More than one million Congolese sang, danced and prayed with Pope Francis on Feb. 1, as he presided over a Zaire-style Roman-rite Mass for justice and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In his homily, the pope presented a roadmap to peace.
It was a festive occasion and the only public Mass that Francis will celebrate during his four-day visit here. He looked joyful as he drove among them in his popemobile, before presiding at a Mass, which he concelebrated with the bishops from the country’s 48 dioceses in French and Lingala. The celebration was enriched by traditional dancing by young girls and a powerful choir of 700 wearing white and yellow robes. Prayers were recited in French, Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Swahili.
As the people waited for him to drive among them in the popemobile before the Mass, I spoke to some of them, including Ms. Mutita Clotildi and Ms. Micheline Mpunav, two professors from Lubumbashi, the country’s second-largest city in the southeast. “Pope Francis is a parent who has come to visit his sick children; he comes to calm the fear in our cities, to calm the fear in the hearts of our children,” Ms. Clotildi said. Ms. Mpunav added: “We have great need of his visit because our country is so divided. We are convinced that he can contribute to bringing peace because he is a man of God.”
“Pope Francis is the bishop of all the faithful, from Kinshasa to Rome and all around the world,” the Rev. Abbé Mertens Diansuka, a priest from the Archdiocese of Kinshasa, said. “We hope that his visit will help to reconcile all the people of this land, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, because he has not just come for the Catholics. We hope that his visit will also help other countries to be more peaceful.”
Francis told the million Congolese gathered before him that Jesus has shown “three sources” from which “to nurture peace”: “forgiveness, community and mission.”
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Gerard O’Connell is America’s Vatican correspondent and author of The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Story of the Conclave That Changed History. He has been covering the Vatican since 1985.
With thanks to America and Gerard O’Connell, where this article originally appeared.