By Arnold Neliba
KINSHASA, JANUARY 31, 2023 (CISA)-As the Democratic Republic of Congo prepares for the second Apostolic Visit after 38 years, the government has declared February 1 a public holiday in the country’s capital, Kinshasa to allow Catholics to attend a Mass presided over by Pope Francis at Ndolo Airport.
“Today we announce that Wednesday, which is the day of the papal Mass, will be a holiday to allow the faithful to attend the religious service. That day, there will be no classes. This must be very clear. In this way, parents know that on Wednesday, there is no question of stressing themselves out to get up early to take their children to school,” said Patrick Muyaya, the Minister of Communication and Media.
According to a communication by the Holy See Press Office before the Pontiff departed from Rome to DRC and later South Sudan on February 3, “the Holy Father met with a dozen migrants and refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, welcomed and supported, with their families, by the Centro Astalli. With them was the Prefect of the Dicastery for Charity, His Eminence Card. Konrad Krajewski.”
On arrival at Fiumicino Airport, the Holy Father’s car stopped briefly near the Monument to the Fallen of Kindu, the 13 Italian airmen killed in the Congo on November 11, 1961. The pope dedicated a prayer to the victims of that bloody massacre and to all those who lost their lives participating in humanitarian and peace missions.
Pope Francis is expected to arrive at N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa today at 3:00 pm Kenyan time.
The visit to DRC is the second visit of a supreme pontiff to the country after Pope John Paul’s II May 2, 1985 visit. It will also be the 40th International Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis.
On arrival, Pope Francis will first pay a courtesy visit to President Felix Tshisekedi and later hold a meeting with authorities, civil society and members of the diplomatic corps.
On Wednesday, February 1, the pope will celebrate Mass at Ndolo Airport before meeting with victims from the Eastern Part of DRC at the Apostolic Nunciature and representatives from some charities at the same venue.
On Thursday, February 2, young people and catechists will have their day with the pontiff at a meeting at Martyrs Stadium before holding a prayer meeting with priests, deacons, consecrated persons and seminarians in the Cathedral Notre Dame du Congo. Thereafter, on the same day, he will hold a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus at the Apostolic Nunciature.
Pope Francis, on the final day in DRC, will hold a meeting with bishops and members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) before departing for Juba, South Sudan.
Pope Francis has visited Africa four times since his election in 2013. He visited Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic in 2015. In 2017, he went to Egypt and in 2019 he visited Morocco, and later that year Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius.