BANGUI, Central African Republic, Nov 30 – After confounding cynics and going ahead with his visit to the Central African Republic despite security fears, Pope Francis is expected to push on with his entreaty for a halt to sectarian violence Monday, when he visits a mosque in Bangui’s flash point PK5 district.
The 78 year-old Pontiff who visited the refugee camp in parish of St Sauveur in Bangui soon after arrival in CAR, called for unity saying everyone, not just the international community had a role to play in ensuring weapons are laid down.
“I wish you, and to all Central Africans, peace, great peace among you. That you may live in peace regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, social status… because we are all brothers.”
Pope Francis was greeted by tens of thousands of residents of the capital when he arrived from Uganda mid Sunday morning, and “felt welcome not just by the authorities, but by the people themselves due to the enthusiasm they showed,” Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists later.
During his meeting with government officials led by acting president Catherine Samba-Panza, Pope Francis expressed appreciation at the efforts made in ending violence in the country.
“It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark on a new chapter of its history.”
He said unity was a cardinal value for the harmony of the people and it was key “to avoid the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views, or our religious confession.”
He emphasized it was essential for all to live in dignity.
“Dignity is synonymous with honesty, loyalty, graciousness, and the honour which characterises men and women conscious of their rights and duties and which leads them to mutual respect.”
In the afternoon, Pope Francis made a detour from his planned programme and visited a children’s hospital where he made a donation of medical essentials and met with 50 children at the facility and their mothers.
It was revealed that Pope Francis agreed to come to the CAR in May this year.
Initially, it was meant to be a one day visit, but bishops who met him during an ad limina visit managed to convince him to make it an overnight stay.
“A lot has happened since and as late as yesterday, there are those who doubted he would still come,” Neston Desire revealed.
Pope Francis opened a “holy door” during mass at Bangui Cathedral, marking the symbolic start of a Jubilee year dedicated to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Earlier, he met acting president Catherine Samba-Panza at the presidential palace who begged his forgiveness for the wave of evil sectarian violence that has overwhelmed the country.
“On behalf of the ruling class of this country but also in the name of everyone who has played any part in this descent into hell, I confess all the evil that has been done here throughout the course of history and ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart.”