Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 28, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA
Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2022 / 04:41 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has rescheduled his trip to the African countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for Jan. 31-Feb. 5, 2023, the Vatican announced on Thursday.
The visit was originally to take place in the beginning of July 2022, but was postponed by the Vatican due to problems with Pope Francis’ knee. The 85-year-old pope apologized in June for having to put off the trip, and vowed to reschedule it “as soon as possible.”
Francis will spend the first leg of the trip, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, in the Congolese city of Kinshasa, before visiting the South Sudanese capital, Juba, Feb. 3-5.
An updated schedule released by the Vatican Dec. 1 showed that the pope no longer plans to visit the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of the original trip schedule.
The logo and motto for the trip were announced in March 2022.
Francis’ visit to South Sudan will be a “pilgrimage of peace,” and take place together with the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.
Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit South Sudan, which became the world’s newest country when it declared independence from the Republic of the Sudan on July 9, 2011. The nation in east-central Africa has a population of 11 million people, around 37% of whom are Catholic.
In 2019, Pope Francis brought South Sudanese leaders together at the Vatican for a “spiritual retreat” aimed at resolving their differences.
He also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Congolese immigrants in 2019, marking the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a Central African country of around 90 million people, roughly half of whom are Catholic. Pope John Paul II visited the country, then known as Zaire, in 1980.
After reluctantly bowing out of his own scheduled trip to Africa in July, Pope Francis sent the Vatican’s second-highest-ranking official in his place, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The pope also celebrated a Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 3, the day he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.