VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, with the Vatican insisting that Congo’s government use respectful dialogue to end violent clashes with opposition forces over delayed elections.
The audience Monday was a brief 20 minutes, with interpreters. The pope didn’t greet Kabila in the reception room where, according to Vatican protocol, Francis would normally greet a visiting head of state.
Rather, a glum-looking Francis waited for Kabila in his library.
Clashes have erupted between security forces and demonstrators after Congo’s electoral commission said November’s presidential vote wouldn’t be possible, and a court determined Kabila could stay in power until another election is organized.
The Vatican said the pope and Vatican foreign minister insisted on dialogue among politicians, civil and religious authorities to ensure peace and the common good.
In August on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Francis included the Congo among a series of global conflicts he described as covered in “shameful silence.”
“My thoughts go to the people of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently hit by new massacres that for a long time have been perpetrated in a shameful silence, without even attracting our attention,” Francis said.
“These victims are some, unfortunately, of the many innocents who have no weight in the international opinion,” he added in improvised remarks.
In the last two years, over 400 people have been killed in what’s known as the “Kivu conflict.” The cumulative toll of this fight, however, is well above 1.6 million people.