Fri, 24 Mar 2023

In a speech to tens of thousands of young people in a stadium in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, Pope Francis urged them to work towards a better future and reject corruption. The Roman Catholic leader is touring the DRC and South Sudan to deliver a message of "peace and reconciliation".

People had been gathering at Martyrs' stadium in Kinshasa overnight, and organisers estimated 65,000 were there Thursday to welcome Pope Francis, who arrived on his popemobile, offering blessings

"You are part of a greater history, one that calls you to take an active role as a builder of communion, a champion of fraternity, an indomitable dreamer of a more united world," the Pope told the ecstatic crowd that roared and danced in the stands.

The DRC is Africa's biggest Catholic country, and about 60 percent of its 100 million people are under the age of 20, according to UN figures.

"Never give in to the persuasive but poisonous temptations of corruption," he said in Italian, which was translated into the DRC's official language French.

As well as endemic conflict in the east, young people face persistent unemployment.

Shame upon all humanity

Pope Francis is due to meet Jesuit leaders and priests on the frontline of the church's work in the DRC.

On Wednesday, he hosted a mass at Kinshasa's airport that organisers said drew about a million people.

He then met victims of conflict in the DRC's mineral-rich east, some of whom have suffered appalling violence.

He called for mercy from God.

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"May He convert the hearts of those who carry out brutal atrocities, which bring shame upon all humanity," he said.

He said the conflict was being driven by greed and called on combatants to lay down their arms.

Scores of armed groups roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two wars at the end of the 20th century that sucked in countries from around the region.

Francis takes his appeal for peace and reconciliation to South Sudan on Friday for a maiden three-day visit.

Originally published on RFI

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