If the drama unfolding in Ukraine has mobilized a whole part of the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, the African theater is not left out for Pope Francis, who has planned to visit two countries bruised by civil war: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The news was made public by the Press Office of the Holy See on March 3, 2022: the sovereign pontiff, aged 85, will begin a new apostolic journey on July 2 which will take him to Kinshasa and Goma (DRC) and which will end in will end in Juba, South Sudan on July 7.
The DRC, which has around 90 million inhabitants, is inhabited by 40% Catholics, 35% Protestants partly affiliated with the evangelical movement, 9% Muslims and 10% Kimbanguists, a sect descended from classical Protestantism.
The east of the country is plagued by numerous ethnic violence, some of which pit the army against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a murderous jihadist group of Ugandan origin, affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) organization which represents it. as its branch in Central Africa.
Not to mention that the country, rich in strategic minerals – copper, cobalt, manganese, tungsten – arouses the interest of foreign powers, including China and especially Russia represented on the spot through the private Wagner group. It is in this context that the Catholic Church plays a leading political and social role which it should capitalize on when the Roman pontiff soon arrives.
The pope’s visit to South Sudan will be a first, since the country was only created in 2011 following a bloody separation from its northern neighbor.
This country of ten million inhabitants is more than 60% Christian: enough to motivate a papal visit, especially since it has just emerged from a civil war which caused the death of 400,000 people between 2013 and 2018 .
The mediation of the Holy See to resolve the war had been decisive, and had been sanctioned in 2019 by the historic visit to the Vatican of the two sworn enemies, Riek Machar and Salva Kiir, before whom Pope Francis knelt, imploring them to do peace, a symbolically strong gesture that marked their attitudes.
Since his accession to the sovereign pontificate in 2013, the Argentine pope has traveled four times to the African continent to visit Kenya, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, Madagascar and the island Mauritius.
The apostolic trip scheduled between July 2 and 7 will be the second that the Argentine pope will make abroad in 2022, after his visit to Malta scheduled for April 2 and 3.