DRC President Felix Tshisekedi waits to welcome Pope Francis. DRC President Felix Tshisekedi waits to welcome Pope Francis.  (AFP or licensors)

DRC: President Tshisekedi’s welcome to Pope Francis.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, in his welcome remarks, thanked Pope Francis for his closeness to the DRC and for “praying fervently for peace in the eastern region of our nation.”

Vatican News English Africa.

Arriving in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pope Francis travelled to the Palais de la Nation (French for Palace of the Nation), in Gombe, Kinshasa, which since 2001, has served as the official residence of the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the garden of the Palais de la Nation, Pope Francis delivered his first speech in the DRC before the nation’s authorities, civil society and diplomatic corps.

Below is a working translation of President Tshisekedi’s welcome speech which was delivered in the French language:


Welcome Speech of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi, to His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of an Apostolic Voyage to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Palais de la Nation - 31 January 2023.  

Your Holiness,

With great joy, the Congolese people and I welcome the honour you do to the Democratic Republic of Congo by coming for a pastoral visit here starting today under the motto, "All reconciled in Jesus Christ."

The Congolese people welcome you with joy and gladness, as they did your venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, of happy memory, on 14 August 1985, during his last Apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo, after an initial visit five years earlier.

On behalf of all our people, in the diversity of their religious sensitivities; on behalf of all present and those who, for various reasons, could not make the trip, as well as on behalf of my family, I wish you a warm welcome.

Diplomats, members of civil society and authorities listen to Pope Francis.
Diplomats, members of civil society and authorities listen to Pope Francis.

Your Holiness,

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a large country in the heart of the African continent, consisting of 26 provinces where more than 450 tribes live.

These tribes have a rich and harmonious cultural diversity, and this, rather than being a separating factor, has become, throughout the history of our nation, a ferment for the advent of a land of peace and hospitality, as well as a welcome for the peoples of Africa and the world.

Your Holiness,

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo has proclaimed the secularity of the state as a constitutional principle, the lives of our people remain deeply tied to the religious convictions that translate the dynamism and vitality of their faith.

These beliefs structure our collective actions, and the lives of our families are based mainly on religious values. One of these values is hospitality, a cardinal value shared by all our families and individuals.

Unfortunately, we must note that in the past three decades, this hospitality that characterises us has been undermined by enemies of peace and terrorist groups, especially from neighbouring countries. This misfortune has made part of our territory, which has been plagued by violence for almost three decades, an area where, in addition to armed groups, foreign powers eager for the minerals of our subsoil are committing cruel atrocities with the direct and close support of our neighbour Rwanda, making security the first and most significant challenge for the government.

Indeed, thanks to the inaction and silence of the international community, more than 10 million people have already been atrociously snatched from their lives. Innocent women, including pregnant ones, are being raped and disembowelled, young people and children are having their throats slit, families, the elderly, and children are being condemned to brave fatigue and exhaustion as they move away from their homes in search of peace because of the exactions committed by these terrorists in the service of foreign interests.

We cannot and will not remain silent in the face of this injustice and complicit silence of the international community. In this regard, you should know that I did not fail to name and challenge, during my last speech at the United Nations, on behalf of all Congolese, those responsible for this tragedy and to confront them with their responsibilities.

Pope Francis's audience at the Palais de la Nation on first day in Kinshasa.
Pope Francis's audience at the Palais de la Nation on first day in Kinshasa.

Let it also be assured that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is and will continue to assume its responsibilities, particularly that of defending the integrity of its territory with the help of its people; indeed, despite this worrisome security situation, the patriotism and determination of the Congolese people in defence of their homeland is their strength. Know, Your Holiness, that the Congolese people are and will remain a great people, a united and strong people in the face of any threat to the integrity of their territory and the survival of their nation.

In this regard, I am pleased by your willingness to receive a delegation from this martyred population of the East of our country, which I am convinced will allow you to grasp this unprecedented resilience that today, more than ever, defines and characterises us as a nation. Moreover, beyond the diversity of their religious beliefs, these populations remain appreciative of your presence on Congolese soil, and the echo of your pastoral visit, as well as your prayer on the land of our ancestors, will bring them comfort.

Thank you on behalf of the entire Congolese population for the interest you have always shown in the security situation in our country, praying fervently for peace in the eastern region of our nation.

Your Holiness,

The second challenge of government is that of the economy in relation to the values of sharing, equity and responsibility. These values, embodied in our collective action as citizens and political leaders, can serve as the basis for building a more just and humane society.

Described as a geological scandal because of the magnitude of its wealth and mineral potential, the fact remains that, to date,

this immense potential is still not benefiting the Congolese. Indeed, with its rich economic potential, the Democratic Republic of Congo contains in its subsoil most of the mineral resources the world needs today to ensure ecological transition and environmental protection. Our responsibility is to leave no one on the sidelines of the road to economic development, working together for the collective good to reduce, if not eliminate, poverty.

Although the obstacles on this path are many, they are not insurmountable, as evidenced by the government's commitment to include the poorest and most disadvantaged in the national education system by making effective the constitutional principle of free primary education, which had not been applied for many years. The benefits of this bold and courageous decision are undeniable for our children's future and for building the Congo of tomorrow.

School children in Kinshasa waiting to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.
School children in Kinshasa waiting to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.

This is an opportunity to pay a well-deserved tribute to the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the services it has rendered in this area. Indeed, successive governments have always maintained and consolidated their partnership with the Church, and the Catholic Church in particular, to ensure upstream education and the management of educational and hospital infrastructure to meet basic social needs, particularly in education and health.

However, to sustain the efforts made, it has proven necessary to adapt economic and financial resources to demographic change and population density challenges. It is with this in mind that we encourage and call for mutually beneficial partnerships in the exploitation of our wealth so that it contributes to increasing job opportunities and improving the living conditions of our people; at the same time, we work vigorously to combat corruption and capital flight, so that these resources genuinely serve the interest of all.

Your Holiness,

The third major challenge is that of environmental protection. Indeed, regarding this challenge, the Government of the Republic and I share the values defended in your encyclical "Laudato si'," published in 2015, on one of the main challenges facing humanity today, namely the fight against global warming.

I am glad that the fight against climate change is your forte. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo and its government are very sensitive to humanity's urgency and responsibility in building the planet's future and protecting our common home.

Within the country, protecting the environment is part of our responsibility in opening the country to fossil fuel and resource exploitation. Therefore, all contracts with partners who intend to exploit our natural resources can only be regularly concluded with a serious and prior study of the project's environmental impact to be implemented.

In addition, the government pays special attention to the protection of biodiversity in nature parks scattered throughout our territory, where rare species important to the balance of this biodiversity still suffer from insecurity and where animals, including endangered ones, are also victims of the barbarism of armed groups.

Very recently, we have very carefully issued tenders for the exploitation of some oil fields in strict compliance with environmental protection regulations and principles, drawing on our proven experience in this field.

In the context of the economic recession following the post-Covid crisis and the armed conflict in Ukraine, this judicious choice will, in the long run, enable our economy to absorb the shock of these crises and our people to finally benefit from the riches of their subsoil.

In any case, the members of the Government of the Republic and I do not stop reaffirming this commitment, as was the case during the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, where we presented the Democratic Republic of Congo, in front of the world, as a "solution country" to the climate crisis and the fight against climate change.

Welcome at the airport.
Welcome at the airport.

In fact, our country has 165 million hectares of forest, the second largest tropical forest in the world, a great reserve of biodiversity, which has as its main resource its carbon absorption capacity, the first in the world, able to absorb almost 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.

For this reason, to better protect our forests, we have always fought for climate justice so that the major polluters at the root of environmental destruction compensate the custodians of the planet that we are. These compensations could enable us to strengthen our ability to pursue and implement innovative investments and infrastructure development in renewable energy and waste management.

Finally, I firmly believe that eliminating security threats in our country will undoubtedly contribute to the effectiveness of combating climate change and protecting the environment.

Your Holiness,

These are the main challenges, among many, of our country, which, with the determination of its people and their support, we will not fail to face.

Your pastoral visit will surely strengthen this determination, and our people are ready to welcome your message of peace, hope, comfort, support and brotherhood.

I want to conclude my remarks by wishing you, on behalf of all our people, a pleasant pastoral stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Be welcome, or as we say in our four national languages:




Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

31 January 2023, 23:04