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People of DR Congo await ‘healing’ from Pope’s upcoming visit

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People of DR Congo await ‘healing’ from Pope’s upcoming visit

The Apostolic Nuncio to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, says the country is hoping to receive a word of consolation from Pope Francis during his visit, as violence continues to devastate parts of the Central African

By Christopher Wells

A bomb attack on a Pentecostal Church in the eastern Congolese province of North Kivu on Sunday has killed at least 17 people and left more than 40 others wounded. The Allied Democratic Forces (AFP), which is associated with the so-called Islamic State, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In an interview with Vatican News’ Antonella Palermo following the bombing, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, said the attack sent a worrying signal, “even more so because it confirms the involution of the situation on the ground.”

Peace still a long way off

The Nuncio also noted the attack took place on the same day as another bombing at the central market in the North Kivu city of Beni. The province has been “in a state of siege for over a year,” Archbishop Balestrero said, “showing how the situation has not only not improved, but worsened.”

“In any case, I would say that peace in the East is still a long way off.”

He worried that the ADF is benefitting from the conflict with the M23 group in the south of the country, while the ties between ADF and ISIS are becoming stronger.

“This can only be of concern for regional security and especially for the populations that are the constant victims of the carnage against them,” he added.

Cooperation among Christian Churches

There are signs of hope, however. Archbishop Balestrero noted the “great cooperation” among Christians in the country.

The various Christians communities are united in pointing out that the wealth of “the subsoil of the East” is at the root of the conflicts.

Archbishop Balestrero said the country’s wealth of mineral resources “is the fundamental reason for its strategic importance with all the neighbouring countries and the main cause of the war economy that is perpetuated in this area of the East.”

He also highlighted the ecumenical cooperation ahead of the Pope’s visit on 31 January to 3 February. For example, he noted that Christians from other denominations will take part in the Pope’s meeting with displaced persons.

“We try together to accompany the democratic development of the country.”

Preparations for the Pope’s visit

The effort being made to ensure security and public order for the upcoming Apostolic Journey is enormous, the Archbishop said. The main purpose of the visit, he added, is “to awaken faith in those who do not have it, and to strengthen the joy of those who do.”

“Many people say the Pope’s visit is a dream come true.”

He added, “Throughout the country there is an anticipation of receiving a word of consolation [from the Pope], and also of healing of the wounds that are still bleeding, especially in the East.”



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