Pontiff to visit two conflict-torn countries where Catholic Church exercises outsize influence

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A billboard of Pope Francis is displayed ahead of his arrival in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Pope Francis fell to his knees and kissed the feet of rival leaders of South Sudan in 2019, imploring them to keep building peace and end a devastating civil war. The pope, who now uses a wheelchair because of problems with his knee, is expected to repeat the substance if not the form of that appeal on a trip to the country and the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Catholic Church exercises outsize influence in both countries, whose populations are each about half Catholic, and where church officials and institutions fill some of the gaps left by weak governments and civil society. The results of the church’s political interventions have been mixed, however. The pope this week is making common cause in his campaign for peace and democracy-building with other faith leaders, two of whom will join him for part of his travels.

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