By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After postponing his trip last July, Pope Francis has rescheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 5 his trip to Congo and his ecumenical visit to South Sudan, the Vatican announced.
With the pope's mobility still impaired, the new schedule for the trip has been trimmed slightly from what was planned in July, according to the scheduled released by the Vatican Dec. 1.
The main event missing from the schedule is a visit to Congo's North Kivu province to celebrate Mass near the site of the former Kibumba refugee camp, which is where, in February 2021, Italy's 43-year-old ambassador to Congo, Luca Attanasio, and two others were killed in an ambush while traveling in a U.N. convoy. Also missing is a meeting in Goma with the victims of violence.
Instead, the pope will remain in Kinshasa from his arrival in Congo Jan. 31 until his departure for South Sudan early Feb. 3.
As planned for years, the pope will travel to South Sudan with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and with the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, in a further attempt to encourage warring leaders to live up to the commitments they have made in a series of accords and finally offer their people peace.
The three leaders had been trying to schedule the visit since 2016, when South Sudanese Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian leaders visited the pope and archbishop and asked them to go to encourage the peace process. At least 60% of South Sudan's population, including its political leaders, are Christian.
A statement from Rev. Greenshields' office said, "The purpose of the visit is to renew a commitment to peace and reconciliation and stand in solidarity with millions of ordinary people who are suffering profoundly from continued armed conflict, violence, floods and famine."
Peace, unity and reconciliation also are the themes Pope Francis is expected to focus on in Congo, a nation rich in natural resources but torn apart by ongoing violence. The theme for the Congo visit is "All Reconciled in Jesus Christ," which emphasizes how more than 95% of the nation's people are Christian, yet sporadic fighting continues, especially in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country.
Here is the schedule released by the Vatican Dec. 1; all times are local, with Eastern time in parentheses:
Tuesday, Jan. 31 (Rome-Kinshasa)
-- 7:55 a.m. (1:55 a.m.) Departure by plane from Rome's Fiumicino airport to Kinshasa.
-- 3 p.m. (9 a.m.) Arrival at Kinshasa international airport. Official welcome.
-- 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Welcome ceremony at the Palais de la Nation.
-- 4:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) Courtesy visit with the president in the Palais de la Nation.
-- 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.) Meeting with authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in the garden of the Palais de la Nation. Speech by pope.
Wednesday, Feb. 1 (Kinshasa)
-- 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Mass at Ndolo airport. Homily by pope.
-- 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Meeting with victims from the country's East in the apostolic nunciature. Speech by pope.
-- 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Meeting with representatives of some charities. Speech by pope.
Thursday, Feb. 2 (Kinshasa)
-- 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Meeting with young people and catechists in Martyrs' Stadium in Kinshasa. Address by pope.
-- 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.) Meeting and prayer with priests, religious and seminarians in Our Lady of the Congo Cathedral. Speech by pope.
-- 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.) Private meeting with Jesuits in the apostolic nunciature.
Friday, Feb. 3 (Kinshasa, Juba)
-- 8:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.) Meeting with the Congolese bishops at the bishops' conference offices. Speech by pope.
-- 10:10 a.m. (4:10 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Kinshasa international airport and departure for Juba, South Sudan.
-- 3 p.m. (8 a.m.) Arrival at the Juba international airport and welcoming ceremony.
-- 3:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m.) Courtesy visit with the president at the presidential palace.
-- 4:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.) Meeting with the vice presidents of South Sudan.
-- 5 p.m. (10 a.m.) Meeting with authorities, civil society representatives and members of the diplomatic corps in the garden of the Presidential Palace. Speech by pope.
Saturday, Feb. 4 (Juba)
-- 9 a.m. (2 a.m.) Meeting with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians in St. Theresa Cathedral. Speech by pope.
-- 11 a.m. (5 a.m.) Private meeting with Jesuits at the apostolic nunciature.
-- 4:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.) Meeting with internally displaced people at Freedom Hall. Speech by pope.
-- 6 p.m. (11 a.m.) Ecumenical prayer service at the John Garang Mausoleum. Speech by pope.
Sunday, Feb. 5 (Juba, Rome)
-- 8:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m.) Mass, followed by the Angelus prayer, at the John Garang Mausoleum. Homily by pope.
-- 11 a.m. (3 a.m.) Farewell ceremony at Juba international airport.
-- 11:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) Departure by plane.
-- 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.) Arrival at Rome's Fiumicino airport.