Pope Francis made a powerful appeal to the international community during his first speech in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday. The Pope emphasized the importance of respecting the central African country while not ignoring the exploitation and violence taking place there.

He declared, “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: Africa is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”

Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa, the capital city of the DRC, on Jan. 31 and was greeted with enthusiastic applause from locals who lined the streets.

He held a private meeting with President Felix Tshisekedi, followed by an audience with the country’s authorities, diplomats, and representatives of civil society.

The Pope stressed the need for Africa to be the protagonist of its own destiny and for the world to acknowledge the catastrophic actions that have been taken against it over the centuries.

In his speech, Pope Francis acknowledged the suffering of the DRC, including political exploitation, economic colonialism, child labor, and violence. He noted the severe humanitarian crisis caused by violence in the eastern part of the country, which has resulted in the displacement of more than 5.5 million people.

Approximately half of the 90 million people in the DRC are Catholic.

The Pope emphasized that the Catholic Church and the Pope believe in the future of the Congolese people, and that they are of inestimable worth. He concluded by encouraging the people to work for a future together with others and not against others, and to promote law and equity everywhere.

Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with victims of violence from the eastern part of the country on Feb. 1 in Kinshasa, and he will hold a Mass expected to draw 2 million people.

Pray for Africa!

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