At the service at N’Dolo airport, Francis preached “breaking the cycle of violence and breaking the plots of hatred”. All those who commit acts of violence want to use this moment as an opportunity to find peace, he says.
According to the police, more than a million people came. It was one of the largest crowds Francis had ever celebrated with. A trade fair in the Philippine capital of Manila still holds the record, with around six million people braving the rain at the beginning of 2015, according to estimates.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has a population of more than 100 million – almost half of whom are Catholics, according to the Vatican – the Pope hopes that his word will carry weight. The fair was also attended by President Felix Tshisekedi, opposition politicians and senior military officials. It was the main event during the Pope’s four-day visit.
During the Mass, the Pope and Kinshasa’s Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu (3rd from right) exchange gifts
The service was celebrated in the so-called Zairian rite of mass, which integrates traditional African elements such as dance and processions into the liturgical process. Kinshasa’s Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu celebrated the Eucharist in place of the Pope, who is restricted in mobility due to knee problems. Francis made him a cardinal in 2019 and appointed him to the Council of Cardinals, his closest advisory body, in 2020.
President Tshisekedi recalled on Tuesday evening how “enemies of peace” and terrorist groups from abroad had threatened and attacked his fellow citizens for three decades. “Because the international community does not intervene and is silent, tens of millions have already died,” he said.
At the airport fair, Tshisekedi sat in the front row under a pavilion. He thanked the Pope for wanting to meet a group of victims of violence from the east of the country and thus learn first-hand how bad the situation is there. The encounter and a meeting with employees of aid organizations were on the program on Wednesday evening.
uh/haz (dpa, kna, afp)