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Pope Francis' Africa Visits: Timeline


FILE: Pope Francis greets people during the Holy Mass at John Garang Mausoleum during his apostolic journey, in Juba, South Sudan, February 5, 2023.

Pope Francis arrived Friday in South Sudan to promote peace and reconciliation in the world's youngest nation and will stay through Sunday before returning to Rome. The pope is on the second leg of his African tour following a stop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Francis' past visits, including to some of the most troubled countries in Africa, have been widely perceived as courageous and vital in fostering peace, reconciliation and interfaith dialogue. Catholicism is practiced throughout the continent which boasts a significant population of followers.

Here is a timeline of Francis' visits to Africa.

Third Africa Tour: 2023

Francis' trip to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which began on Jan. 31, has been long-waited as it previously was postponed due to the pontiff's health concerns.

South Sudan: 3-5 Feb.

Upon his arrival at Juba International Airport, Francis is warmly received by a high-level delegation, including President Salva Kiir.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit receives Pope Francis at the Juba International Airport during his apostolic journey, in Juba, South Sudan, February 3, 2023.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit receives Pope Francis at the Juba International Airport during his apostolic journey, in Juba, South Sudan, February 3, 2023.

At the start of his two-day visit to the conflict-ridden nation, the pope calls on the leaders of the country to start a new peace effort and said that history will remember them for what they do.

“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do,” Francis said. “For just as the Nile leaves its sources to begin its course, so the course of history will leave behind the enemies of peace and bring renown to those who are true peacemakers.”

Thousands of Christians and Muslims line the route of Francis' motorcade, waving flags in celebration.

A nun in the crowd shouts that the country needs peace as Pope Francis prepares to leave in his vehicle from the airport in Juba, South Sudan Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
A nun in the crowd shouts that the country needs peace as Pope Francis prepares to leave in his vehicle from the airport in Juba, South Sudan Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.

“The pope is closest to God,” Poni Jadalla, 45, told AP as she waited to welcome Francis on the first-ever papal visit to the country. “Let the pope give us peace so that this country can develop and no more bloodshed.”

Analysis: Pope Francis' 'Pilgrimage for Peace' in SSudan [5:34]
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South Sudan is still grappling with the effects of intercommunal conflicts, causing extensive violence and displacement of communities, despite the 2018 peace agreement that ended the civil war. The pope's visit is seen as an opportunity to address these conflicts and promote a lasting peace.

DRC: 31 Jan-3 Feb.

Francis visits the Democratic Republic of the Congo — a nation plagued by years of conflict and political instability — where he meets with President Felix Tshisekedi, officials, diplomats, religious and civil society leaders and victims of conflict.

Pope Francis sits next to Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi as he attends the welcoming ceremony at the Palais de la Nation on the first day of his apostolic journey, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 31, 2023.
Pope Francis sits next to Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi as he attends the welcoming ceremony at the Palais de la Nation on the first day of his apostolic journey, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 31, 2023.

On the first day of his Africa tour that kicked off Tuesday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Francis condemns “economic colonialism” and the “political exploitation” of the DRC and Africa.

“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa,” the pontiff said in an address at the presidential palace in the country's capital Kinshasa.

On the second day of his visit, over a million people turn out for a papal mass, according to organizers.

Over One Million Attend Pope Francis DRC Mass  
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In addition, the pope addresses an audience of around 65,000 people at Kinshasa's Martyrs' Stadium on the third day of his visit, where he urges Congolese youth to denounce corruption and promote peace.

Francis has a moment with the enthusiastic crowd when he asked them to chant "let's say no corruption,” after him.

The speech is interrupted often by applause and cheers.

The pontiff's visit to the central African country, where about 40% of the population practice Catholicism, marks the first papal visit since 1985.

Second Africa Tour: 2019

Francis has a busy year in 2019 with several trips to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Mozambique: 4-6 Sept.

On a three-day visit, Francis meets with President Filipe Nyusi and celebrates mass at the Independence Square in Maputo, where he calls on Mozambicans to work towards peace and reconciliation following years of civil war. He also visits the country's largest mosque and meets with the Muslim community.

FILE - Pope Francis waves as he arrive to leads a Holy Mass at the Zimpeto stadium in Maputo, on Sept. 6, 2019.
FILE - Pope Francis waves as he arrive to leads a Holy Mass at the Zimpeto stadium in Maputo, on Sept. 6, 2019.

Madagascar: 7-9 Sept.

Upon his arrival to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, Francis celebrates a large open-air mass attended by an estimated 1 million people.

Despite Madagascar's vast and unique natural resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. The World Bank says 75% of its 24 million people live on less than $2 a day; only 13% of the population has access to electricity.

Throughout this historic visit, Francis highlights two main issues: the urgent need to address the environmental crisis and its impact on the poor and vulnerable communities in Madagascar.

Mauritius: 9-10 Sept.

Francis visits the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius to celebrate its diversity, encourage a more ethical development and honor a 19th century French missionary who ministered to freed slaves.

FILE - Pope Francis waves as he arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on Sept. 9, 2019.
FILE - Pope Francis waves as he arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on Sept. 9, 2019.

Thousands of Mauritians waved palm branches as Francis arrived in his popemobile to celebrate a Mass honoring the Rev. Jacques-Desire Laval. While Catholics represent less than a third of Mauritius' population of 1.3 million, Laval is seen as a unifying figure for all Mauritians, most of whom are Hindu of Indian descent.

Visit to Morocco: 2019

During his visit to Morocco in March of 2019, Francis meets with King Mohammed VI and praises the country's approach of promoting respect and harmony among Moroccans of all faiths.

He also visits the Hassan Tower and the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, where he pays tribute to the former leader's role in promoting religious tolerance and the protection of Moroccan Jews during the Holocaust.

FILE - This photo was taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis blessing Moroccan women upon his arrival for a visit to the Rural Center for Social Services at Temara, south of Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco.
FILE - This photo was taken and handout by the Vatican press office, Vatican Media, on March 31, 2019 shows Pope Francis blessing Moroccan women upon his arrival for a visit to the Rural Center for Social Services at Temara, south of Rabat, during the pontiff's two-day visit to Morocco.

Francis also meets with representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities, where he emphasizes the importance of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

Visit to Egypt: 2017

Francis travels to Egypt in April of 2017. His trip takes place as the North African country grapples with Islamic extremism, political turmoil and economic hardship.

Francis meets with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, and participates in an inter-religious peace conference, where he emphasizes the need for dialogue and understanding between different religions.

Pope Francis Visits Egypt (2017)
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The pope also visits the St. Peter and St. Paul Church in Cairo, which had been the site of a bombing in December 2016, resulting in 29 deaths and many injuries. He offers his condolences to the victims and their families, denouncing the violence as an attack on all Egyptians, regardless of their religion.

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, file photo, security forces examine the scene inside the St. Mark Cathedral in central Cairo, following a bombing.
FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, file photo, security forces examine the scene inside the St. Mark Cathedral in central Cairo, following a bombing.

First Africa Tour: 2015

In 2015, Francis says on many occasions that he intends to travel to Africa. The Vatican website states the pope's seven-day tour would include Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Kenya: 25-27 Nov.

During his visit to Nairobi, Kenya, Francis meets with President Uhuru Kenyatta and addresses the Kenyan parliament, urging leaders to fight corruption and promote peace and unity.

FILE - Pope Francis speaks as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to him, at Nairobi's State House, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.
FILE - Pope Francis speaks as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta listens to him, at Nairobi's State House, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.

He also visits the slums of Kangemi where he denounces the conditions dwellers are forced to live in, saying that everyone should have dignified and adequate housing.

FILE- Pope Francis is cheered by children during his visit to Kangemi, one of the 11 slums dotting Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.
FILE- Pope Francis is cheered by children during his visit to Kangemi, one of the 11 slums dotting Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

Francis was welcomed by a large crowd at the University of Nairobi where he urges Christian and Muslim leaders to engage in dialogue as a means against brutal attacks by Islamic extremists that have plagued the country. He also encourages young people to take on the role of change-makers and reject violence and extremism.

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the campus of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015.
Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at the campus of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015.

Uganda: 27–29 Nov.

Francis visits to Uganda, marking the first time a pope visited the East African country in almost 30 years.

In his speeches, Francis emphasizes the importance of unity and reconciliation and called on Ugandans to work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous society.

CAR: 29-30 Nov.

During his trip to the Central African Republic, Francis meets with President Catherine Samba-Panza and celebrates mass at the Bangui Municipal Stadium, where he calls for peace, reconciliation and forgiveness in the nation's journey to achieve stability.

He also visits a mosque in the PK5 neighborhood, which had previously been a site of clashes between Muslims and Christians. Francis encourages interfaith dialogue and cooperation as essential elements in the pursuit of lasting peace and harmony.

FILE - Pope Francis waves to the crowd on the occasion of his visit at the Central Mosque in Bangui's Muslim enclave of PK5, Central African Republic, Monday Nov. 30, 2015.
FILE - Pope Francis waves to the crowd on the occasion of his visit at the Central Mosque in Bangui's Muslim enclave of PK5, Central African Republic, Monday Nov. 30, 2015.

Francis' visit to CAR is highly regarded, as it marked the first time a pope visited the country, which has been suffering a civil war and sectarian violence for several years.

Some of the information in this report came from The Associated Press. This report was compiled by VOA's Hassuna Baishu.

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