POPE FRANCIS has sent video messages to the three African countries he is scheduled to visit this week. In his message for the Central African Republic the Pope said he wanted his visit to bring “consolation and hope”. “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 alleviating 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 not 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, stop at a camp for displaced people and celebrate Mass at a football stadium. According to Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, the Pope will travel in an open-sided popemobile and will not a wear a bulletproof 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.
The Pope was expected to arrive in Kenya on Wednesday, to touch down in Uganda today and depart for the Central African Republic on Sunday. In a separate video message to the people of Kenya and Uganda, the Pope said he was visiting “as a minister of the Gospel, to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ and his message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace”.
Airstrikes ‘cannot defeat ISIS’
THE HEAD of the Syriac Catholic Church has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East and said it was “a big lie” to suggest ISIS could be defeated with airstrikes.
In an interview with Le Messager, an Egyptian Catholic website, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said: “All Eastern patriarchs have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning: be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya – it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war. They listened and responded: no, the Assad regime will fall in a few months. That hasn’t happened, and five years later, innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”
The patriarch, now based in Beirut, said airstrikes were ineffective at targeting ISIS because its operatives were well financed and armed and had infiltrated local populations.