Officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Monday said that security measures had been increased ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the country’s capital, Kinshasa.
Several districts of Kinshasa have been cordoned off to protect the pontiff and his papal delegation during the visit.
In addition to local police and the army, the country has asked for support from the Vatican’s security services and the U.S. FBI, government spokesman Patrick Muyaya told dpa.
Pope Francis is to visit Congo and South Sudan during his six-day international trip that begins with his arrival on Tuesday in Kinshasa, the pope plans to stay in Kinshasa until Friday.
A highlight of the visit will be an outdoor mass on Wednesday at the N’Dolo military airbase.
Kinshasa’s Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo expects more than a million people to attend the service, while others have estimated as many as two million believers may come.
The Roman Catholic Church holds significant influence in Congo, an East African country of about 100 million residents.
The church has helped shape the country’s history and continues to exert a major influence on political decisions.
Pope Francis’ visit has raised hopes, particularly in the crisis-plagued eastern regions of the country, where violent clashes between rebel groups and the government have recently escalated.
According to the UN refugee agency, there are about 5.5 million displaced people in Congo who have been driven from their homes by conflicts or disasters.
The pope plans to meet with some of them during his time in the country.
Pope Francis is scheduled to leave Congo for the South Sudanese capital of Juda on Friday, where he is expected to remain until Sunday.