President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was welcomed by Pope Benedict at the Vatican on Thursday. The two leaders discussed the struggle to disarm militants in the eastern region of Kivu and President Kabila extended an invitation for the Holy Father to visit the country.
The bulk of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the ongoing effort to wrest control from warlords who have dominated the provinces of North and South Kivu for years. According to the U.N., some 20,000 militia fighters occupy the area and have been responsible for razing villages, terrorizing locals and rape.
Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of respecting human rights in order to put an end to the suffering of the civilian population and build a more just and united society.
According to a statement from the Holy See’s Press Office, “Regional aspects of the question were also considered, with the hope being expressed that the forthcoming implementation of the 'Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region' may mark a decisive turning point in the promotion of the peace and well-being of all inhabitants of the area.”
Looking to build a brighter future for the beleaguered African nation, the Pope discussed the importance of “the education and formation of the young, for whom the Church is always ready to make her specific contribution” with President Kabila.
The significance of dialogue and collaboration, especially in reference to “resolving the problem of the restoration of certain properties of the Church which were nationalized several decades ago” was also raised.
The Press Office also related that "President Kabila invited the Holy Father to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo."