Pope Francis has proclaimed this Friday, February 23, 2018, a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
The Holy Father also invited the members of other religions to join in the initiative, in the forms they consider most suitable: moments of prayer, fasting, and reflection. He pointed out that religions can contribute greatly to obtaining and consolidating peace.
The Pope has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the volatile situation in the DRC, including an appeal during his General Audience of January 24, 2018:
“I renew my call for all people to commit themselves to avoiding all forms of violence.”
For its part, the Pope said, the Church “wants nothing more than to contribute to peace and to the common good of society,” and, for this reason, he appealed that all work to avoid violence.
According to the United Nations on Jan. 23, Congolese security forces used excessive force against anti-government protesters and shot at United Nations human rights monitors, claiming at least six lives and injuring some 68 others. Despite calls for peaceful demonstrations for President Joseph Kabila to step down, protests turned violent as police tried to disperse the demonstrators, using tear gas and gunfire.
The Holy See and the DRC signed a framework agreement in February 2017, on the relations between the Catholic Church and the state. In Brazzaville, at the Palace of the People of the DRC. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Congo’s Prime Minister, Clément Mouamba, on the Holy See and Congo’s behalf, respectively, signed the agreement on Friday, Feb. 3. The African nation’s President, Denis Sassou-N’guesso, was present. Consisting of a preamble and eighteen articles, the agreement guarantees to the Church the possibility of carrying out her mission in the DRC. In particular, the legal personality of the Church and her institutions is recognized. The two parties, while safeguarding the independence and autonomy proper to them, undertake to work together for the moral, spiritual and material well-being of the human person and for the promotion of the common good.
Pope Francis on November 23, 2017, offered prayers for South Sudan and the DRC during services at the Altar of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Vatican Basilica. During that special prayer service, the Holy Father announced that he would send a concrete contribution via the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to assist the populations in this emergency phase, which over the past several months has resulted in more than 3,400 deaths and extensive material damage.