Pope Francis Speaks, Urges Congolese to Forgive

Pope Francis Speaks, Urges Congolese to Forgive (News Central TV)

Pope Francis visited Congo and presided over a Mass before an estimated 1 million people on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

The Mass was the first big event of the Pope‘s trip to Africa and was also the first papal visit to the country since St. John Paul II’s in 1985.

Many of the faithful spent the night on the airfields of the capital’s Ndolo airport and got jazzed up for the Pope’s arrival.

The crowd cheered wildly when Francis began a loop around the airfields in his open-sided popemobile, and they listened attentively as he urged them to open their hearts to forgiveness.

Francis cited the example of Christ who forgave those who betrayed him and said that forgiving doesn’t mean pretending that nothing bad has happened, but it creates an “amnesty of the heart.”

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“He showed them his wounds because forgiveness is born from wounds,” Francis said. “It is born when our wounds do not leave scars of hatred but become the means by which we make room for others and accept their weaknesses. Our weakness becomes an opportunity, and forgiveness becomes the path to peace.”

Referring to the decades of violence, especially in Congo’s east, that has forced millions to flee their homes, Francis stressed that forgiveness is the path to peace.

Later, he was to meet with victims of the fighting in Congo’s east where rebel groups have intensified attacks over the past year.

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In his opening speech to government authorities, Francis condemned the centuries-long plundering of Africa’s mineral and natural wealth by foreign powers.

The Argentine Pope’s visit to Congo was much anticipated, and many people came from far and wide to see and hear him, including Jeanne Kahota, who said she was old enough to remember John Paul’s visit.

Francis originally planned to visit the eastern province of North Kivu but had to cancel the stop due to the fighting that has forced some 5.7 million people to leave their homes.

This has worsened the humanitarian situation in Congo, where some 26.4 million people face hunger, according to the World Food Program.

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