Pope Francis has arrived in Kinshasa, as he begins his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The flight landed at the “Ndjili” International Airport in the DRC’s capital of Kinshasa at 2:33 PM local time.
The ITA-Airways papal flight had left Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport at 8:29 AM local time Tuesday morning, carrying the Pope and more than 70 journalists.
The Holy Father will first visit the nation from 31 January to 3 February, following in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II, who visited there in 1980 and 1985.
Fifth visit to African continent
Pope Francis’ visit to the African nations of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) marks his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad, and fifth, to Africa.
In Kinshasa, the Pope was received by a welcoming ceremony.
The Pope then pays a courtesy visit to President Felix Tshisekedi and addresses the country’s authorities, civil society, and diplomatic corps.
At the completion of this Journey on Sunday, marking Pope Francis’ fifth visit to Africa, he will have visited 60 countries since the start of his pontificate.
In 2015, he went to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, and in 2017 visited Egypt. Then, in March 2019, he made an Apostolic Journey to Morocco, and later to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius in September 2019.
Fulfilling desire to visit DRC
The Pope was forced to postpone this visit to DRC and South Sudan, originally scheduled for July 2022, due to intense knee pain.
At the time, the Holy Father sent the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to both countries on his behalf, expressing his disappointment to have been unable to make the visit, as well as his great desire to travel to both nations as soon as possible.
Some 20% of the world’s Catholics live on the African continent, and that percentage is increasing.