“True encouragement”: Cardinal in DR Congo on Pope Francis’ “comforting presence”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass with around 1 million people in Kinshasa, DRC, on Feb. 1, 2023. | Vatican Media

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo has described the presence of Pope Francis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as “comforting” and that it is “a true encouragement” for the people of God in the Central African nation “who are suffering in body and soul”.

On the second day of his Apostolic visit to DRC Wednesday, February 1, Pope Francis presided over Holy Mass at the Ndolo Airport with more than a million Christians in attendance.

In his speech at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Cardinal Ambongo thanked the Holy Father for coming to comfort the Congolese people.

“Most Holy Father, the Democratic Republic of Congo that you are visiting at this moment is a potentially very rich country. Its population, which is essentially young, is predominantly Christian, with more than 40 percent being Catholics,” the Archbishop of Kinshasa said.

He added, “Today, the Congolese people are facing a multiform crisis: armed conflicts, particularly in the East of the country, economic crisis and social misery.”


The member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) continued, “The people who welcome you today and who are here before you are people who are suffering in body and soul. In spite of this unjust suffering, the Congolese remain a confident people full of hope.” 

“That is why your comforting presence in the midst of these suffering people is a real encouragement,” the Cardinal who has been at the helm of Kinshasa Archdiocese since November 2018 said.

In his speech, the Congolese Cardinal also reflected on the upcoming General elections in the Central African nation. 

He said, “Your visit, Holy Father, also comes during an election year, which is often a source of social and political tension in our country.”

“With the message that you brought us on the theme of ‘All Reconciled in Jesus Christ’ and trusting in your prayers, we hope to see free, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections in our country,” the Cardinal said.

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Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday, January 31 afternoon, the first leg of his Apostolic journey to DRC and South Sudan in what is the realization of his previously postponed trip to the two African nations that the Vatican confirmed on December 1.

After the official welcome of the Holy Father in DRC at Ndjili international airport in Kinshasa, a 15-minute welcome ceremony was conducted at the "Palais de la Nation" in Kinshasa as had been outlined in the program and itinerary that the Vatican unveiled.

The Holy Father concluded his first day in Kinshasa with a 45-minute meeting with authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in the garden of the "Palais de la Nation".

The February 1 Holy Mass was celebrated in French, the official language of DRC, and Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Central African nation by millions of speakers across the region.

The Pope delivered his homily in Italian with French translations for the Mass, which was celebrated according to the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.


In his homily, the Pope encouraged Catholics in DRC to take the crucifix from their wall or hanging on a chain around their neck and to hold it in their hands, close to their hearts, “in order to share your wounds with the wounds of Jesus.”

“Give Christ the chance to heal your heart, hand your past over to him, along with all your fears and troubles. What a beautiful thing it is to open the doors of your heart and your home to his peace!” he said.

In his February 1 speech after the Papal Mass, Cardinal Ambongo thanked the Holy Father for celebrating with the Congolese people and prayed for the success of his ongoing Apostolic Journey in Africa.

“In the name of the Church family of God, which has come to pray with you, and in the name of all the Congolese people, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for this beautiful and great Mass that you have just presided over,” he said.

The Congolese Cardinal continued, “I thank you for being there for us, for each and every one of us, for our suffering people.”

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“Thank you for your message; thank you for your homily of comfort, which confirms us in our faith,” he said, and continued, “I nourish the hope that this Eucharist that you have just presided over will consecrate us more to Christ in whom we are all reconciled.”

Cardinal Ambongo implored, “As I bless the Lord for this moment of grace, I entrust the continuation of your apostolic journey in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, our Lady of Congo.”

Catholics who participated in the Papal Eucharistic celebration expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for the message of comfort.

For Fr. Jules Kipupu, the message of Pope Francis during Holy Mass is“an invitation to inner reconciliation, but also a challenge for us Catholics in DRC to be at the forefront of reconciliation.”

“Things will never be the same again for our people and I pray that this message of reconciliation should touch our political leaders to work for the common good,” the member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) told ACI Africa in Kinshasa.

Charly Nkumu, a Parishioner of St. Anna’s Parish of Kinshasa Archdiocese was satisfied to take part in this event because, according to him, “it is a Mass of comfort for all the Congolese people.”

“We expect many blessings and reconciliation with Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual comfort for those who were discouraged and am happy I was part of this historic event,” he said about the Papal Mass that had Cardinals, Catholic Archbishops, and Bishops from other African countries among the Concelebrants. 

Antoine Cardinal Kambanda of Rwanda, Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga of the Central African Republic (CAR), Archbishop Edmond Djitangar of Chad, and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese were among Catholic Church leaders from African countries at the Papal Mass.

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.