Pope Francis to visit Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan despite security concerns

Pope Francis to visit Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan despite security concerns
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Pope Francis is planning to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan later this year, the Vatican announced Thursday.
The pope has repeatedly delayed his trip to South Sudan due to continued eruptions of violence across the country [source: Getty]

Pope Francis in July will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, two African nations plagued by violence in which the pontiff has taken a particular interest, the Vatican announced Thursday.

The 85-year-old pope will be in the DRC from July 2 to 5, visiting the capital Kinshasa and Goma, the main town in the restive eastern province of North Kivu, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

He will then head to South Sudan from July 5 to 7, visiting the capital Juba, as part of a trip organised "at the invitation of their respective heads of state and bishops".

Security is likely to be tight for both parts of what will be the pope's fifth visit to the African continent and his second overseas trip announced for this year.

South Sudan, the world's newest nation, has suffered from chronic instability since independence in 2011, including a brutal five-year civil war.

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Meanwhile the DRC, which Pope John Paul II visited in August 1985, is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the east of the vast nation.