Pope Francis to Priests in Congo: Bring People Jesus, Who ‘Heals the Wounds of Every Heart’
‘Dear priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians: through you, the Lord also wants to anoint his people today with the balm of consolation and hope.’
On the World Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis thanked the more than 18,000 priests and religious in the Democratic Republic of Congo for serving others amid the country’s “difficult and often dangerous conditions.”
Speaking in Our Lady of Congo Cathedral in Kinshasa on Feb. 2, the Pope encouraged priests and religious to continue to bring the Congolese people Jesus, who “heals the wounds of every human heart.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to more than 52 million Catholics, including more than 6,000 priests, 4,000 seminarians, and 10,000 religious sisters, according to the latest Vatican statistics.
On his third day in the central African country, Pope Francis spent the afternoon praying with representatives of the Congo’s vibrant Church community in the Kinshasa Cathedral.
“Dear brothers and sisters, as I look at you, I give thanks to God, because you are signs of the presence of Jesus, who walks in the streets of this country, who touches people’s lives and binds their wounds,” the Pope said.
“I thank you from my heart for who you are and what you do, for your witness to the Church and to the world. Do not be discouraged, because we need you! You are precious and important. I say this in the name of the whole Church,” he said.
Francis underlined that a vocation in the Church is different from a profession or social position: “Rather, it is a mission to act as signs of Christ’s presence, his unconditional love, his reconciliation and forgiveness, and his compassionate concern for the needs of the poor.”
“Dear priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians: through you, the Lord also wants to anoint his people today with the balm of consolation and hope.”
The Pope was welcomed to the Kinshasa Cathedral with great enthusiasm. People lined the streets surrounding the cathedral to greet the pope as he passed by. The congregation inside the cathedral prayed decades of the rosary in Lingala, Kikongo, Swahili, Tshiluba, and French.
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, the archbishop of Kinshasa, met the Pope, who arrived in a wheelchair. Together the two made their way to a side chapel where the pope paused to pray before the graves of past Congolese bishops.
The cardinal told the Pope that living priestly and religious vocations in the Congo today “involves enormous challenges.”
“However, I remain convinced that unfailing attachment to the Lord, fidelity to Gospel values, and the joy of serving and accompanying the people of God in their quest for greater dignity are the guarantees of an authentic and true priestly and religious life that is joyful and fulfilling,” Cardinal Besungu said.
“For this I bless the Lord for the flourishing of priestly and religious vocations in our country.”
In the cathedral, the Pope listened to testimonies from a diocesan priest, a religious sister, and a seminarian.
Sister Alice Sala asked Pope Francis to help tell the world about what is happening in the DRC, where more than 120 armed groups are fighting for control of the country’s eastern region, an area rich with natural resources.
Violence in eastern DRC has created a severe humanitarian crisis with more than 5.5 million people displaced from their homes, the third-highest number of internally displaced people in the world.
“Since Congo is a land of martyrs, murders, and wars entertained and financed from outside, we ask Your Holiness to be our spokesperson in the world so that the good of the people may take precedence over interest in our natural resources,” Sister Sala said.
“Most Blessed Father, despite this picture of multiple injustices, the Congo remains a land blessed by God, a generous, prayer-loving people, filled with vitality and hope, as Your Holiness has surely observed. That is why we are not discouraged, because we believe in the risen Christ.”
About 1,200 people were present inside of the cathedral, according to local authorities, with thousands more gathered outside.
The Catholic Church celebrates the World Day for Consecrated Life each year on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas. Established by St. John Paul II, the day recognizes the beauty and impact of a life dedicated to poverty, chastity, and obedience.
In the Pope’s speech to the priests, seminarians, and consecrated men and women, he offered advice for how to overcome spiritual mediocrity and a worldly mentality.
“Never forget that the secret of everything is prayer … since the ministry and the apostolate are not primarily our own work and do not depend solely on human means,” Pope Francis said.
“First of all, let us remain faithful to certain liturgical rhythms of prayer that mark the day, from the Mass to the breviary. The daily celebration of the Eucharist is the beating heart of priestly and religious life. The Liturgy of the Hours allows us to pray with the Church and with regularity: May we never neglect it! Then, too, let us not neglect confession. We always need to be forgiven, so as then to bestow mercy upon others.”
Pope Francis added that it is important to “set aside a time of intense prayer each day, to remain ‘heart-to-heart’ with Our Lord. … a time of closeness to the One whom we love above all else.”
“If we remain docile in God’s hands, he shapes us to become a people of reconciliation, capable of openness and dialogue, acceptance and forgiveness, who make rivers of peace flow through the arid plains of violence,” he said.
“May you always be channels of the Lord’s consoling presence, joyous witnesses of the Gospel, prophets of peace amid the storms of violence, disciples of love, ever ready to care for the wounds of the poor and suffering. Thank you, brothers and sisters, I thank you again for your service and for your pastoral zeal. I bless you and carry you in my heart. And I ask you, please, always pray for me!”
- democratic republic of the congo