Congolese community in Rome assures Pope Francis of Africa’s love for him.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
According to an official count, the Sunday morning Holy Mass that Pope Francis celebrated for the Congolese community in Rome was 2 000. Notwithstanding the understandable disappointment arising from the postponed Apostolic Voyage, the Congolese community in Saint Peter’s Basilica demonstrated their gratitude to Pope Francis.
Bringing Kinshasa to the Vatican
“We will never be able to thank you enough for your concern about Africa, our beloved continent. You have shown your fatherly concern for us on numerous occasions, especially during the misfortune befalling our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Almost two and a half years have passed since you presided, on 1 December 2019, a Mass in the Zairean Rite for our Congolese community in Rome and friends of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet still today, you have, in a sense, transferred Kinshasa to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass that should have been celebrated in the capital of our country on 3 July 2022 is here today because of your kindness. It has been celebrated here in the Basilica of St. Peter. We still hope that time will come for you to celebrate the Mass in Kinshasa, where the Congolese people continue to wait for you with open arms. We are praying for you, for your health, that your visit to our country will take place,” Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo, a Pontifical University of Urbaniana Professor, told Pope Francis. She was speaking on behalf of the Congolese community at the end of the Mass.
For his part, Pope Francis and Vatican officials have assured that the Apostolic Voyage to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have been postponed and not cancelled.
“We will bring Kinshasa to St. Peter’s, and we will celebrate with all the Congolese in Rome, of which there are many,” Pope Francis had earlier told some Missionaries of Africa priests who visited him in the Vatican on 13 June.
The Zairean rite and liturgical dance
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest Catholic population in Africa. According to some statistics, almost half of the country’s population profess themselves as practising Catholics.
The Sunday Mass celebrated in St Peter’s was according to the Congolese Rite or, better still, the Zairean Rite.
The Zairean Rite is a variation of the Roman Rite. The liturgy fits into Congolese culture and encourages the congregation’s active participation. Some of that participation finds expression in liturgical dance.
A Congolese priest based in Rome, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media by his superiors, explained to Vatican News that liturgical dance in the context of the Zairean Rite has less to do with entertainment but is an outward expression of a deeply felt spiritual sentiment.
“As the body moves during worship, the heart and spirit also follow. It is the African way. We dance at feasts and even at funerals. In fact, this is not even exclusive to the African person. Indeed Psalm 149:3 tells us, ‘Let them praise his name in dance, make music with tambourine and lyre.’ We also remember that in Scripture, King David danced during the liturgy when the Ark was returning to Jerusalem,” said the Congolese priest.
Africa’s immense love for Pope Francis
Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo assured Pope Francis of the African continent’s love for him.
“Holy Father, we know that you love the people of Africa. Be also assured of our immense love for you. On behalf of all of us here and all Congolese who are united through prayer with us around the world, suffice it for me to thank you in our four main Congolese national languages:
Totondi yo botondi, Papa François!
Aksanti sana, Papa Francisco!
Twasakidila, Papa François!
Matondo mingi, Papa François!”