Pope arrives in Bangui, amid refugees and Blue Helmets

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Pope arrives in Bangui, amid refugees and Blue Helmets

By Andrea Tornielli in Bangui

The Pope landed,on November 29, November in Central African Republic, where thousands of people lined the streets to welcome him: “I come as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope”

“I come to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope,” the Pope tweeted as he arrived in Bangui. A suffocating gust of hot wind and dust surrounded Francis the minute the Pope exited the papal plane, Alitalia flight AZ 4000. The Pope and his entourage landed in the capital of CAR
after a two and three quarter hour flight from Entebbe. The airport is surrounded by refugee huts. The Blue Helmets, soldiers of the CAR army and some Vatican gendarmes wearing bulletproof jackets, who arrived in the country a few days ago, are taking care of the Pope’s security.

The interim head of state, President Catherine Samba-Panza, waited for the Pope at the start of the red carpet. As on all the Pope’s visits, anthems were played. But this is the first time a Pope arrives in a country where the is a civil war underway. He was very eager to undertake this leg of his African visit, despite the fact he was, on a number of occasion, advised against landing in one of Africa’s richest countries in terms of resourses but one of the poorest in the world. When the era of French domination came to an end in 1960, the country was hit by crisis and governed by figures such as Bokassa I, who in 1977 asked Pope Paul VI to go to Bangui to crown him emperor. The Vatican got out of it by communicating to him that the Holy See no longer had a ritual for such occasions. Now, following John Paul II’s visit in August 1985, this is the second time a Pope is visiting the country to inaugurate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a week ahead of the originally scheduled date.

Thousands of people poured into the streets to welcome the Pope. Enthusiastic applause was also directed at the journalists on board three minibuses that sped along the dusty roads of Bangui, escorted by UN soldiers.

Sun, 11/29/2015 - 17:53
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