Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, urging people to forgive each other to end violence in a country torn apart by decades of conflict.
Francis presided over a massive open-air mass at N’Dolo Airport in the capital Kinshasa, which is estimated to have been attended by more than 1 million people, including President Felix Tshisekedi.
Many worshipers wore clothes with his picture emblazoned on them, while some had arrived a night earlier for the mass.
Some 7,500 personnel were deployed for security, according to police.
According to Vatican statistics, almost half of the 95 million people in DR Congo are Catholics.
“And may it be a good time for all of you in this country who call yourselves Christians but engage in violence,” Francis said.
“The Lord is telling you: “Lay down your arms, embrace mercy,” he said.
He urged people to be “missionaries of peace,” stressing the need to “break the cycle of violence, to dismantle the machinations of hatred.”
“We are called to be missionaries of peace, and this will bring us peace. We need to find room in our hearts for everyone; to believe that ethnic, regional, social, and religious differences are secondary and not obstacles; others are our brothers and sisters, members of the same human community,” he said.
Thousands of Congolese lined the streets to greet Francis when he arrived in DR Congo on Tuesday, the first leg of his fourth journey to Africa which will also take him to South Sudan.
‘Stop getting rich from money stained with blood’
Later on Wednesday, the pope met victims of the violence that has gripped eastern DR Congo.
Survivors of the ongoing conflict shared harrowing stories, including mass killings and mutilation, abduction and lost relatives, serial rape, and sexual slavery.
Francis condemned the atrocities and the “murderous, illegal exploitation of the country’s wealth, and the attempts to fragment the country in order to control.”
“I ask all who orchestrate war in DR Congo ... put an end to war. Stop getting rich at the cost of the poor. Stop getting rich from resources and money stained with blood!” he said.
Francis called on everyone “living in DR Congo not to give up, but to commit themselves to build a better future.”
“Peace is possible. Let us believe this. And let us work for it, without delegating it to others,” he stressed.
Source: Anadolu Agency