Pope Francis arrives in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Before beginning his first international trip of 2023, Pope Francis met with a group of Congolese and South Sudanese refugees at Centro Astalli, the Italian center for Jesuit Relief Services.
On his way to Rome's Fiumicino Airport, Pope Francis prayed at a monument dedicated to 13 Italian airmen who died in Kindu, in the then Republic of Congo in 1961. They were on a mission of peace.
The Pope then boarded the plane using a forklift due to his ongoing knee pain. Once onboard, he greeted journalists one by one.
Pope Francis asked for prayers for those who died trying to cross the Sahara desert, seeking relief and freedom, and for those imprisoned in camps in the Mediterranean. He also expressed regret in not being able to visit Goma due to the ongoing conflict.
Right now we are crossing the Sahara. Let's take a little moment, in silence, to pray for all the people who, looking for some comfort and freedom, crossed the desert, but did not make it. So many suffering people who come to the Mediterranean and, after crossing the desert, are taken to camps and suffer there. We pray for all those people.
Upon arriving in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the 7 hour flight, Pope Francis was welcomed by two children with flowers.
In the VIP Lounge at the airport, the Pope and Prime Minister, Sama Lukonde, greeted different delegations, bishops and cardinals before holding a brief private meeting. Pope Francis then moved to the presidential palace to meet President Félix Tshisekedi and to give his first speech of the trip before local autorities.