Pope Francis arrived in Congo on Tuesday afternoon for the start of a six-day trip to Africa.
“I have waited a year for this trip,” the head of the Catholic Church told journalists on board his special plane.
The trip, initially planned for mid-2022, was postponed due to knee problems.
During the visit to Congo and South Sudan countries beset by poverty, conflicts and natural disasters, Francis wants to convey hope and promote peace.
Due to the fragile security situation in Congo, Francis is staying in the capital Kinshasa.
“I also wanted to go to Goma really, but because of the war I can’t,” he said on the plane.
In eastern Congo near the border with Rwanda, violence has recently escalated and rebels have repeatedly carried out bloody attacks.
As the plane flew over the Sahara on Tuesday morning on their way from Rome to Kinshasa, the pontiff sought a prayer for those who had crossed the desert in search of some well-being and freedom and did not make it.
He also recalled those who had made it as far as the Mediterranean coast “but were put in camps there and suffered.”
The Pope regularly criticises the detention of migrants in North African countries, especially in Libya.