Did you see the Pope in Africa?

Pope Francis’ 40th international trip was to Congo and South Sudan (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) (Jerome Delay/)

It is not common, at least for me, to write an article with a title in the form of a question. But this time, I think I’m expressing a fundamental part of what these lines are going to mean. From January 31 to February 5, Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan on his 40th apostolic journey. As Pope Francis himself said at the general audience following the trip, this journey was “a dream ”.

The Pope has once again made public his desire to visit small places and from there he chooses to speak to the world as Pastor. The Holy Father, from the smallness of these towns, marked a path. First of all, he values ​​and lends his voice to make known the resources and gifts of places that very few look at. And while he highlights pain and marginality, he also always highlights values. As he said of the Congo: “land rich in resources, but bloodied”. The Pope always speaks to the world from places that need a voice not only to tell others what they need or lack, but what they have and nobody values.

That it is spoken from the “last in the world” does not generate attraction, only a handful of brave portals have shown in these days the images and messages of Pope Francis in the suffered and exploited Africa. Francisco’s gesture of going to visit and catch up with remote populations was silenced by many. Let us think for a moment about the amount of “keyboard time” that he dedicated to the alleged ecclesiastical interns after the death of the Pope Emeritus (the “Chinese tales” that the Pope himself spoke of on the return trip); Imagine if that same amount of time and keyboard usage had been used to display the journey. For this reason, and I return to the title, it is worth asking if the Pope could be seen in Africa, because to achieve this, it was necessary to search… and a lot. We will have to wonder if the denunciations that the Pope made to the world about the exploitation of Africa could not be seen or if perhaps they did not want to show them to us…

Pope Francis was in South Sudan on a six-day tour of Africa.  (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis was in South Sudan on a six-day tour of Africa. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) (Gregorio Borgia/)

Francis went to Africa and he walked with that people who received him with joy, with their dances and their rites. With smiles and above all with a great testimony of hope in a present full of pain and violence. Many may think that the Pope went to Africa so that we can see that part of the world that is exploited and suffocated. I invite you to think of a totally different logic, and that is that Francisco, together with the people who received him, looked at us, at the rest of the world, who permanently forget that in many nations today there is still colonialism and the great The powers of the world only think about how to continue extracting resources and plundering the land. The Pope, along with the people who received him as his Shepherd, told each of us from the heart of the Gospel and using communication for forceful denunciation: “Don’t touch the Democratic Republic of the Congo, don’t touch Africa. Stop suffocating it, because Africa is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny”.

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The Holy Father lent his voice as soon as he set foot on African soil to communicate to the world the denunciation that the men and women of Africa cannot make. Could you see that Pope Francis was the voice of the voiceless?

The Pope went to meet that portion of the universal Church to be a Father who, together with his sons and daughters, looks at the world and gives his voice to denounce what is scandalously lived in many places today.

It was also difficult to be able to see in depth what the Pope did in Sudan on an ecumenical pilgrimage: at all times the Pope was with his fellow travelers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields. All wars are part of the horror story that currently invades our world., but there are wars that are made invisible, and the Pope had very clear words to express his desire for peace, an end to conflicts and the use of weapons. On his return trip, at the usual press conference, the Pope expressed a phrase that should resonate with all of us: “The whole world is at war and self-destruction.”

In these countries, Francis became a companion to those that no one takes into account. He spoke to them and together with them he looked at us and questioned us thoroughly. We must leave the permanent self-referentiality of thinking what I have to do for others or what the powerful should do for the weak and enter into the logic of Francis’ magisterial gestures: they look at us, tell us that we are valuable, that they have resources. “Do not take more things from the African people,” said the Pope“let them grow in their own identity”..

Pope Francis greets a group of faithful Catholics from the town of Rumbek (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Pope Francis greets a group of faithful Catholics from the town of Rumbek (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (Ben Curtis/)

How silent were the keyboards to accompany the Pope’s denunciations and his urgent cry for peace for all wars, but especially for those about which no one talks!

And finally, this trip of Francisco has had a clear message: In the midst of pain, and showing absolute resilience in the face of the climate of violence, the Church of the future is born on the African continent. The Pope looks at the traditional Europe and the believing and pious Latin America together with the African men and women, and he tells us that the Church of the future is there. In the midst of what seems weak, there is a people that has hope, there are communities that pray and grow in their faith, there are priestly and religious vocations; for example, 3.6% of the world total of young men studying for the priesthood are from the Republic of the Congo. The masses of this trip have been multitudinous.

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This trip of the Pope, of which little has been seen, has shown us the wealth and gifts of the peoples. He did not speak to the rest of the world about them, but together with them he spoke to us. He expressed to us in many ways that the great strengths of the world are built from below and from the weak. Francisco looks at the world from the peripheries, and from there he perceives what the whole world is, and becomes aware of what is happening.

We are in time to read the Pope’s messages and gestures on this recent apostolic journey. Let’s not talk about Africa, the Pope has made it possible for her to do it herself. She was seen very little, less was written, just as much was silenced, but the strength of gestures and words transcends those silences and we trust that they are truly transformative. Perhaps this trip did not attract the attention of the powerful, or perhaps we prefer to talk about other things, where we are the protagonists and not a wise man who empowers those who suffer with his actions.

*Father Máximo Jurcinovic is the director of the Communication and Press Office of the Argentine Episcopal Conference

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