Pope Francis to go to two fragile African nations

Pope Francis to visit two fragile African nations



Pope Francis starts a trip on Tuesday to two fragile African nations often forgotten by the world, where protracted conflicts have left millions of refugees and displaced people grappling with hunger.

The Jan. 31-Feb 5 visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, takes the 86-year-old pope to places where Catholics make up about half of the populations and where the Church is a key player in health and education systems as well as in democracy-building efforts.

The trip was scheduled to take place last July but was postponed because Francis was suffering a flare-up of a chronic knee ailment. He still uses a wheelchair and cane, but his knee has improved significantly.

Both countries are rich in natural resources – DRC in minerals and South Sudan in oil – but beset with poverty and strife.

DRC, which is the second-largest country…