On the third day of his trip to Africa, Pope Francis told leaders of the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo they can help fight the injustice that has plagued the region for so long.
Francis spoke Thursday as he led prayers at the Notre Dame du Congo cathedral, also called Our Lady of the Congo, in the DRC capital, Kinshasa. The audience consisted of many of the nation's priests, deacons, consecrated persons, and seminarians.
He told them they have reminded him of the difficulties they face living in a land so rich and beautiful, yet so hurt by 'exploitation, corruption, violence and injustice.'
People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis for a meeting with priests, deacons, consecrated people and seminarians, outside the Notre Dame du Congo cathedral in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 2, 2023.
As Francis arrived, a group of protesters gathered outside the cathedral to urge the pope to address sexual abuse on the part of Catholic priests and punish those responsible. They carried banners urging the pope to use the law to stop sexual abuse.
Tim Law, founder of the group known as Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, told reporters they were there to urge the pope to take action on a high-profile case in which a 14-year-old girl was raped by a priest and it was covered up by the bishop. He said the nuns and priests who reported the incident were all fired, in violation of the pope's own order that whistleblowers be protected.
Law said that 'if he [the pope] enforces this rule, he sends a message that he cares about African children.'
Earlier Thursday, the pope addressed a crowd of tens of thousands of young people gathered at Martyr's Stadium in the capital. There, he urged them not to become discouraged in their efforts to resist and fight corruption.
The pope's African visit continues Friday when he travels to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. The nation gained independence from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011 after a drawn-out and violent conflict, becoming a majority Christian nation.
Officials said they have more than 5,000 security personnel put on active duty in preparation for the papal visit.