by Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the killing of protesters demonstrating against President Joseph Kabila in several cities across the country.
After meeting recently with the heads of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference, the pope renewed his call during his weekly general audience Dec. 21, urging the people of Congo to “be authors of reconciliation and peace.”
“May those who have political responsibility listen to the voice of their own conscience, may they be able to see the cruel suffering of their compatriots and have at heart the common good,” the pope said.
Government security forces shot and killed 26 protesters during scattered demonstrations throughout the country against President Kabila, who has exceeded his presidential mandate, according to the Reuters news agency.
The news agency also reported that the government failed to schedule elections, citing logistical and financial issues, raising fears that the country would once again be thrown into chaos.
President Kabila and government authorities have rejected calls by local opposition leaders and the international community to respect the constitution and step down.
Pope Francis expressed his “support and affection for the beloved people of that country” and prayed that government leaders would work for the good of their people.
“I invite everyone to let themselves be guided by the light of the Redeemer of the world and I pray so that the Nativity of the Lord open paths of hope,” the pope said.