Pope Francis arrives in the Central African Republic, advocates for peace and unity

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Pope Francis arrives in the Central African Republic, advocates for peace and unity

Vatican Radio and Elise Harris/CNA

Pope Francis arrived in the Central African Republic on Sunday, November 29, on the last leg of his Apostolic journey to Africa, his 11th abroad. A journey which marks his first to this continent and which has taken him to Kenya and Uganda.

In the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, Pope Francis will accomplish an historic gesture by opening the Holy Door of the cathedral in this city nine days before the inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy on the 8th of December in the Vatican.

A symbolic gesture given the nation’s gruesome reality of ethnic and religious violence over the past two years which has pitted the majority Muslim Séléka forces against the majority Christian anti- Balaka forces. A situation which led to tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring countries. And as brutal atrocities were reported on both sides the United Nations warned that there was high risk of the country descending into genocide.

For a long time the organizers of this visit of Pope Francis were uncertain whether they would have to cancel the visit to this nation for fear of lack of security. For the record the nation gained independence from France in 1960 and is one of the poorest in the world.

Among the other highlights of the visit of Pope Francis on Sunday in Bangui are a meeting with the local authorities and the diplomatic corps, a visit to the St Sauveur refugee camp, and a private encounter with the Bishops of the nation.

After landing in the war-torn Central African Republic, Pope Francis urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation, particularly through disarmament and a stable administration.

“As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalization of its social and political life…I come as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope,” the Pope said.

He praised the efforts made by both national and international authorities in working to find a solution to current tensions, and expressed his hope that the country’s coming elections would allow the CAR “to embark serenely on new chapter of its history.”

Sun, 11/29/2015 - 16:07
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