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VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2010 (VIS) - Jean-Pierre Hamuli Mupenda, the new ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, today presented his Letters of Credence to Benedict XVI, reaffirming his country's desire to strengthen its ties with the Holy See. In his own address to the diplomat, the Pope spoke of his satisfaction at the move, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of Congo's independence, and expressed the hope that this commemoration may represent a "new starting point".

"Over recent years your country has gone through particularly difficult and tragic moments", said the Holy Father. "Blind and pitiless violence has afflicted a large part of the population, ... especially women, young people and children, whose dignity has been constantly flouted by the violation of their rights. ... The Catholic Church, herself wounded in many of her members and structures, wishes to favour interior healing and fraternity".

"The 2008 Goma agreement and international accords, especially the 'Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region', are necessary, but it is even more vital to lay the foundation for their implementation. Little by little, the badly-frayed fabric of society must be mended, helping the first natural form of society, which is the family, and consolidating interpersonal relations among Congolese people on the foundation of integral education, which is a source of peace and justice".

"I invite the public authorities to do everything in their power to end the state of war which, unfortunately, still persists in certain areas of the country, and to dedicate themselves to the social reconstruction of the nation, while respecting fundamental human rights. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, it is also a gift and a task that involves obligations for both citizens and the State".

The Pope also called upon the international community, "involved in various degrees in the successive conflicts that have afflicted the Congo, to mobilise and make an effective contribution to reinstating peace and legality".

"After so much suffering, your country needs to start resolutely down the path of national reconciliation", the Holy Father told the ambassador. "Your bishops have declared this anniversary year as a year of grace, renewal and joy, a year of reconciliation to rebuild a Congo of solidarity, prosperity and unity".

"One of the best ways to achieve this objective is by promoting the education of the young", said Pope Benedict. "The Congolese want their children to have a good education, but the immediate costs have to be met by families and this is a heavy, sometimes impossible, burden". Expressing his trust that a solution will be found to this question, he stressed the fact that "if the State helps parents by guaranteeing the regular payment of teachers, it will be making an investment useful for everyone".

"It is essential that children and young people be educated with patience and constancy, especially those who were deprived of schooling and taught how to kill. They must be inculcated, not only with knowledge that will be useful in adult life, but also with solid moral and spiritual bases that will help them to reject the temptation to violence and resentment, and to chose justice and truth instead. Within the limits of her powers the Church can, through her educational structures, contribute to and augment the structures of the State".

"The great natural wealth that God gave your land and that has, alas, become a source of greed and unbridled profit for many people inside and outside your country, would easily enable ... the people to emerge from poverty and provide for their food and health security. ... This requirement of justice, promoted by the State, would consolidate national reconciliation and peace, and enable the population to live a peaceful life, which is a necessary condition for their prosperity".

Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by calling on Congolese Catholics to be "generous witnesses of God's love, and to contribute to the construction of a united and fraternal country in which everyone can feel that they are fully loved and respected".