Papal Visit to DR Congo to Show “friendship, solidarity, closeness of universal Church”

Archbishop Ettore Balestrero during the January 12 press conference. Credit: CENCO

The planned Papal visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) set to begin at the end of this month is an opportunity for Pope Francis to show his “friendship, solidarity, and closeness” with the people of God in the Central African nation, the Apostolic Nuncio in the country has said.

Addressing journalists on Monday, January 9 about preparations for the January 31-February 3 Papal visit, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero highlighted the importance of the Papal trip for the Congolese people.

“The visit of Pope Francis to the Democratic Republic of Congo is justified by the fact that the DRC is the 6th or 7th Catholic country in the world and 1st in Africa. The first bishop in black Africa was Congolese,” Archbishop Balestrero told journalists at the Ministry of Communication and Media in Kinshasa.

He said, “DRC is a country that summarizes the 'magisterium of the Pope' in the face of various challenges, mission, evangelization, immigration, etc.”

“The Pope wants to show through this visit the friendship, solidarity, sympathy and closeness of the universal Church towards the Catholic Church in DRC,” Archbishop Balestrero further said.


He added, “Pope Francis brings his blessing and a message of peace, and wants the Congolese people to reconcile for the deliverance of other compatriots who live in suffering, especially the victims of armed conflict in eastern DRC.”

On 1 December 2022, officials of the Holy See Press Office announced that Pope Francis’ rescheduled visit would begin in DRC from January 31, and conclude with an “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace in South Sudan”.

In the program and itinerary that the Vatican unveiled, the Holy Father is to realize the “Ecumenical Pilgrimage of Peace” in the world’s youngest nation alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, from February 3-5.

In his January 9 address to journalists, the Apostolic Nuncio in DRC presented the official program of the Papal visit and invited the Congolese people to “come and listen to Pope Francis.”

"There will be a meeting with the representatives of the country's institutions, the representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps,” he said, and added, “The next day, there will be Holy Mass in Ndolo, which I invite everyone to come and listen to the Pope.”

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On the first day of the Papal visit, the Nuncio said the Holy Father is expected to “land at Kinshasa Ndjili international airport on Tuesday, 31 January 2023 at 15h00.”   

“Pope Francis will proceed to the Presidential Suite of the ‘Palais de la Nation’ where a courtesy visit to President Félix Tshisekedi has been scheduled,” he added.

Archbishop Balestrero further said, “Pope Francis will also hold a meeting with authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in the garden of the ‘Palais de la Nation’ in Kinshasa.”

The Holy Father has been scheduled to begin his second day in DRC, Wednesday, February 1, with presiding over Holy Mass at Ndolo Airport in Kinshasa. 

“DRC is a country of young people; young people are the future of the country but are also the present of the future. So, the Pope is coming to give them a specific message,” the 56-year-old Apostolic Nuncio said. 


The Eucharistic celebration by Pope Francis is to be followed by a meeting with victims from the Eastern part of the country at the Apostolic Nunciature; the Holy Father will also meet with representatives from some charities at the Apostolic Nunciature.

On Thursday, 2 February 2023, Pope Francis is scheduled to engage with young people and Catechists at Kinshasa’s “Martyrs' Stadium”, to be followed by a meeting with Priests, women and men Religious, and Seminarians at the Cathedral "Notre Dame du Congo" of Kinshasa Archdiocese.

Day three of the DRC trip is to conclude with Pope Francis’ “customary” private meeting with his confreres, members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), at the Kinshasa-based Apostolic Nunciature.

On the morning of Friday, 3 February 2023, the Holy Father is expected to meet members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), to be followed by a farewell ceremony at the “Ndjili" international airport, from where he will leave for South Sudan.

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.