Pope meets Central African Republic's new president

Pope meets Central African Republic's new president

Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on June 17, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/EWTN.
Pope Francis at the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on June 17, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/EWTN.

.- Pope Francis on Monday met with the Central African Republic's newly-installed president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who was elected to office a few months after the pontiff's visit to the country late last year.

The “warm welcome” offered to the Pope during his visit to the CAR in November was among the topics discussed during the meeting, according to a statement released by the Holy See press office.

Touadéra, who assumed office March 30, was voted president after two rounds of elections, the first on Dec. 27, and the second on Feb. 14.

Over the course of the 15-minute meeting which took place with an interpreter, Touadéra discussed with the Pope the recent elections, and other institutional renovations in the war-torn nation.

“With the contribution of dialogue between religious confessions,” the statement said, “hope was expressed that this may mark the beginning of a time of peace and prosperity for the entire nation.”

“At the same time, it emerged that the consequences of the conflicts of recent years continue to weigh upon the population, and the important role of the international Community in supporting the development of the country was emphasized.”

Francis and Touadéra also touched on the “good bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Central African Republic,” and expressed “their mutual understanding that these may be further consolidated in the framework of international law.”

The meeting also discussed  the “contribution that the work of the Church and her Pastors brings to society, especially in the fields of education and healthcare, and also with a view to reconciliation and national reconstruction.”

Pope Francis visited the CAR from Nov. 29-30 at the end of his tri-nation tour to Africa, which included stops in Kenya and Uganda.

One of the highlights of the Pope's 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.

At the time of the visit, the CAR was ruled by interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza. The nation's presidential and parliamentary elections had been postponed from October to December due to instability.

The CAR 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.

In reaction, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called the anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting, with many more displaced.

Before Francis, St. John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit CAR when he stopped there briefly in 1985 as part of a larger trip to Togo, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Zaire and Kenya.

Tags: Pope Francis, Central African Republic