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Catholics, Muslims in DRC praying for Pope’s recovery

pope francis with his back turned

Antoine Mekary | I.Media

I.Media - published on 06/16/22

"Our joy hasn’t disappeared! We believe that he’ll come soon."

“Our joy hasn’t disappeared! We believe that he’ll come soon,” says Aline Minani, a member of the Sant’Egidio community in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, after the postponement of Pope Francis’ trip, announced on June 10, 2022. “We want to see him in good health,” she said, explaining that after the “shock” of the announcement, all those around her—Catholic, Muslim and others—prayed for the Pontiff’s rapid recovery.

The Congolese woman explains that the Pope’s visit would give all the inhabitants of her region of North Kivu “one more reason to hope.”

“Since I was born, I’ve only seen people fleeing, being displaced,” she says.

She herself has been in charge of the Sant’Egidio center in Goma for 10 years. On a daily basis, the young woman helps some 200 homeless or parentless children who wander around Goma, “the first victims” of the terrible civil war that has been raging in this part of the country since 2007.

This conflict isn’t a thing of the past, admits Minani, pointing out the resumption of violence between the M23 rebel movement and the Congolese army in recent weeks. She notes in particular that exchanges of fire took place on June 12 “about 19 miles” from the regional capital. 

Today, says Aline, who is also a teacher at the local school, the violence is concentrated in the forest region, the Virunga National Park located north of Goma. It was there, she explains, that her friend the Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio was killed on February 22, 2021. 

But the tension is also spreading to the city of Goma, a place which is taking in people fleeing the conflict. The Congolese woman says that police have inspected several neighborhoods in Goma in recent days and that a curfew was recently imposed on all vehicles starting at 9:00 p.m. in the evening. After 9:30 p.m., it’s now forbidden to drive without an official permit.

In spite of this delicate situation, Aline Minani says that she doesn’t believe a terrorist attack or a bombing during the Pope’s visit would be a possibility, because he’s seen as a help that comes to “comfort them and bring peace.” However, she recognizes that all the people organizing the Pontiff’s welcome “shared this fear,” and estimates that there was “a 30% risk that something would happen” against a 70% chance “that things would go well.”

In addition to these considerations, the Congolese woman believes that the postponement of the trip should allow for better preparation. She mentions in particular all the installations and the planned arrangements, which are not yet finished.  

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