Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hands off Africa". The words of Pope Francis, shortly after his arrival in Kinshasa "in the name of Jesus as a pilgrim of reconciliation and peace", caused lively applause from the audience gathered in the garden of the Palais de la Nacion. It is the evening of Tuesday, January 31. There is President Félix Tshisekedi, who in his speech described the suffering, the expectations and the often disappointed potential of the nation. He is with members of the government and the Diplomatic Corps, Religious Authorities, representatives of civil society and the world of culture.
Before them, in his first address during his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Bishop of Rome unequivocally sides with Africa. And he points to the new processes put in place to forever subject the continent to the mechanisms of exploitation that make it a "mine to be exploited or a land to be plundered".
Pope Francis embellished his speech with suggestive metaphors. The DRC is like a verdant lung, in the Pope's words, blessed with a rich and variegated nature, but plagued by a history of "conflict and forced migrations" and terrible forms of exploitation. A country that is like an immense "diaphragm of Africa, struck by violence like a blow to the stomach", that has seemed for some time to be gasping for "breath". At the center of the Pope's address, however, is another metaphor that compares the country to the image of a diamond, the most coveted of the precious minerals that abound in Congo's soil. A treasure turned into wealth for centuries, exploited by others, bringing misfortune to the peoples of the region. After the era of 'political' colonialism," the Pope said, "an equally enslaving 'economic colonialism' was in fact unleashed. Thus, this country, massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its immense resources". The poison of greed "has smeared its diamonds with blood. This is a tragedy to which the economically more advanced world often closes its eyes, ears and mouth".
With the same realism, the Pope called on local societies and powers to rid themselves of phenomena that affect coexistence and stifle the potential for development. According to the Pope, tribalism leads to "stubbornly promoting one’s own ethnic group or particular interests, thus nurturing spirals of hatred and violence". In a particular way, the religions, with their patrimony of wisdom, are called to contribute to this richness, in the daily effort to renounce every form of aggression, proselytism and constraint, for these are means unworthy of human freedom. "When people stoop to imposing those means through deceit and force, in an indiscriminate attempt to collect followers, they severely wound the conscience of others and turn their backs on the true God. Even those holding civil and governmental offices," the Pontiff continued, referring to all forms of corruption and abuse, "are called to operate with crystalline clarity, experiencing the charge they have received as a means of serving society" and to flee from greed, because "if there is no respect for justice" the Pope continued, quoting St. Augustine, "even States would be nothing but "great confederacy of thieves".
In his speech, the Bishop of Rome also pointed to the human and spiritual riches on which to focus in order to free the country from the drifts that sabotage peaceful social coexistence and destroy the potential of so many African nations. The Pope therefore emphatically emphasized that "the most precious diamonds of these lands are the sons and daughters of this nation" and especially the youth, who must be guaranteed a dignified education and upbringing, since this "is the way to the future".
Instead, the reality of the country is that "so many children receive no schooling ," so many are exploited and "too many die, subjected to servile labour in the mines ," while so many girls "are marginalized and their dignity violated."
Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis again called on all the Congolese to recognize that it is always possible to start again in hope and not be overwhelmed by adversity. He did so "in the name of Christ, who is the God of hope, the God of every possibility, who always gives us the strength to begin anew" and "in the name of the dignity and worth of the most precious diamonds of this land, which are its citizens" starting with young people and children. "I," the Successor of Peter concluded, "stand with you and I accompany with my prayers and closeness every effort made to achieve a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous future for this great country. God bless the entire Congolese nation!". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 31/1/2023)
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