Shortly after landing in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pope Francis delivered a speech full of stinging condemnation of the exploitation over centuries – not just of this country, but also the continent.
He talked of political strangleholds giving way to “economic colonialism”, which he said was equally enslaving.
In the best-received section of the speech he told the outside world to acknowledge the catastrophic things that have been done in the country and to fully respect people here.
“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa, it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered,” Pope Francis said to applause, referring to the rich resources that have brought so much conflict and death to the country.
Concerns about Pope’s mobility
He did talk of the greed that has more recently in the DR Congo, in his words, “smeared its diamonds with blood,” referring to the nearly seven million people that are estimated to have been killed in conflict here over the past 30 years.
But he postponed until now because of health problems centred around his mobility, and now security concerns mean there will be no trip to the east.
On the plane from Rome, Pope Francis informed journalists that he regretted he was not able to walk through the aisle to greet them all as he usually would, and asked instead that we go forward to meet him.
The first view the public had of the Pontiff when he landed in Kinshasa was in a wheelchair, but in spite of the promise of a reduced international travel schedule it has been clear in recent months that coming on this trip was a priority for Pope Francis.
In the DR Congo, as well as his denunciation of outsiders, his overriding message was for people here to view themselves as “infinitely more precious than any treasure” found in the soil here, and for political leaders to act in the interests of those people.
Later in the week in a historic first, the Pope will be joined on a foreign trip by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland when he travels to South Sudan.
There he is likely to call for the political leaders whose feet he famously kissed after a meeting at the Vatican to do much more to bring about peace in another troubled nation.