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Pope wants to bring ‘consolation and hope’ to Central African Republic

Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of the Central African Republic, which he will visit from November 29-30 as part of a three-country tour of Africa.

In the message, Pope Francis told the people living in the war-torn country that he wanted his visit to bring them “consolation and hope”, according to Vatican Radio.

“Your dear country has for too long been affected by a violent situation and by insecurity of which many of you have been innocent victims,” the Pope said.

“The goal of my visit is, above all, to bring you, in the name of Christ, the comfort of consolation and hope. I hope with all my heart that my visit may contribute, in one way or another, to alleviate your wounds and to favour conditions for a better, more serene future for Central Africa and all its inhabitants.”

Pope Francis added that the theme of his visit, “Let us pass to the other side”, invites Christians “to look ahead with determination and encourages each person to renew their own relationship with God and with their brothers and sisters to build a new, more just and fraternal world”.

During his time in Bangui, Central African Republic’s capital, Francis is expected to visit the city’s main mosque, attend an inter-faith meeting, celebrate Mass and go to an evening prayer vigil. According to Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope will travel in an open-sided popemobile and will not a wear a bullet proof vest.

The country has been the scene of violence and upheaval since 2013. Although religious leaders insist the conflict is political and ethnic, the fighting has divided the country on religious lines — with mostly Muslim rebel forces battling mainly Christian militias. Despite the presence of UN peacekeeping troops, the violence increased in September and October.

Prior to visiting Central African Republic, Francis will travel to Kenya and Uganda with the papal visit starting on Wednesday.

Pope Francis sent a separate video message to the people of Kenya and Uganda, saying he is coming to the countries “as a minister of the Gospel, to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ and his message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace”.

He added: “My visit is meant to confirm the Catholic community in its worship of God and its witness to the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and commands us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and those in need.

“At the same time I wish to encounter all the people of Kenya and Uganda, and to offer everyone a word of encouragement. We are living at a time when religious believers, and persons of good will everywhere, are called to foster mutual understanding and respect, and to support each other as members of our one human family. For all of us are God’s children.”