Pope urges DRC to Mark 50th Anniversary with 'Fresh Start'


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(29 Apr 10 - RV) Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called on the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make a fresh start as the nation marks its 50th anniversary of its independence.

The Pope was speaking to the new Ambassador from the Congo to the Holy See, Jean-Pierre Hamuli Mupenda, who is the first resident ambassador to the Holy See from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a number of years.

Pope Benedict told him his arrival reflects the desire of strengthening the relations between the two states.

The Central African country, after throwing off the dictatorship of Joseph Mobutu in 1997, entered into a period of civil wars and violence it still has not entirely escaped.

About half of the country is Catholic, and Pope Benedict said the Church will continue to contribute to the gradual rebuilding of the the social fabric which has been so badly wounded by the ongoing conflict in the country.

He said the country must encourage and strengthen the family, and work for an integrated Congolese education, which can help the work for justice and peace.

Speaking of the violence so prevalent in the country, the Holy Father said he was particularly concerned about the effect on women and children, whose dignity has been trampled on by the excessive violation of their rights.

Pope Benedict called on the Congo to use all political means to end the human suffering in the country.

He said the Catholic Church will continue to contribute to this task, including with its institutions dedicated to education and healthcare.