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Pope embraces Congolese in Rome | World News

Vatican City (AP)

Pope Francis greets members of the Congolese community in Rome, borrowing words from their local language on Sunday to wish them peace and joy at a particularly lively ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Francis, 85, was scheduled to make a pilgrimage to Congo and South Sudan on July 2-7. But the trip was canceled last month due to persistent knee pain that has led to Pope using a wheelchair or cane in recent weeks.

His itinerary for the postponed tour could keep him in the Congo on Sunday, with a mass celebration at the airport in the capital, Kinshasa.

Instead, about 2,000 Congolese or Congolese descendants joined the pope at the Vatican. They applauded when Francis started his ritual by speaking some Congolese language.

Prayers by the faithful were read in the country’s four official languages, Swahili, Lingala, Shiluba and Kikango.

“A Christian always brings peace,” Francis said, reflecting the theme of reunion as he planned to thread through his Africa pilgrimage.

Sharp contrast

The colorful costumes and lively songs of the congregations contrast sharply with the often elegant attire of priests, nuns, and faithful rank-and-file at many basilica ceremonies.

The day before, Francis sent a video message to the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan urging them to forge a new path of reconciliation, peace and development. He expressed frustration that he would not be able to travel this month but promised to visit as soon as possible.

At his reception on Sunday, the pope renewed his enthusiasm.

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace and reconciliation,” Francis said in the Congo. He described his country as one of the world’s poorest, despite being rich in natural resources, “so wounded and exploited.”

The Catholic Church has been instrumental in establishing democracy in the Congo and advocating for human rights there. The Church deployed about 40,000 election observers to observe the 2019 vote, the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in the Congo since independence from Belgium in 1960, which brought Felix Schেকেsekdi to the presidency.

At the end of the month, a monk, Rita Emboshu Congo, addressed Pontiff in Italian, thanking him for his concern for Africa, wishing him well and saying the Congolese people were waiting to see him with open arms.

Francis, leaning on his cane, stepped forward in his wheelchair, and an ally led him out of the basilica while the faithful sang with joy.

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