Kinshasa prepares to welcome Pope Francis

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In DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa, Christian faithful are flocking to impromptu market stalls in churchyards to buy t-shirts and wax tissues adorned with the image of Pope Francis, ahead of the pontiff’s visit.

Papal souvenirs have become hot-selling items ahead of the four-day trip which begins on 31st January.

“I must wear the effigy of the Pope because the great blessing comes, it must,” Justin Marie Bayala said proudly.

Emmanuel Wemo another client doubles down: “I bought this calendar, I am happy to have the Pope’s effigy at home, it is a great blessing for me and my children”

Many in the Democratic Republic of Congo view the papal visit as a chance to soothe tensions in the east, where M23 rebels have waged a new insurgency since last year and provoked a humanitarian crisis.

Over one million worshippers are expected to turn out for an open-air mass in Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport on February 1.

“The message I expect from the Pope is the message of peace because recently, here, the DRC is tormented here and there,” Elisabeth Akwete insisted.

Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive in the DRC last July, but the trip was postponed over health concerns.

Across Kinshasa, banners and signs welcoming the pope already hang from buildings.

His visit marks the first papal trip to the country since Pope John Paul II’s in 1985.


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