Pope Francis on Tuesday evening landed in Kinshasa ahead of his two-nation visit to the continent.
The Pope is due to hold a mass in the city on Wednesday on the outskirts of the capital, Kinshasa,.
Thousands of people greeted Pope Francis when he touched down at the airport in Kinshasa.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to Africa’s biggest Roman Catholic community with almost 50% of the entire population, and this will be the country’s first papal visit in nearly four decades.
Later in the week, he’ll be joined by the Church of England’s most senior cleric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland when he travels to South Sudan.
He’s expected to urge political leaders to bring an end to years of hostilities. Both Congo and South Sudan have suffered decades of war and instability.
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 met President Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as he begins a six-day visit to the continent that was delayed by six months due to the 86-year-old’s poor health.
Delegations from the government and the Catholic Church greeted the pontiff, who is in a wheelchair, as he arrived at Ndjili international airport.
His planned visit to the eastern city of Goma has been cancelled for security reasons. but he will, however, meet survivors of conflict from the resource-rich eastern region, where dozens of armed groups have operated for decades.
Many Congolese are hoping that a visit from the head of the Catholic Church will bring a message of hope and might boost efforts from the country’s leaders to find lasting solutions for peace.
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.
South Sudan bans flights before Pope’s visit
All flights have been banned in South Sudan ahead of Pope Francis’ visit on Friday, with the civil aviation authority telling airlines they must cancel or postpone their services until normal timetabling resumes on Monday.
The 86-year-old pontiff has made several visits to Africa since becoming pope in 2013, but this is his first visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
On Saturday in Juba, the Pope will lead a prayer vigil with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Rev Iain Greenshields.
The government of South Sudan has also declared Friday a public holiday, so that people can turn out in big numbers to receive the Pope and the other two religious leaders.
Source: BBC Africa