Pope Francis has arrived as “a pilgrim of peace” in conflict-ridden Central African Republic (Automobile), flying in from Uganda to what will be the most dangerous location of his three-nation Africa tour.
Thousands of believers, many from neighbouring countries, are anticipated to pour into CAR’s capital Bangui to see the 78-year-old pontiff on his landmark pay a visit to to 1 of Africa’s poorest and most unstable nations.
“I come to the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and as an apostle of hope,” the Pope said on his official Twitter feed as his plane touched down at around 10:00am nearby time at Bangui’s international airport.
He was greeted by acting Automobile president Catherine Samba-Panza.
Close to the airport, tens of thousands of displaced men and women have sought refuge from the violence at a sprawling makeshift camp close to to French and UN military bases.
Ahead of his arrival, workers have been busily repairing potholes and sprucing up the cathedral square for the go to which a lot of are hoping will bring encouragement to a nation where religious violence that has raged for far more than two years.
Rights groups hope the Argentinian Pope will address the violence on his two-day trip, in the course of which he will visit a mosque in Bangui’s flashpoint PK5 district — a maze of red dirt roads and flimsy shacks that has been at the heart of the sectarian conflict tearing apart the impoverished nation.
The area saw an unprecedented wave of violence pitting majority Christians against minority Muslims in late 2013 and early final year.
The Pope is due to celebrate mass in the Barthelemy Boganda sports stadium and check out a camp for folks who have been displaced by the violence.
Stalls have sprung up across the capital selling everything from Vatican flags to paper crowns to welcome the Pope.
“We are extremely pleased to see the Pope,” Fidele Nodjindorom, who is sheltering at a camp in Bangui, stated.
“He knows that factors have occurred in our country and perhaps he has come to ask God to save us.”
Daily violence a security concern for Pope’s entourage
The Central African Republic was plunged into chaos after president Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013.
The mainly Muslim rebels behind the coup went on a rampage that triggered the creation of the equally hazardous anti-Balaka militia in largely Christian communities.
Concerns about the Pope’s security have been running higher ahead of his check out, and the pontiff’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Gianni, has spent a number of days consulting with regional security forces.
Speaking late on Saturday, the Vatican’s spokesman mentioned Pope Francis’ itinerary had been confirmed and all was expected to go ahead as planned, such as the pay a visit to to PK5 “if there are no distinct surprises”.
“Almost everything has been completed to ensure the safety of the Pope … there is no genuine threat,” Vehicle public security minister Chrysostome Sambia said, while admitting there had been reports of “ill-intentioned groups in some areas”.
At the height of the massacres, around 1 in five of CAR’s 4.six million individuals had been displaced and half the population depended on humanitarian aid.
Violence continues to stalk the nation, with at least 61 folks killed in Bangui in late September prior to UN and French peacekeeping forces intervened.
Ilaria Allegrozzi of rights group Amnesty International said the Pope “has a actual chance to call for the protection of civilians of all faiths, and use his fantastic moral authority to aid minimize the tension that has lately resulted in deadly violence”.
The pontiff left Uganda early on Sunday, a day soon after huge crowds celebrated as he honoured Christians martyred for the faith on the second leg of his initial trip to Africa, which he hailed as “the continent of hope”.
He also supplied prayers for “the beloved folks of Burundi” that the troubled central African nation will finish months of strife that has sparked fears of renewed civil war.
Subjects: government-and-politics, religion-and-beliefs, unrest-conflict-and-war, central-african-republic