Pope Francis Visits a Basilica to Pray ahead of African Trip and Entrusts the Journey to Congo and South Sudan to Mary

 Pope Francis visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where he entrusted his upcoming journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan to Our Lady. Vatican News reports that the day before his 40th Apostolic Journey abroad, Pope Francis made a visit to the Roman Basilica of Saint Mary Major to entrust his visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy See Press Office noted that, the Holy Father spent some time in prayer before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani. Pope Francis is scheduled to depart from Rome on January 31st for a six-day Apostolic Journey. It has been the custom of Pope Francis to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major before his Apostolic Journeys abroad.
 This will be the first visit of a Pope to the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1985, when John Paul II travelled to the nation, known then as Zaire. The second leg of the journey will be the first-ever papal visit to South Sudan. The Pope is visiting the people of these African countries as a “pilgrim of peace,” carrying with him a message of reconciliation and hope. Cardinal Parolin: Reconciliation at heart of Pope’s journey to Africa In a letter addressed to the populations of both countries prior to his departure, Pope Francis noted the DRC “suffers from armed clashes and exploitation", especially in the east of the country, and that South Sudan, has been “wracked by years of war” and “longs for an end to the constant violence that forces many people to be displaced and to live in conditions of great hardship." The first part see the Pope in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 31 January to 3 February. Then, on Friday, he travels to South Sudan until 5 February for a visit which seeks to help restore hope in the world’s youngest nation. Source: Vatican News