All reconciled in Jesus Christ

All reconciled in Jesus Christ

Placed under the theme "All reconciled in Jesus Christ", the visit of Pope Francis to the Democratic Republic of Congo, initially planned for July 2022, has just ended this morning, 03 February 2023. Arriving in Kinshasa on 31 January 2023, the Pope was welcomed by a jubilant people, long impatient to meet the Bishop of Rome and eager for words of consolation and comfort. Despite the scorching heat of this late January, thousands of men and women are there, amassed along the route to be taken by Pope Francis, from the international airport of Ndjili to the Palace of the Nation. This is where the country's civil and political authorities are waiting for him. From everywhere, one hears what has become a refrain of all meetings with the Pope: "Boyei bolamu Santu Papa" (Welcome Holy Father).

All reconciled in Jesus Christ, that is, in Him who is the Truth and the Life. Reconciliation, in fact, cannot take place without truth. And Pope Francis is not afraid to get dirty in order to speak the truth to all his interlocutors: governments, young people, priests, religious, seminarians, young people in formation, bishops.

From the beginning of his interventions, the Pope speaks out against the foreign powers and multinationals that exploit wealth, destroy life and sow war in Africa in general and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular. He launches his heartfelt cry, as long contained: "Stop suffocating the Democratic Republic of Congo, Stop suffocating Africa". He reminds the Congolese leaders of their irrevocable responsibility to work for the development of the nation, for the protection of the population and of nature. Pope Francis invites the Congolese people to cultivate peace and reconciliation. This invitation was made during the mass of 01 February 2023, celebrated in the Congolese rite at the Ndolo airfield. To cultivate this peace, three keys are fundamental: forgiveness, community and mission.

At the Stade des Martyrs, on the morning of February 2, 2023, Pope Francis addressed young people, urging them to reject the corruption that is destroying Congolese society. And to leave them, as a precious testament, the symbolism of the five fingers of the hand. The thumb indicates prayer as the sure foundation of an authentic Christian and human life. As for the index finger, it is evoked to represent community: "My friends," says the Pope, "do not let your youth be wasted by solitude and closure...always think of yourselves together and you will be happy, because community is the way to live in harmony with yourself, to be faithful to your vocation. The central finger, the middle finger, is evoked to underline the need for honesty in the Christian life, a life that needs forgiveness. The ring finger is rightly evoked to underline the importance of forgiveness. And finally, the little finger is the finger of service: "He who serves makes himself small; like a tiny seed that seems to disappear into the earth but instead bears fruit". On the afternoon of 2 February 2023, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Congo, Pope Francis met with priests, deacons, seminarians and consecrated persons. His words of exhortation are full of fraternity, tenderness and joy. Aware of the challenges facing consecrated persons, Pope Francis focuses on the following three: spiritual mediocrity, worldly comfort and superficiality. It is in speaking of the superficiality that threatens the consecrated life that the Holy Father addresses the question of ongoing formation and its inescapable importance. He speaks of it in the following terms: "A gift has been placed in our hands and it would be presumptuous of us to think that we can live the mission to which God has called us without working daily on ourselves and without forming ourselves in a suitable way in the spiritual life and in theology. People do not need officials of the sacred or graduates apart from the people. We are obliged to enter into the heart of the Christian mystery, to deepen its doctrine, to study and meditate on the Word of God; and at the same time to remain open to the concerns of our time, to the ever more complex questions of our time, to understand the lives and needs of people, to understand how to take them by the hand and accompany them. Therefore, the formation of clergy is not an option. I say this to the seminarians, but it is true for everyone: formation is a journey to be pursued always, for life".

Also on 2 February 2023, after having met with priests, deacons, seminarians and consecrated persons, Pope Francis received in a room of the Apostolic Nunciature in DR Congo, in a private way, his fellow Jesuits of the Jesuit Province of Central Africa. It was in this same room that the victims of the violence in the east of the country told the Holy Father of their suffering. The last official meeting takes place a few hours before the departure of the Bishop from Rome, that is to say today, 3 February 2023. The Pope's interlocutors are the CENCO Fathers Bishops. To them this message is given: "Be merciful. Mercy. Always forgive. When a believer comes to confession, he comes to ask for forgiveness, he comes to ask for the Father's caress. And we, an accusing finger: How many times? And how did you do it? No, not that. Forgive. Always forgive. But I don't know..., because the code tells me...The code we have to observe, because it is important, but the heart of the pastor goes beyond that! Take the risk. For forgiveness, take risks. Always. Always forgive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And so you will sow forgiveness for the whole society.

To the consecrated men and women of the DR Congo - but is he not also addressing all the consecrated men and women of our continent? - the Pope gives these words as a real balm to our hearts: "I thank you wholeheartedly, brothers and sisters, for what you are and what you do, for your witness to the Church and to the world. Do not be discouraged, the Church needs you! You are precious, important: I say this to you in the name of the whole Church. I wish you always to be channels of the Lord's consolation and joyful witnesses of the Gospel, prophets of peace in the midst of violence, disciples of Love, ready to heal the wounds of the poor and of those who suffer. Thank you again for your service and for your pastoral zeal. I bless you and carry you in my heart. And you, please, always pray for me! May God bless Pope Francis unceasingly so that his prophetic word may continue to awaken us, to keep in our hearts the taste for God and in our lives the passion for humanity and the common home.