Nuncio in DR Congo “encourages everyone to prepare their hearts” to Welcome Pope Francis

Archbishop Ettore Balestrero at the launch of the mobilization campaign around the arrival of the Holy Father in DRC. Credit: CENCO

The representative of the Holy Father in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has encouraged the people of God in the Central African nation to prepare their hearts to welcome Pope Francis next month.

Speaking to journalists Thursday, June 2 at the launch of the mobilization campaign around the arrival of the Holy Father in DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero highlighted the importance of the Papal trip for the Congolese people.

“I encourage everyone to prepare their hearts to welcome the Pope in DRC,” Archbishop Balestrero told journalists at Ndolo airstrip in Kinshasa.

He added, “The arrival of the Pope in DRC is a great joy. DR Congo is important in the world and to the Catholic Church.”

“It is the 6th or 7th Catholic country in the world and 1st in Africa. The first bishop in black Africa was Congolese,” Archbishop Balestrero further said.


The two-African-nation pastoral trip that has been scheduled to begin in the capital city of DRC, Kinshasa on July 2 will see the Holy Father proceed to Goma in North-Kivu Province on July 4, and conclude on July 7 in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

When realized, the July 2-7 pastoral trip to DRC and South Sudan will mark Pope Francis’ third visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and the third Papal visit to DRC, which is home to Africa's largest Catholic population.

In his June 2 address to journalists, the 55-year-old Apostolic Nuncio in DRC spoke about the health of Pope Francis.

Credit: CENCO

“He was ill, he had a problem with his knee. He is better now and he will be here. He can travel and he wants to travel. For him it is a commitment and he is doing his ministry,” the Italian-born Archbishop said.

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He continued, “As a father, the Pope has the desire to see his children, to see them in the eyes. Also, the Congolese have the desire to see someone come to comfort them. DRC is a country with a summary of all his ministry with many issues such as immigration, the environment, peace, development,” 

The Nunio said that the Pope will come to give a message of “comfort and reconciliation”.

The June 2 event was also an opportunity for journalists to evaluate the Papal dais under construction in DRC’s capital Kinshasa.

Credit: CENCO

“We have been given the task of setting up six sites to welcome Pope Francis; five sites in Kinshasa and one site in Goma. 850,000m² is the space that will be set up at the Ndolo airstrip for the pontiff's Mass in Kinshasa,” the site engineer, Jesus Noël Sheke, told journalists.


Mr. Sheke added, “This site will accommodate at least 2 million people. It is the only site in Kinshasa that can accommodate so many people.”

“The site will be divided into 25 zones to allow easy movement of people and the zones will be separated by walkways. These zones are not identical in size and will each hold between 30,000 and 100,000 seats,” the site engineer of the Papal dais further said, adding that “the platform where the altar will be erected is 45×28 metres.”

“Regarding the site of Goma, as there will be worshippers who will come from neighboring countries, it is the site of Kibumba which has been selected and has a dimension of 1,500,000m ²,” Mr. Sheke said.

The site in Goma, he continued, “which has seen the passage of lava from the Nyragongo volcano, will have a capacity of at least 4 million people.”

Mr. Sheke said that there will be “32 access roads that take into account the mobility of Congolese.”

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The other four sites in Kinshasa, such as the Palais de la Nation, are the places where the Pope will meet some personalities, he said.

According to the engineer, “15 June 2022 is the date chosen to hand over the structure to the Catholic Church, but as there are also decorative aspects, we will work until two days before the event.”

On March 31, Archbishop Balestrero told journalists that the planned Papal visit is for everyone in the Central African nation, and not just for Catholics.

On May 28, officials of the Holy See Press unveiled the itinerary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic visit to DRC and what they described an “Ecumenical Peace Pilgrimage to the South Sudanese Land and People”.

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.