Pope Francis to Visit Two African Countries in July, Vatican Official Says

Pope Francis greets South Sudanese president Salva Kiir at the Vatican, April 11, 2019. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis is expected to visit two African nations in a July trip that is to begin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and then to South Sudan, an official at the Vatican has announced.

“At the invitation of their respective Heads of State and Bishops, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to the DRC from 2 to 5 July 2022 and South Sudan from 5 to 7 July,” the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni announced Thursday, March 3.

In his four-day pastoral visit to DRC, the Holy Father is scheduled to meet the people of God in the cities of Kinshasa and Goma. In South Sudan, he is to spend three days in the country’s capital, Juba, Mr. Bruni says in his March 3 statement. 

“The program and further details of the Journey will be announced in due course,” the Vatican official further says.

Information about Pope Francis’ visit to South Sudan dates back to 2017 when the Holy Father expressed his desire to undertake an ecumenical visit to the world’s youngest nation alongside the head of the Anglican church.


“My collaborators are studying the possibility of a trip to South Sudan. But why? Because the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic Bishops came to tell me: 'Please come to South Sudan maybe just for one day. But don't come alone, come with Justin Welby'. This came from the young church in that country, and it got us thinking about a very bad situation there, and about the fact that they want peace, to work together for peace," Pope Francis was quoted as saying during a 2017 meeting with the Anglican community at All Saints Church in Rome.

That year, the initiative was halted reportedly because of heightened violent clashes in different parts of South Sudan amid a serious humanitarian crisis.

The Holy Father reiterated his desire to visit the country in April 2019, during the spiritual retreat that brought together the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the opposition leader, Riek Machar, and the widow of South Sudanese leader John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, among other political and religious leaders from South Sudan.

Last December, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States said that the wish by Pope Francis to visit South Sudan had received “great support”.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher who held meetings with South Sudanese political and religious leaders as well as collaborators of the Archbishop of Canterbury from December 21 was quoted as saying that Pope Francis has expressed the wish to visit South Sudan on multiple occasions and notified those involved in organizing such a visit.

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Earlier this month, Archbishop Justin Welby confirmed the joint visit to South Sudan “in the next few months.”

“God willing, sometime in the next few months, perhaps a year, we will go and see them in Juba, not in Rome, and see what progress can be made,” Archbishop Welby said in the February 7 report.

Speaking to ACI Africa about the possible Papal visit to South Sudan, Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of Juba Archdiocese said the people of God in the East-Central African nation await the possible pastoral visit by the Holy Father “with a lot of anxiety and hope.”

“We are excited and praying for the Holy Father to visit South Sudan. We hope it is going to happen and it will happen by God’s grace,” Archbishop Ameyu told ACI Africa February 19 on the sidelines of the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Mark Kadima for Kenya’s Bungoma Diocese.

The South Sudanese Archbishop added, “Pope Francis has a special love for South Sudan. The Pope has been concerned about the peace process in South Sudan from day one.” 


“We await the visit of Pope Francis with a lot of anxiety and hope,” Archbishop Ameyu told ACI Africa.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to the two African countries will mark the Pope’s third visit to sub-Saharan Africa. 

The journey will mark the first time a Pope has visited the world's youngest nation of South Sudan and the third Papal visit to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Jim Wallace, are reportedly expected to join Pope Francis for the South Sudan pastoral trip. 

Last month, Archbishop Welby characterized the joint ecumenical travel plans as “history.”

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Pope Francis mentioned his desire to visit the DRC in an October 2021 interview with the Argentine news outlet Télam. 

With a growing population of some 35,000 million Catholics, DRC could become one of the most populous Catholic countries in the world. 

The last Papal visit to the Central African nation was in 1980 when Pope John Paul II visited six African countries, including Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast in the 2-12 May 1980 trip.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.