During a recent visit to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope Francis delivered a stern condemnation of the centuries of exploitation of that country and the African continent.
The pope described how what was once a political stranglehold has now given way to “economic colonialism.” Francis warned world leaders to cease profiteering from Africa’s extensive natural resources and robbing the continent of a “future of peace and prosperity.”
In a stirring speech shortly after landing in the capital city of Kinshasa January 31 at the start a six-day trip to two African nations, Francis said: “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.”
The pope’s trip to the Congo was the first papal visit to that country since Pope John Paul’s in 1985. Formerly called the Republic of Zaire, some half of the country’s population of 102 million are Catholic. Tens of thousands cheered, danced and waved banners for the pontiff.
Francis spoke at the presidential palace, where he called on foreign powers and Congo’s political leaders to end the vicious circle of violence and civil war that has plagued the country for much of its modern history.
“This country, so immense and full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, struck by violence like a blow to the stomach, has seemed for some time to be gasping for breath,” the pope said. Congo has also been the victim of a “forgotten genocide.”
On February 2, Francis spoke again—this time in Kinshasa’s Martyrs’ Stadium—where he denounced the “cancer of corruption” and urged Congolese to work for a future based on honesty.
“If someone offers you an envelope with a bribe, or promises you favors and lots of money, do not fall into the trap,” the Pope told 65,000 gathered there. “Do not be deceived! Do not be sucked into the swamp of evil!”
In 2022, Transparency International, which monitors worldwide corruption, ranked Congo 164th of 180 countries on the organization’s “corruption perception index.”
On February 3, Francis left the Congo for South Sudan, where a severe civil war sparked by a 2013 political dispute has caused nearly 400,000 casualties and widespread destruction.
Presiding over Mass before an estimated 100,000, including the nation’s political leadership, Francis called on the Sudanese people to lay down their weapons and forgive one another.
"Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil," Francis said. "Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us.”
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