Vatican City, May 21, 2017 / 05:10 am
On Sunday Pope Francis offered his prayer and support for victims of a recent jump in violence in the Central African Republic, repeating his frequent call for the use of dialogue, rather than weapons, to solve conflicts.
“Painful news unfortunately comes from the Central African Republic, which I carry in my heart, especially after my visit in November 2015,” the Pope said May 21, noting that recent clashes “have caused numerous victims and displaced, and threaten the process of peace.”
He voiced his closeness to the people, the bishops, and to “all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence” in the CAR.
Francis then prayed for the deceased and the wounded before renewing his appeal that “weapons be silenced and the good will of dialogue prevail in order to give peace and development to the country.”
The Pope’s words come after a spike in violent fighting this week between mainly Muslim fighters from the former Seleka rebel coalition that in 2013 overthrew former CAR president Francois Bozize, and anti-balaka militias, formed mainly of Christians.
At least 22 people, including 17 civilians, were killed during fighting between the two groups this week in the western town of Bria. Nearly 10,000 others were forced to flee to avoid further bloodshed.
Pope Francis visited the CAR from Nov. 29-30 at the end of his tri-nation tour to Africa, which also included stops in Kenya and Uganda. One of the highlights of his visit was his opening the Jubilee Holy Door in the capital city Bangui, ahead of the official Dec. 8 start of the Year of Mercy.
Francis' trip to the CAR marked his first time as Pope in an active war zone. The country became embroiled in violence in December 2012 when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka. They left their strongholds in the north of the country and made their way south, seizing power from then-president Francois Bozize.