Pope Francis visits mosque in flashpoint district in Central African Republic – CNN
In response to the instability, security has been heightened for the Pope’s visit, with extra French and U.N. peacekeepers deployed and the papal secret service reinforced. It did not stop the Pope traveling in an open-topped popemobile, or mixing with crowds throughout the capital.
On a visit to the St. Sauveur internally displaced persons camp Sunday in central Bangui, home to about 3,000 people uprooted by the conflict, Francis laid his hands on children’s heads in a gesture of blessing.
“My wish for you and for all Central Africans is peace,” he told them.
In further comments as he delivered Mass in the capital Sunday, he called on the warring factions to lay down their arms.
A unique opportunity
Allen said that, in spite of the risks of the visit, Pope Francis had been motivated to visit the Central African Republic, likely out of a conviction that “this was a place, uniquely, where perhaps a Christian spiritual leader could move the ball in the direction of peace.”
“Although CAR is a small country … it’s a place where the conflict basically breaks Christian-Muslim, and where Christians are the majority,” he said.
“I think Francis’ calculation was this is a place where if he called upon Christians either to lay down their arms or at least to stand back and allow peaceful elections to take place (in December), it could make a real difference.”
Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to begin in late December after being postponed last month due to ongoing violence.
The Pope met with Muslim and Protestant leaders as well as Catholic hierarchy during his two-day visit to the divided country, the final stop on his landmark three-country African tour.
On Monday, he arrived in Bangui’s Barthelemy Boganda Stadium to celebrate his final Mass of the tour before tens of thousands of worshippers.
‘Let us pray for peace’
During his tour of Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic, Francis has repeatedly struck on themes of reconciliation and tolerance.
He urged a gathering of religious leaders Thursday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to “pray all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, united in and through our difference. Let us pray for peace.”
He has also used his first visit to Africa to raise issues such as poverty, corruption, climate change and poaching.
“This trip, in many ways, has captured all of the core themes of Francis’ papacy in miniature, from war and peace to interreligious dialogue to the environment to his passion for the poor,” Allen said.
“In terms of insight into Francis’ heart and mind, I think this journey has been remarkable.”
On Friday, he waded into the heart of a Kenyan shantytown, spreading a message of acceptance and lashing out at the elite for neglecting the poor.
Francis also delivered a warning Thursday ahead of a climate change conference that begins Monday in Paris. He urged nations to reach an agreement to curb fossil fuel emissions and to work together to find solutions to environmental degradation.
“It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good,” he said.