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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis during Mass in D.R. of Congo: "The Lord says to you: Lay down your arms''

Pope Francis' second day in the Democratic Republic of Congo began with a clear display of the warm and lively African character. 

But the joy seen at the airport where the Mass was celebrated is a stark contrast to the reality of the country, where recent conflicts have left millions dead, hundreds of thousands of women raped, and thousands facing hunger and disease. 

Pope Francis addressed this reality of suffering and encouraged hope. He said that peace is possible if people let God into their hearts. And the first step is forgiveness. 

What good it does us to cleanse our hearts of anger, regret, resentment and bitterness! Dear friends, may today be a time of grace to welcome and experience Jesus' forgiveness!
And let this be a fruitful time for you in this country, who say you are Christians but commit acts of violence. To you the Lord says, "Lay down your arms, embrace mercy."

The Pope pointed out that there are two other steps to achieve peace: coexistence, which avoids loneliness, and mission. 

Both Pope Francis and the faithful could not hide their joy at finally being able to see each other after the trip was postponed last July. Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo was one of the Pope's most eagerly anticipated and most difficult trips. 

Bandeko, boboto [Brothers and sisters: peace]
I have longed for this moment. It's been a year of waiting, hasn't it? Thank you for being here.

As the Mass followed the Roman Missal for the Diocese of Zaire, there was music throughout the celebration. The Pope presided, while the main celebrant was the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Capuchin Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu. The Mass was celebrated for peace.

Hundreds of children received their First Communion and an estimated one million people participated in the Mass.