Pope Francis is on Tuesday(today) expected to land in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the largest Roman Catholic community in Africa, for a three-day visit.
It has been over 37 years since the previous Pope, John Paul II, visited the country. It was then called Zaire.
The pope will travel to Congo with a message of peace, said Ettore Balestrero, the Vatican’s ambassador, or nuncio, in the country, who resides in a stately mansion in the government quarter.
“The pope wants to comfort the Congolese who have suffered so much in recent years,” Balestrero said. “He wants to heal the open wounds of this violence.”
Already, the authorities in the nation have declared Wednesday a public holiday in the capital, Kinshasa, to allow Catholics to attend a mass led by Pope Francis at Ndolo Airport.
Pope Francis had requested for prayers for the journey ahead of his departure.
The pontiff is expected to stay in Kinshasa until Friday before moving to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, where he will be joined by his Anglican counterpart, the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the Church of Scotland Moderator.
Despite excitement on social media about the visit, there has been some controversy surrounding the Catholic leader’s visit to Kinshasa.
A number of market workers in the city have been told to dismantle their stalls to make roads tidy before the pope’s arrival. This has left some people feeling aggrieved.