Pope Francis is on Tuesday expected to land in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the largest Roman Catholic community in Africa, for a three-day visit.
It is more than 37 years since the previous Pope, John Paul II, visited the country – when it was called Zaire.
The authorities in the country have declared Wednesday a public holiday in the capital, Kinshasa, to allow Catholics to attend a mass led by Pope Francis at Ndolo Airport.
Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the journey ahead of his departure.
Tomorrow I will depart on an Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to the Republic of South Sudan. I greet with affection those beloved peoples who await me. I ask everyone, please, to accompany this Journey with their prayers.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 30, 2023
The pontiff will stay in Kinshasa until Friday before travelling to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, where he will be joined by his Anglican counterpart, the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the Church of Scotland Moderator.
However, there has been some controversy surrounding the Catholic leader’s visit to Kinshasa.
Some market workers in the city have been told to dismantle their stalls to make roads tidy before the pope’s arrival. This has left some people feeling aggrieved.