Pope Francis urges action to end bloodshed in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Pope Francis called on national and international authorities to take action to stop the bloodshed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo following a week in which dozens were killed in the North Kivu province.

At the end of his weekly Sunday prayers on St Peter’s Square, he said the victims included many Christians.

“Painful news continues to arrive of battles and massacres that are happening in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the pontiff said.

“I appeal to the national authorities and the international community to do all that is possible to stop the violence and to protect civilian lives.”

He said many Christians were among the victims of the recent attacks. Francis said they were “killed in hatred of their faith” and described them as “martyrs”.

The Pope also urged people to pray for peace in all areas afflicted by war, specifically mentioning Ukraine, the Holy Land, Sudan and Myanmar.

Congo’s government said militants have killed at least 41 people in the latest incident in the province, but civil society groups put the death toll much higher.

The authorities blame the Allied Democratic Forces group for the latest spate of attacks in the Beni region.

Nearly 150 people have died in North Kivu since the beginning of the month in killings attributed to the Islamic State group-linked rebels.

The eastern DRC has struggled with armed violence for decades as more than 120 groups fight for power, land, and valuable mineral resources.