Pope Francis arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday afternoon for the start of a six-day visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.
"I waited a year for this trip,” the head of the Catholic Church told reporters on board his plane.
The visit was originally scheduled for mid-2022 but was postponed due to the Pope's knee problems.
During the visit to the DRC and South Sudan, countries struggling with poverty, conflict and natural disasters, the Pope wants to bring a message of hope and peace. Due to the fragile security situation in the DRC, he will remain in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.
“I actually wanted to go to Goma too, but because of the war I can’t,” he said on the plane.
Praying for Africa's migrants
Goma lies in eastern Congo, near the border with Rwanda, where violence has recently escalated. Rebels regularly carry out bloody attacks there.
As the Pope's plane flew over the Sahara Desert en route from Rome to Kinshasa, the Pontiff prayed for those who crossed the desert “in search of some well-being and freedom” and “did not make it.”
He also referred to those who made it as far as the Mediterranean coast but have been put into “camps and are suffering there.”
The pope regularly criticises the detention of migrants in North African countries, especially in Libya.