshasa ahead of Pope Francis visit

Tuesday January 31 2023
Ndolo Airport in Kinshasa where Pope Francis will say Mass

Ndolo Airport in Kinshasa where Pope Francis will celebrate the Holy Mass on February 1, 2023 during his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO | GUERCHOM NDEBO | AFP


The Congolese government on Monday announced an imminent lockdown of the capital Kinshasa ahead of the visit by Pope Francis from Tuesday afternoon.

Officials announced an off day, shutting down schools for Wednesday "to allow the faithful to attend religious services, including the mass that the Pope will officiate on Wednesday at Ndolo airport", according to a statement from the prime minister.

In Kinshasa, the Catholic Church and the government have mobilised residents for the momentous occasion in a bid to sow seeds of peace among the Congolese. DRC is largest Catholic country in Africa, with at least 40 million faithful.

DR Congo, which is experiencing multiple crises especially in the east, hopes to find comfort in the arrival of Francis, a first trip by a Pope since 1985.

"The Pope's visit will allow the situation in the DRC to attract international attention. He will find the right word to speak about the situation in Congo, including to the international community," said the Kinshasa Catholic archbishop, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo.

No visit to North Kivu


The Pope will not go to North Kivu, the epicentre of the conflict in DRC, but he will receive survivors of armed conflicts from this province who are expected ask him to launch an appeal to stop the war.

In his address to the church in Rome on Sunday, the Pope said DRC "suffers from armed clashes and exploitation".

"These lands have suffered greatly from lengthy conflicts," he added.

For Cardinal Ambongo, the Pope's visit "may not bring spectacular results, but it will be like a ferment, a seed that will take root and grow for the future of the country".

According to some sources, victims of sexual violence by priests in the DRC will take advantage of Francis' visit to denounce the sexual abuse.

Pope Francis has made the fight against sexual abuse in the Church one of his priorities. In DR Congo, several men in the town of Mbandaka in the west of the country have denounced a Slovenian priest for allegedly abusing them in the 1990s. The victims never obtained a conviction for the priest who had since fled the country.