Pope Francis is in the final stretch of a six-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The visit was framed as an opportunity to bring more international attention to the many challenges they face, deliver a message of peace and reconciliation, and issue a call to end the conflicts in both countries.
Francis’ visit, his fifth to the African continent since he became pontiff in 2013, was initially scheduled to take place last year, but was postponed due to knee ailments that had restricted him to a wheelchair at the time. In the decade he has led the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has emphasized and called attention to a wide range of social justice causes. These have included the plight of the world’s most vulnerable, such as impoverished people, migrants and refugees; environmental issues; religious persecution; the scourges of consumerism, war and capital punishment; and the need for a more inclusive church that is more welcoming to marginalized groups, including but not limited to women, LGBTQ people and worshippers from the Global South.
Francis’ visit to Congo and South Sudan, and the themes he has stressed during his tour, crystallized those priorities, laying out his vision for the church of more than 1.3 billion people around the world.