Pope Francis – in conflict zone CAR – seeks ‘new chapter’

POPE FRANCIS – VISITING HIS FIRST CONFLICT ZONE – HAS SAID HE HOPES NEXT MONTH’S POLLS IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) WILL OPEN A “NEW CHAPTER” FOR THE COUNTRY.
Media captionPope Francis was greeted with loud cheers at a refugee camp in BanguiMedia captionPope Francis was greeted with loud cheers at a refugee camp in Bangui
CAR has been torn apart by violence between Muslim rebels and Christian militias.
The Pope was speaking after arriving in the capital, Bangui.
Acting President Catherine Samba-Panza has asked him for “forgiveness” for the country’s recent religious violence.
Large crowds lined the road from the airport to welcome the Pope – and people cheered and sang when he arrived at a refugee camp.
In an address at the presidential palace, he called for unity and 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”.
The Pope said ahead of his trip he was determined to bring a message of peace and hope to the country.
During the visit, the pontiff will celebrate Mass in Bangui, but is also expected to meet Muslim leaders and visit a mosque in the city’s Muslim enclave, known as PK5.


This is the last leg of an African tour which took in Uganda and Kenya.
In Uganda, the Pope celebrated Mass in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of people, and spoke at a Catholic shrine dedicated to Christians martyred for their faith in the 19th Century.
The Mass marked the 50th anniversary of the martyrs’ canonisation.
On Friday, the Pope addressed an audience of young people in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, urging them to unite and take a stand against the destructive effects of tribalism.
War has blighted the CAR for decades, but it was only two years ago the fighting took on a religious form.
President Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013, and a group of mostly Muslim rebels from the north, the Seleka, marched on Bangui, briefly taking control of the country.
Their rebellion tapped into a feeling northerners had of being excluded and unrepresented by the central government, correspondents say.
They targeted churches and Christian communities, which triggered the creation of the anti-Balaka – meaning anti-violence – militias, and led to a downward spiral of tit-for-tat violence which continues.
Towns and villages are divided, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced into camps divided along religious lines.
BBC
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