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Pope Francis is in Democratic Republic of Congo, its first papal visit since 1985

Bystanders look on as Pope Francis travels by popemobile as he departs the airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Guerchom Ndebo
/
AFP via Getty Images
Bystanders look on as Pope Francis travels by popemobile as he departs the airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

LAGOS, Nigeria — Pope Francis has arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a hugely anticipated trip, followed by a visit to South Sudan.

Both countries have large Catholic populations and have suffered from long, violent conflicts, which the pope's visit is expected to spotlight.

Several thousands in the DRC have been making their way to the capital Kinshasa to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.

It's the first papal visit since 1985, to the country where almost half of the 95 million people are Catholics.

His trip to DRC and then South Sudan will highlight the long-running conflicts in both countries and the rising importance of Africa to the future of the Catholic Church. Africa is the fastest-growing location for the Church, with more than 200 million worshippers, but the continent remains under-represented in Vatican leadership.

In Kinshasa, the pope is scheduled to conduct masses and meet numerous groups, victims of violence, and attempt to lift the country's spirits.

This story originally appeared in NPR's Newscast.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.