Pope Francis urged the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan on Saturday to “turn a page” and forge new paths of reconciliation, peace and development.
Francis issued a video message on the day he had planned to begin a weeklong pilgrimage to the two African countries. He canceled the scheduled trip last month because of knee pain that makes walking and standing difficult.
In the message, Francis said he was “greatly disappointed” by the turn of events and promised to visit “as soon as possible.”
He urged the people of both countries not to allow themselves to be robbed of hope despite the violence, political instability, exploitation and poverty that he said had pained them for so long.
“You have a great mission, all of you, beginning with your political leaders: It is that of turning a page in order to blaze new trails, new paths of reconciliation and forgiveness, of serene coexistence and of development,” Francis said.
He said political leaders owed the pursuit of such goals to young people who dream of peace “and deserve to see those dreams come true”
“For their sake, above all, it is necessary to lay down arms, to overcome all resentment, and to write new pages of fraternity,” the pope said.
While Francis was unable to travel, he is due to celebrate a special Mass at St. Peter’s on Sunday for Rome’s Congolese community.
The Pope sent his deputy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to visit both Congo and South Sudan on the days he was supposed to have been there.