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Pope Francis makes “heartfelt appeal” for Congo

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“Be artisans of reconciliation and of peace”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis launched a new appeal today “to all the Congolese, in this delicate moment of their history,” to be “artisans of reconciliation and of peace.”

At the Wednesday, December 21 general audience, the pope turned to the suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a recent meeting between the African nation’s president, Joseph Kabila, and the bishop’s conference amid growing political tensions.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has come under increasing international pressure as the death toll from confrontations between protesters and security forces continues to mount.

President Kabila’s second term has expired, yet no presidential elections are scheduled until 2018, violating the DRC’s constitutional two-term limit.

Political strife and unrest is increasing, with calls for protest by the opposition. Should the instability and clashes continue, the Congolese people who will pay the highest price, observers say.

Human rights groups say they have evidence that at least 26 people were killed on Tuesday during deadly clashes in the capital, Kinshasa, and in the south-east city of Lubumbashi.

Urging all those with political power to “listen to the voice of their conscience” and “to see the cruel suffering of their countrymen,” Pope Francis assured the Congolese of his affection for “the beloved people,” inviting everyone “to let themselves be guided by the light of the Redeemer of the world.”

“I pray that the celebration of the Lord’s Birth may open up paths of hope,” he concluded.

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