Pope Francis to Africa; Vatican announces Congo-South Sudan tour dates

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican announced an end to uncertainty and prayerful waiting: Pope Francis will visit the African countries of Congo and South Sudan at the start of the new year. The Vatican announced on the last day that the Pope’s apostolic tour, which was postponed months ago due to knee pain, will be held from January 31 to February 5, 2023.

The Pope arrives with a message of peace and compassion to countries scarred by civil strife and conflict. ‘All in Christ’ is the motto of the Congo tour from January 31 to February 3; ‘I pray for all to be one’ is the motto of the South Sudan tour from February 3rd to 5th.

It is also noteworthy that the Pope will be accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is also the head of the Anglican Church, as previously scheduled. Interventions by Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby have brought peace to South Sudan, which has been plagued by civil unrest. In addition to meeting with rulers, church leaders and the laity, the Pope will also visit refugees in the country. He will also lead the ecumenical prayer.

South Sudan is a region of 10 states that gained independence from Sudan, Africa’s largest country, in 2011. Catholics account for 37% of the population of over one crore. As the Catholic Church, Sudan and South Sudan are under the same bishopric. Half of Congo’s nine million people are Catholic.

Pope Francis will be the first head of the Catholic Church to visit South Sudan. But this is the second time Congo will host a papal visit. In 1980, Saint John Paul II visited Congo. The name of the country then was Zaire. The Congo-South Sudan tour was supposed to take place this past July. Both nations are gearing up to welcome the Pope when the prayers that have begun since its postponement come to fruition.

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