Before an audience of 183 diplomats, Pope Francis presented his best wishes for the new year. During this address, he also laid out his international priorities for 2023, and took stock of the current conflicts.
During his address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on Monday (Jan. 09), Francis underlined his "apprehension" about certain conflicts in the Africa.
Indeed, we are just a few weeks away from his trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 31.
His journey to the African country hosting the largest Catholic population, was initially scheduled to welcome the pontiff last July. However, it was postponed because he faced health issues.
Francis's wish to come as a "pilgrim of peace" remained intact.
But his itinerary had to undergo changes. Peter's successor will no longer visit the east of the country, which is plagued by violence from armed groups.
Tens of thousands of Congolese have been displaced, with many heading toward Goma, amid renewed clashes between government soldiers and M23 rebels in Congo's mineral-rich east. A cease-fire to end the latest round of fighting was supposed to go into effect last week.
In Kinshasa, he is set to parade down the Lumumba Boulevard to the presidential palace. It is there that the Pope will deliver his first address on Congolese soil.
Six sites have been selected for this papal visit. The most important event will be a mass that will be celebrated one day after his arrival. It will take place at the military airport of Ndolo. This is the only open site that can accommodate over a million people.
The 86-year-old bishop joined his voice to the cry for peace of the people of South Sudan.
After the Congo leg of the trip Jan. 31-Feb. 2, he will be joined by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Rev. Iain Greenshields, for a first-ever ecumenical peace trip by the leaders of the three Christian churches, to Juba, South Sudan, from Feb. 3-5.
There, the three will celebrate an ecumenical prayer service together, and meet with displaced South Sudanese.
On Monday, Francis also expressed his concerns over the crises experienced by Burkinabes, Malians, and Nigerians.
He wished for the transition processes underway in Sudan, Mali, Chad, Guinea and Burkina Faso to take place "in respect for the legitimate aspirations of the populations involved."
The Pope also strongly called for the universal recognition of religious freedom.
A reform of multilateral bodies
On multilateralism, he noted a model in crisis: "The current conflict in Ukraine has made all the more evident the crisis that has long affected the multilateral system, which needs a profound rethinking if it is to respond adequately to the challenges of our time."
"This demands a reform of the bodies that allow it to function effectively, so that they can be truly representative of the needs and sensitivities of all peoples, and avoid procedures that give greater weight to some, to the detriment of others. It is not a matter of creating coalitions, but of providing opportunities for everyone to be partners in dialogue."
He therefore called for it to be reformed: "a reform of the bodies that allow it to function effectively, so that they can be truly representative of the needs and sensitivities of all peoples, and avoid procedures that give greater weight to some, to the detriment of others. It is not a matter of creating coalitions, but of providing opportunities for everyone to be partners in dialogue.