Pope Francis flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, becoming the first pope to visit the country since 1985.
Last year, Francis was forced to postpone his trip because of a knee ailment, but he has very much wanted to travel to a country where the local Catholic community is growing, and where the plights of the people resonate with a pontiff who has put a spotlight on refugees, the poor, the global south and the dangers of environmental destruction.
Tens of thousands of people waited for the pope’s motorcade in the capital, Kinshasa, where Francis met with national officials and charity workers.
The pope also met with victims of violence from the embattled eastern part of Congo. With armed rebel groups there routinely attacking civilians and forcing them to flee, Francis had to cancel a visit to the region, lest he endanger the faithful gathering to see him.
The pope’s African trip will continue when he travels to South Sudan later in the week.
Pope Francis on board a plane from Italy to to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the starting point of his trip to Africa.
Catholic priests waiting at the airport to greet the pope.
A photo released by Vatican showed the crowds in the capital, Kinshasa.
Scouts played drums ahead of the pope’s arrival outside the N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa.
Large crowds lined the streets of Kinshasa to welcome Francis as he began his trip through the capitol.
The pope had originally planned to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan last year, but he postponed the trip because of a knee ailment.
As much as Congo embodies the wounds that Francis hopes to heal, it is also a country with potentially great influence on the church’s future.
Honor guards preparing for a welcome ceremony at the Palais de la Nation.
Pope Francis and President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo at the welcome ceremony.
Francis addressing attendees at the Palais de la Nation.
Crowds trying to get a glimpse of the pope as he left the airport in Kinshasa.