1 million attend Pope’s mass in Kinshasa
KINSHASA. – Pope Francis yesterday celebrated one of his biggest Masses, with around a million attendees in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, according to estimates.
Huge crowds started to gather in Kinshasa well before dawn, including scores of schoolgirls dressed in white who danced along the Pope’s route.
A public holiday was declared, so as many people as possible could attend.
Around half of DR Congo’s population is Catholic – the largest Catholic community in Africa.
It is more than 37 years since a pope had visited the mineral-rich but conflict-ridden country.
A 700-person choir, that had been practising together long before the pontiff was originally due to visit last July, had been assembled specifically for the event. The Pope’s original visit had to be postponed because of poor health.
There had been some murmurings that the Pope has not been as critical of DR Congo’s political leadership as some had hoped, but the Mass at N’dole airport was a joyful event, and the pontiff did have a strong message of peace for those engaging in conflict in the country.
On the second of his six-day visit to Africa, he said warring sides should forgive one another and grant their opponents a “great amnesty of the heart”.
He went on to espouse the benefits of cleansing one’s heart of “anger and remorse, of every trace of resentment and hostility”.
Yesterday’s Mass was tipped to be one of Pope Francis’ largest-ever Masses, second only to one held in the Philippines in 2015, according to Christopher Lamb, the Rome correspondent of the Catholic magazine The Tablet.
On Tuesday, the Pope met President Félix Tshisekedi and delivered a speech condemning historical exploitation of Africa’s resources, which he described as “economic colonialism”.
He also addressed DR Congo’s plight, as minerals have played a key role in more than three decades of armed conflict there: “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa, it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”
However, a planned visit to the eastern city of Goma has been cancelled for security reasons.
The eastern part of DR Congo is facing escalating violence as security services fight against armed militia groups. – BBC.com