Cedric, a Congolese refugee, lives in Rome with his wife and three young children. He was an actor and human rights activist who was jailed for his civil activism in Kinshasa before seeking asylum in Italy, according to the Centro Astalli.
Two of the young migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo have albinism, a condition that affects the pigmentation of the skin and has been a cause of violent discrimination in the Congo.
Pope Francis meets with refugees from Congo and South Sudan before his flight to Africa on Jan. 31, 2023. Centro Astalli
“It was a significant moment before a trip in which, once again, Pope Francis focused on the existential and geographical peripheries of the world, crisis areas from which thousands of people flee every day in search of salvation,” the Centro Astalli representative said.
The suffering of migrants and refugees was still on the mind of the pope as he traveled to the first leg of his journey to Africa, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa.
While on board the papal flight to Kinshasa, which departed Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport at 8:29 a.m. with more than 70 journalists, Pope Francis asked everyone on the plane to spend a moment in silent prayer thinking of those who cross the Sahara Desert seeking a better life.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists on the flight to Kinshasa on Jan. 31, 2023. Elias Turk/EWTN
“Right now we are crossing the Sahara. Let’s spend a short moment in silence, a prayer for all the people who, looking for a little bit of comfort, a little bit of freedom, have crossed and did not make it,” Pope Francis said.
“So many suffering people who arrive at the Mediterranean and after having crossed the desert are caught in the camps and suffer there. We pray for all those people.”
Pope Francis also expressed disappointment that he was unable on this trip to visit Goma, a city in eastern Congo, due to the ongoing violence.
The violence in eastern Congo has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.
The pope is scheduled to meet with victims of violence from eastern Congo on Feb. 1 in Kinshasa following a Mass that is expected to draw 2 million people.