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1M people attend Pope’s Mass in Kinshasa


Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Hugues Lefèvre - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 02/01/23

On day two of his trip, the Pope celebrated Mass for over a million faithful in Kinshasa. Keep reading to feel the atmosphere in the DRC!

The Pope’s Mass on February 1, 2023, was not going to start for another 3 hours but Ndolo Airport was already full of people. On the outskirts of the immense space, the Congolese were still gathering amidst a spectacular sense of excitement. Motorcycles passed by with even three passengers aboard, all dressed in their Sunday best, as they tried to make their way through the incessant flow of people converging to Ndolo. Kinshasa is celebrating. On the tarmac, a 700-person choir tried to rehearse despite the powerful sound of dozens of speakers playing Congolese songs.

“We are very enthusiastic,” exclaimed Modeste Busa, member of this giant choir. “We started rehearsals a year ago, in February 2022. Despite the postponement of the trip scheduled for July, we continued.”

The 53-year-old man sang during John Paul II’s visit in 1985. “It’s a joy to sing for the Pope, it’s almost once in a lifetime,” he remarked, as his choir started practicing again.

Modeste Busa, a member of the choir who sang at the Pope's mass in Kinshasa in February 2023

Winds of peace

Some yards away from the structure hosting the choir members, the crowd behind the barriers danced to the music. More than a million faithful came for the event. 

 “I arrived yesterday at 3pm and slept here,” said Léonie, a woman in her 70s who came with her family. “We brought some things to eat, sugar, water… We couldn’t miss it,” she emphasized, who confessed not having slept much.

The presence of the Pope would erase her fatigue though. “The hearts of the Congolese will change with this coming, the population needs it so much with these wars in the east,” she said. 

Léonie a woman in her seventies who came to see the Pope at a mass in Kinshasa on February 2023

In front of the giant platform where the mass was later celebrated, a delegation from Brazzaville, capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo, was waiting. Nuphia Mbemba, a member of the scouts and guides of Congo crossed the river which separates Brazzaville from Kinshasa to signify the proximity between the Republic of Congo and the DRC. “Anthropologically, we realize that we have the same gene,” she insists.

Like many of the hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the tarmac, she hopes that this gathering will blow a wind of peace on this land scarred by conflict and poverty. It is amidst this warm atmosphere that the Pope made his entry on the tarmac. Accompanied by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, archbishop of Kinshasa, he criss-crossed the airport to greet the faithful. The mass then started at 9:30 a.m.

Nuphia Mbemba, a member of the scouts and guides of the Republic of Congo at the Pope's mass in Kinshasa in February 2023

Crowds everywhere welcome the Pope

People have been swarming the Congolese capital since Pope Francis’ arrival January 31. Along the 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) that separate Kinshasa’s international airport from the President’s residence (the Pope’s first stop after his arrival), huge crowds gathered on both sides of the road. 

The city of nearly 15 million people was ready to host Francis on his 3-day-tour. Flags and giant billboards featuring the colors and messages of the papal trip adorn the capital. Schoolchildren proudly wore their uniforms while thousands of Congolese tried to find the best place to see the famous popemobile as it traveled through Kinshasa.

The DRC is the largest Catholic country in Africa counting around 50 million faithful. It is celebrating the Pope’s arrival with great enthusiasm, after the disappointment of last summer when the papal trip, initially planned for July 2022, was canceled. 

The last pontiff to have visited the DRC was John Paul II in 1980 and 1985. During Pope Francis’ speech to the country’s authorities yesterday evening he said, “I am here to embrace you and to remind you that you yourselves are of inestimable worth, that the Church and the Pope have confidence in you.”

“Take heart, my Congolese brothers and sisters!  Arise, take once more into your hands, like a pure diamond, all that you are, your dignity and your calling to preserve in harmony and peace this home in which you dwell.” 

AfricaDemocratic Republic of CongoPope Francis
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