Put down the weapons of war and work for justice, Pope Francis has urged the people of the Central African Republic.
“Even when the powers of hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love and peace,” the Pope said in a homily on Sunday evening at Bangui’s cathedral.
A civil war that began in 2013 and ongoing violence between Muslim and Christian militias have sown terror in the Central African Republic, which was already on most lists of the five poorest countries in Africa. A fifth of the country’s population has fled abroad or is living in camps.
Explaining to people outside the Bangui cathedral that their city was, for the day, “the spiritual capital of the world”, Pope Francis prayed for the mercy and grace of peace as he pushed open the Holy Door of the cathedral. The main opening of the Year of Mercy will be on December 8 at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Marking the first Sunday of Advent at the Mass with priests, Religious, catechists and youths, Pope Francis urged Catholics to be committed to helping the country make a new start.
Christians are called to love their enemies, “which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation”, the Pope said in his homily.
As Catholics observe Advent, he said, they should keep reminding themselves that God is a God of justice and of love – two things the people of the Central African Republic need desperately.
“God is stronger than all else,” the Pope said. “This conviction gives the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships.”
“To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace,” the Pope said.
The Pope arrived at the cathedral after a meeting with other Christians and denominations.
Francis visits Bangui mosque
Pope Francis ended his visit to the violence-torn Central African Republic with cries for peace and pleas for a mercy that seeks and grants forgiveness.
Pope Francis began Monday with a visit to the Koudoukou mosque in the predominantly Muslim PK5 area of Bangui.
“God is peace, salaam,” the Pope said in his speech at the mosque, where armed UN peacekeepers monitored the crowd outside from each of the three minarets.
“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” created by the same God, he said, and they must act like it. “Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.
“The recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives,” he said. But some had used God’s name as an excuse for their actions, which “disfigures the face of God”.
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